Playing to Win

Go down

Playing to Win

Post  Kaijudo_Kid on Fri Jun 13, 2008 8:37 am

Playing to Win
Written by David Sirlin, adapted by Tom Rogers

I just mentioned what is probably the most important piece I've ever written, then realized it's not on here! Here you go, guys -- I offer the following material for your consideration.

This article is not geared towards any group of players. I am posting this with the intent of benefiting the community, so that we may continue to stride forward. I hope you will all read this and take something from the article. The original article is from Sirlin.net, though I've modified the examples from another game to Duel Masters. It is a highly recommended read.

Playing To Win


Playing to win is the most important and most widely misunderstood concept in all of competitive games. The sad irony is that those who do not already understand the implications I’m about to spell out will probably not believe them to be true at all. In fact, if I were to send this article back in time to my earlier self, even I would not believe it. Apparently, these concepts are something one must come to learn through experience, though I hope at least some of you will take my word for it.

Introducing...the Scrub

In the world of [Duel Masters] competition, we have a word for players who aren’t good: “scrub.” Now, everyone begins as a scrub—it takes time to learn the game to get to a point where you know what you’re doing. There is the mistaken notion, though, that by merely continuing to play or “learn” the game, that one can become a top player. In reality, the “scrub” has many more mental obstacles to overcome than anything actually going on during the game. The scrub has lost the game even before it starts. He’s lost the game before he’s chosen his [playing style]. He’s lost the game even before the decision of which [deck] to be played has been made. His problem? He does not play to win.

The scrub would take great issue with this statement for he usually believes that he is playing to win, but he is bound up by an intricate construct of fictitious rules that prevent him from ever truly competing. These made up rules vary from game to game, of course, but their character remains constant. In [Duel Masters], for example, the scrub labels a wide variety of tactics and situations “cheap.” So-called “cheapness” is truly the mantra of the scrub. [Casting a spell that destroys multiple creatures] on someone often called cheap. The entire purpose of the spell is to be able to damage an opponent who [recklessly attacks]. As far as the game is concerned, [widespread destruction] is an integral part of the design—it’s meant to be there—yet the scrub has constructed his own set of principles in his mind that state he should be totally impervious to all [defenses while attacking]. The scrub thinks of [aggression] as a kind of magic shield which will protect him indefinitely. Why? Exploring the reasoning is futile since the notion is ridiculous from the start.

You’re not going to see a classic scrub use [Searing Wave multiple]times in a row. But why not? What if doing so is strategically the sequence of moves that optimize his chances of winning? Here we’ve encountered our first clash: the scrub is only willing to play to win within his own made-up mental set of rules. These rules can be staggeringly arbitrary. If you beat a scrub by [summoning Corile], keeping your distance and preventing him from getting near you…that’s cheap. If you [destroy all of his creatures] repeatedly, that’s cheap, too. We’ve covered that one. If you sit and [summon blockers continually whilst making no other moves], that’s cheap. Nearly anything you do that ends up making you win is a prime candidate for being called cheap.

Doing one move or sequence over and over and over is another great way to get called cheap. This goes right to the heart of the matter: why can the scrub not defeat something so obvious and telegraphed as a single move done over and over? Is he such a poor player that he can’t counter that move? And if the move is, for whatever reason, extremely difficult to counter, then wouldn’t I be a fool for not using that move? The first step in becoming a top player is the realization that playing to win means doing whatever most increases your chances of winning. The game knows no rules of “honor” or of “cheapness.” The game only knows winning and losing.

A common call of the scrub is to cry that the kind of play in which ones tries to win at all costs is “boring” or “not fun.” Let’s consider two groups of players: a group of good players and a group of scrubs. The scrubs will play “for fun” and not explore the extremities of the game. They won’t find the most effective tactics and abuse them mercilessly. The good players will. The good players will find incredibly overpowering tactics and patterns. As they play the game more, they’ll be forced to find counters to those tactics. The vast majority of tactics that at first appear unbeatable end up having counters, though they are often quite esoteric and difficult to discover. The counter tactic prevents the first player from doing the tactic, but the first player can then use a counter to the counter. The second player is now afraid to use his counter and he’s again vulnerable to the original overpowering tactic. (I.E. "Yomi Layers" used by most Kaijudo Masters)

Notice that the good players are reaching higher and higher levels of play. They found the “cheap stuff” and abused it. They know how to stop the cheap stuff. They know how to stop the other guy from stopping it so they can keep doing it. And as is quite common in competitive games, many new tactics will later be discovered that make the original cheap tactic look wholesome and fair. Often in [this game], one [strategy] will have something so good it’s unfair. Fine, let him have that. As time goes on, it will be discovered that other [strategies] have even more powerful and unfair tactics. Each player will attempt to steer the game in the direction of his own advantages, much how grandmaster chess players attempt to steer opponents into situations in which their opponents are weak.

Let's return to the group of scrubs. They don't know the first thing about all the depth I’ve been talking about. Their argument is basically that ignorantly [assaulting the opponent] with little regard to actual strategy is more “fun.” Superficially, their argument does at least look true, since often their games will be more “wet and wild” than games between the experts, which are usually more controlled and refined. But any close examination will reveal that the experts are having a great deal of fun on a higher level than the scrub can even imagine. Throwing together some circus act of a win isn’t nearly as satisfying as reading your opponent’s mind to such a degree that you can counter his ever move, even his every counter.

Can you imagine what will happen when the two groups of players meet? The experts will absolutely destroy the scrubs with any number of tactics they’ve either never seen, or never been truly forced to counter. This is because the scrubs have not been playing the same game. The experts were playing the actual game while the scrubs were playing their own homemade variant with restricting, unwritten rules.

The scrub has still more crutches. He talks a great deal about “skill” and how he has skill whereas other players—very much including the ones who beat him flat out—do not have skill. The confusion here is what “skill” actually is. In [DuelMasters], scrubs often cling to combos as a measure of skill. A combo is sequence of moves that [powerful] if the first move hits. Combos can be very elaborate and very difficult to pull off. But single moves can also take “skill,” according to the scrub. Just last week I played a scrub who was actually quite good. That is, she knew the rules of the game well, she knew the [strategy matchups] well, and she knew what to do in most situations. But her web of mental rules kept her from truly playing to win. She cried cheap as I beat him with “no skill moves” while she performed many difficult [and unecessary tactics]. She cried cheap when I [used Searing Wave on him twice,] asking, “is that all you know how to do? throw?” I gave her the best advice he could ever hear. I told him, “Play to win, not to do ‘skilled moves.’” This was a big moment in that scrub’s life. She could either write his losses off and continue living in her mental prison, or analyze why she lost, shed his rules, and reach the next level of play.

I’ve never been to a tournament where there was a prize for the winner and another prize for the player who did many difficult moves. I’ve also never seen a prize for a player who played “in an innovative way.” Many scrubs have strong ties to “innovation.” They say “that guy didn’t do anything new, so he is no good.” Or “person x invented that technique and person y just stole it.” Well, person y might be 100 times better than person x, but that doesn’t seem to matter. When person y wins the tournament and person x is a forgotten footnote, what will the scrub say? That person y has “no skill” of course.

Depth In Games

I’ve talked about how the expert player is not bound by rules of “honor” or “cheapness” and simply plays to maximize his chances of winning. When he plays against other such players, “game theory” emerges. If the game is a good one, it will become deeper and deeper and more strategic. Poorly designed games will become shallower and shallower. This is the difference between a game that lasts years on the shelves versus one that quickly becomes boring (I won’t name any names). The point is that if a game becomes “no fun” at high levels of play, then it’s the game’s fault, not the player’s. Unfortunately, a game becoming less fun because it’s poorly designed and you just losing because you’re a scrub kind of look alike. You’ll have to play some top players and do some soul searching to decide which is which. But if it really is the game’s fault, there are plenty of other games that are excellent at a high level of play. For games that truly aren’t good at a high level, the only winning move is not to play.

My Attitude And Adenosine Triphosphate

I’ve been talking down to the scrub a lot in this article. I’d like to say for the record that I’m not calling the scrub stupid. I’m not saying he can never improve. I am saying that he’s naïve and that he’ll be trapped in scrubdom, whether he realizes it or not, as long as he chooses to live in the mental construct of rules he himself constructed. Is it harsh to call scrubs naïve? After all, the vast majority of the world is scrubs. I’d say by the definition I’ve classified 99.9% of the world’s population as scrubs. Seriously. All that means is that 99.9% of the world doesn’t know what it’s like to play competitive games on a high level. It means that they are naïve of these concepts. I really have no trouble saying that since we’re talking about esoteric, experience-driven knowledge here. I also know that 99.9% of the world (including me) doesn’t know how the citric acid cycle and cellular respiration create 38 ATP molecules per cycle. It’s an esoteric thing of which I am unaware, just as many are unaware of competitive games.

In the end, playing to win ends up accomplishing much more than just winning. Playing to win is how one improves. Continuous self-improvement is what all of this is really about, anyway. I submit that ultimate goal of the “playing to win” mindset is ironically not just to win…but to improve. So practice, improve, play with discipline, and play to win.

Kaijudo_Kid
Just Entered Our World
Just Entered Our World

Number of posts : 9
Age : 27
Registration date : 2008-06-13

View user profile Http://www.GatesOfFate.Proboards102.Com

Back to top Go down

Re: Playing to Win

Post  AlphadiosThe2nd on Fri Jun 13, 2008 9:50 am

I agree. And I find the word "Scrub" highly humorous. lol!
avatar
AlphadiosThe2nd
xP
xP

Number of posts : 571
Location : I live in Singapore but come from Malaysia ^^
Registration date : 2008-06-10

View user profile http://theacashicdatabase.forumexpress.org/index.htm

Back to top Go down

Re: Playing to Win

Post  Ahmed_Tariq on Fri Jun 13, 2008 12:08 pm

A very nicely written article. I congratulate you on your work.


Last edited by Ahmed_Tariq on Mon Jun 16, 2008 2:45 pm; edited 1 time in total

Ahmed_Tariq
Teh Ownage
Teh Ownage

Number of posts : 271
Age : 24
Location : Lahore, Pakistan.
Registration date : 2008-06-10

View user profile http://theacashicdatabase.phpbbclub.com/

Back to top Go down

Re: Playing to Win

Post  dark_boy on Sat Jun 14, 2008 1:48 pm

Nice work, awesome! Very Happy
avatar
dark_boy
Card of the Week Editor
Card of the Week Editor

Number of posts : 142
Age : 27
Location : Bangladesh
Registration date : 2008-06-11

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Playing to Win

Post  Kaijudo_Kid on Sun Jun 15, 2008 10:34 pm

Scrub (2)...
3. a domestic animal of mixed or inferior breeding; mongrel.
4. a small or insignificant person.
5. anything undersized or inferior.
6. Sports. a player not belonging to the varsity or regular team; a player who is not first-string.
–adjective
7. small, undersized, or stunted.
8. inferior or insignificant.country.

I think those definitions may be why Mr. Sirlin chose the word "scrub." Some of it seems a bit harsh, but it's true. I personally had to accept being a scrub at one point to continue progressing in DuelMasters.

Kaijudo_Kid
Just Entered Our World
Just Entered Our World

Number of posts : 9
Age : 27
Registration date : 2008-06-13

View user profile Http://www.GatesOfFate.Proboards102.Com

Back to top Go down

Re: Playing to Win

Post  AlphadiosThe2nd on Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:13 pm

aw yeah, when i first started playing duel masters i mistook all rules, including mistaking blockers for shields, winning as drawing all your cards, and destroying as the following: "I have Vorg and Sarius which have 2k and 3k respectively. You have Gonta which has 4k. Both my creatures attack your Gonta, causing 4k-5k to become -1k and thus killing Gonta."

you wouldn't believe that, but it's true.
avatar
AlphadiosThe2nd
xP
xP

Number of posts : 571
Location : I live in Singapore but come from Malaysia ^^
Registration date : 2008-06-10

View user profile http://theacashicdatabase.forumexpress.org/index.htm

Back to top Go down

Re: Playing to Win

Post  metal_boy on Fri Jul 18, 2008 2:22 pm

awesome article. helped me a lot. I love you
avatar
metal_boy
Getting Started
Getting Started

Number of posts : 40
Registration date : 2008-07-10

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Playing to Win

Post  AlphadiosThe2nd on Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:50 pm

Kaijudo_Kid wrote:
Scrub (2)...
3. a domestic animal of mixed or inferior breeding; mongrel.
4. a small or insignificant person.
5. anything undersized or inferior.
6. Sports. a player not belonging to the varsity or regular team; a player who is not first-string.
–adjective
7. small, undersized, or stunted.
8. inferior or insignificant.country.

I think those definitions may be why Mr. Sirlin chose the word "scrub." Some of it seems a bit harsh, but it's true. I personally had to accept being a scrub at one point to continue progressing in DuelMasters.

Agreed.
avatar
AlphadiosThe2nd
xP
xP

Number of posts : 571
Location : I live in Singapore but come from Malaysia ^^
Registration date : 2008-06-10

View user profile http://theacashicdatabase.forumexpress.org/index.htm

Back to top Go down

Re: Playing to Win

Post  Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum