Ego and ELO Hell

I like to consider myself a humble person.

Unfortunately, any non-humble person you meet would likely say the same, ruining any credibility that statement would have otherwise had. Perhaps it’s more accurate to simply say that I’m not very competitive. Ignoring that this probably explains a lot about my level of success in the freelance field, not being spectacular at video games is an odd thing you sort of have to accept if you plan to play a lot of them. You simply can’t devote the amount of time required to be anything far beyond average. It’s one of the many reasons I fell out of the fighting game scene. To that community, no other games exist. To be that good, they can’t.

Combining this lack of time with my advanced age, and I have no shame turning games down to easy if needed, no longer having anything to prove to whatever unseen passersby that may wonder of my gaming cred. Being someone that mostly avoids multiplayer experiences because, well, other people are terrible, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to bruise my ego anyway. That ego is just about nonexistent to begin with because, if you haven’t heard, humility is one of my strong suits.

Then Overwatch happened.

My relationship with Overwatch has changed a lot since launch, and will likely continue to do so. The constant state of flux is, after all, a big draw of the experience, knowing that there’s always something new to add, something to be tweaked. Though that may sound silly to those familiar with games that have those sort of ecosystems, it’s still novel to someone like me that essentially requires himself to abandon the newest shiniest thing in short order. I never thought I’d still be playing Overwatch a year later. I certainly never expected, after 137 hours, that I’d be so terrible at it.

One of the better parts of the Overwatch package, and why it’s such a welcoming game for short play sessions, is the way it obfuscates your contributions to the team, focusing more on positive reinforcement and letting you know what you did right, even in defeat. It’s great for someone like me that constantly requires validation, letting me know that blind Reinhardt charge off of a cliff wasn’t so bad because people shot at my shield a whole bunch. Playing the game then becomes a low-risk proposition because most of your team will never know about that whole cliff incident, only knowing that you were a gold medal hammer man and saved them from dying that one time.

The unforeseen downside of such a system, however, is that it’s all too easy to blame the rest of your team without any contrary evidence to get in your way. It’s not really an issue in Quick Play, where attack Widowmakers are a very common and sadly expected part of the experience, but after so many hours logged into the game, even someone like me finds himself eventually venturing in to that dark place known as Competitive.

I’ve written about my experiences with Overwatch Competitive before and how placement matches are essentially a raffle where you hope to not draw any unhelpful or flat-out nasty people. I’ve had a ritual of sorts where I’d go in at the beginning of every season as a curiosity, mostly to gage my own performance and to see if the experience ever improved. The result was always the same; a series of very toxic shitshows that would eventually place me around gold or silver, a below-average standing that I would always attribute to those horrible placements.

This season was different, however. My teammates were, generally, competent and helpful, certainly moreso than in the past. I also won a lot more, which lead to a growing anticipation as it came time for my Skill Ranking to reveal itself, no doubt skyrocketing due to my hard work, clutch plays, and fashionable skin choices. Maybe this Competitive thing isn’t so bad, after all. I just needed to find my groove. Like Deee-Lite had always told me, perhaps it was in my heart this whole time.

Wait. Bronze?

I’m a Bronze?

There has to be a mistake here. I mean, I’m very very humble, if I haven’t already mentioned, but I’m certainly not a Bronze. I shot a lot of people with rockets. If you were to count the number of people I shot, you would find that it is, indeed, a larger than average number. This can’t be. I’m the guy that wrote up Hero guides when the game launched. I have a reputation to uphold. Was Blizzard hacked? There was probably a hack.

After exhaustive research into this suspected cyber attack, I had to eventually come to the conclusion that I just suck at Overwatch. Though this had never been an issue before, I suddenly cared way too much about my perceived skill level at this game that had been a near-daily part of my life for the last twelve months. It’s… an odd feeling, having to acknowledge bruises to an ego I wasn’t sure actually existed. Was this arbitrary number that important to me or did I simply feel betrayed by the game not offering me immediate validation for the very first time?

It is, after all, my own fault, as I could have simply continued in ignorance, never leaving the comfort of casual games whilst occasionally murmuring to myself about how bad our Genji is. Even outside of the context of a video game, it’s a natural response to negative results, immediately assuming it’s someone else’s fault because we, of course, have the best of intentions. It’s how our brains are wired, making ourselves the heroic protagonist of our own life story and downplaying our flaws. It then becomes easy to judge others by their actions, even if their intentions, often equally good, are invisible to us.

That may seem like an over-analyzation of an event that, ultimately, doesn’t actually matter, but once that perspective creeps into your thought process, it’s difficult to not see the pattern everywhere. It may even be a net positive, making you a more patient and understanding person, or, at the very least, a better teammate. I could also simply give in to my human instincts and assume that there is a much more pragmatic explanation; that I’m not actually bad at all and that Overwatch’s method of determining skill level is broken (it kind of is) or that Blizzard decided to underrate a number of players to even out the tiers (most certainly).

Still, it’s a… well, humbling experience. For the first time, I actually care about making that number go higher, even if I ultimately end up the same place that I did back when half of my placements ended in dropouts. Stagnation still feels better than going backwards, and, despite my better judgment, I feel this compulsion to soldier (76) on and climb out of the bottom tier.

I feel as if I have something to prove, but to who, I’m not quite sure.


Nah. That guy is okay. But more of a “goldish/platinum” level of okay, if you ask me.



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