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Confessions of a Rookie StarCraft player

Playing StarCraft is hard. Playing good StarCraft is even harder. This is not news. All of us who play it know this and live by it. That is the reason why, despite recently achieving a Gold Rank this season, I still call myself a rookie. 

I decided to write this post because of a game I played yesterday. This guy tried real hard to keep up and before GGing, he admitted he was too far behind in economy and that he shouldn't have been placed in Gold. This made me think about the way I feel when I lose a game. When I know I have an edge but I don't know "where to cut" or when I'm just flat out outclassed.

As many of you know, I love StarCraft. It is without a doubt my favorite game of all time.

It makes me happy.
But sometimes, it makes me quite freaking angry.

I started playing with competitive aspirations 2 years ago. I don't play full time. I have a really demanding job. I love it and it's not my intention to leave it anytime soon. 

But playing StarCraft gives me a very particular form of satisfaction. Learning and getting better at a game that I enjoy so much is something only sports can give you. Even if you're not getting any money from it (gaming in general is like that for me).

About 5 months ago, I started feeling a strange and unpleasant feeling in my gut when I played StarCraft. I was growing mad at losing. I hated losing. Not just the general repelling of failure, which is fairly normal. Many times I felt driven to express that anger physically. Hurting myself (hitting a wall real hard or pull my on hair in frustration) or destroying something (a good keyboard smash or knocking down the chair, for example). 

Luckily I never got to actually do stuff like that. I was fortunate that a friend of mine noticed how bad I was losing it ('cause losing IT is worse than losing a match, believe me). 

One day, I got really angry. Flaring nostrils kinda angry. I wasn't enjoying the game I loved and the worst part was that I couldn't remember when was the last time I had, at that moment. So my best friend pushed me to start what I'll call StarCraft 2 Rehab.

I stopped playing ladder for two weeks and instead, I focused on having some fun in the Arcade, unlocking achievements, getting to max level on all 3 races. I practiced how to cannon rush properly and effectively (I play Terran). I got into playing more 2v2's, 3v3's, 4v4's. I started playing more unranked games and practicing new builds. I actually started feeling better.

I went into the ladder after 2 weeks. Believe me when I tell you, my mind set had totally changed. I had a better performance in ladder games because I was more willing to actually play. I have my very own math for this (LOL):

FUN = StarCraft - SHITTINESS and FUN equals Good StarCraft.

This is a very basic and true principle. The less shitty feelings that come into play, the more you enjoy playing. The more you enjoy playing, the more likely you are to actually take in your in game experience and turn it into true knowledge.
And Good StarCraft is a combination between skill and an adequate state of mind.

There are a lot of players out there with amazing skills but horrible attitudes towards the game, its practice and other players. Skill or attitude, on their own, can only take you so far. But in the moment of truth, it is serenity and enjoyment of the sport which will help you push through. Even in times of defeat.

Sometimes, I still have a hard time finding that peaceful spot after I lose a game. It takes me a while to calm down, take a deep breath and jump into the replay to see what my mistakes were and look for room to improve. It's hard but it is always good to know when you're in the zone and when you're about to strangle yourself with a braided cable. 

This is what's most important about wanting to become a pro. Pushing yourself to the limit, implies knowing what your current limits are. The only way to know such limits is to move further and see how far you can take it. It is also healthy to know when to stop pushing and just enjoy the view and although StarCraft is a difficult game to master, it is also very benevolent in that there's always some achievement to unlock, a strategy to learn, a better style of play.

That being said, here are a couple of things you can do for stress relief when playing StarCraft:

  • It's OK to step away from the ladder if losing is getting to you. One of my clan mates once told me: "If you lose 5 in a row, stop. 'Cause after 5 it starts getting to ya." This number may vary from one person to another.
  • Do other things in StarCraft. Laddering is great and very rewarding but when you're hitting rock bottom in the learning curve, it's good to take a break from it and enjoy the other awesome features in StarCraft. Try polishing your timings, building placement, unit positioning, scouting. Refine the small details that can make you great at playing StarCraft.
  • 2v2s, 3v3s and 4v4s: Do some crazy stuff while playing with your friends. You can take ideas from Day9's Funday Mondays. An important part of playing StarCraft is being creative and having the ability to respond to unusual or uncomfortable situations.
  • Achievements: Those small rewarding little tasks that StarCraft has in abundance are always a nice treat for the soul. Seeing a score counter rise always feels good. 
  • Arcade: There are people out there doing amazing things with StarCraft, have a little fun once in a while. 
  • Stretch: Do some stretches before and after every match. Loosen up those muscles 'cause I don't know if you've noticed (sarcasm ended) but, playing StarCraft generates a great deal of tension from your neck and all the way down to your toes. Shake the tension off if you start feeling like you're clenching into a ball.

What is or was your experience playing StarCraft? Do you have any particular ways of copping with stress? Ladder anxiety?

Share your thoughts on the comments section bellow (:


  1. I play when i'm in the mood. If i'm not and I force myself I end up really pissed when I loose. That's no fun, and Starcraft is a game which by definition is supposed to be fun.

  2. Pero y si yo no se inglés, ¿puedo comentar T.T? ja bueno ya.

    Ooooook, well, I consider myself mmm, "very strategical", why? Because I find myself in situations where I know where the enemy is going to hit me, and other times how, but how am I still not "getting there"? That's easy, I'm just old and my reflexes are not as good as... hahaha nah :P I just like the fun times that the 4v4 games provide.

    Maybe the action that a FPS gives me, it's what keeps me from focusing 100% on the RTS games.

    But hell, I do enjoy some sc2 ^_^


  3. i dont understand nothing all D:

  4. one of the best skills that you can learn in starcraft or any competitive game is not letting negative emotions get you when you lose. I just don't see my ladder league as something important, If I get demoted I can get back...or if I can't go back means that I dont deserve it. I have never played an unraked match, and never will, because if I want to do something crazy I do it because Idon't care of ladder points. I do get angry when I lose, its very natural, but I can get over it.
    Im not the best in the world, so there will be always someone that can destroy me.

    1. Thanks for commenting :) I agree with you. Not letting the negative get in the way is also a skill you can acquire in StarCraft. I guess sometimes people push themselves too hard and they forget that games are supposed to be fun.

  5. Try a clan!!! I was very frustated in SC:BW, when i started to be competitive, in those times getting new strategy was a bit hard u need to see alot of replays in order to learn timing xD, but then i met some dude who teach me a bit, then i started to look for clans thats when i joined one that was from USA, all the pain of losing a lot was degrading and became rainbows of joy. of couse that means the new gamers became harder and more intense kuz now i have flag to defend but with team mates supporting and playing UMS to free some stress was quite cool.

    1. Yeah, actually talking to people about StarCraft and sharing strategies with others, helps a lot to achieve improvement.

  6. I really enjoyed your article, even though I differ form your view. Call me reckless but I don't stop playing until the losses stop, hahaha. To me survival in plat/diamond league is all about enduring, no matter how many games you leave without GGing....and man...there are some rough games for GG at the end.

    Your article also reminded me of this one:

    Hope to see more soon! :)

    1. Lol, you berserk, you XD We all have different ways of handling our StarCraft experience. Yeah, I'd read that article before n__n it's pretty interesting. There's another motivation right there!

      Thanks for sharing your experience :)