a blog on tech, politics, life and zombies


Learning to Lose

I never played competitive sports when I was a kid. Not really. I did some track and cross country and a bit of soccer when I was really young, but I never felt like I even had a shot of winning those. Never did team sports or anything really. Always hated them. But I've started to wonder if I missed out on something there.

So I'm a big fan of the game Hearthstone, by Blizzard. For those who may not be familiar, it's a card game much like Magic the Gathering, involving playing minions and spells to deplete the opponents health or kill his minions. Whoever gets the other player to zero health first wins. It's a fun game with lots of strategy and pretty animations, and Klutzy and I are both big fans of it.

But I do have trouble with it sometimes. Because, to be frank, I'm not that good. I mean I'm better than a lot of folks, sure, but I lose far more than I'd like. And that gets to me a bit. After 2 or 3 losses in a row I start to get angry at myself. Never really at them, always at myself. I curse myself out. I remember the guy on the Hearthstone subreddit who said I sucked when I posted about some difficulties I was having. I think of all the people who say they have no problem getting higher in the ladder system than I do. Who say the deck I'm playing is great and they're winning all the time with it.

It's funny because it hits me most when I'm doing something that matters, where the loss has a consequence. Hearthstone has a ranked system where for each win you go up a rank, for each loss you go down a rank. Each rank has a few stars or levels in it. So as I right this I'm at Rank 16 with 2 stars. The number of stars required to advance changes from level to level. Your rank is cut in half at the end of every month, and you get some rewards based on the highest rank you achieved that month (regardless of if you dropped back a few ranks).

So playing ranked is stressful, but rewarding to me. I had set a goal for myself of rank 16 this month and when I got there I'm almost scared to play again. Even though I now am guaranteed the rewards for rank 16, it would still feel bad for me to drop to 17.

It's funny to contrast my reactions to Klutzy's. I often avoid ranked, playing unranked modes (which don't offer the same rewards) to unwind. She plays ranked most of the time, since in ranked you tend to be better matched with an opponent (as the matching algorithm takes into account both your ranks, whereas in unranked mode it's more random). And really why not? You might as well play it and have a chance at gaining a rank and therefore more rewards at the end of the season. And for her the losses  aren't particularly punishing. She shrugs them off as bad luck, bad card draw, a better player, or what have you.

I'm not good at that same shrug off. I can do it once or twice but then I start to get angry. I start to wonder what's wrong with me, why I can't make this great deck work. And I extrapolate it. My failure in Hearthstone means clearly I'm not intelligent. This is why I didn't get into grad school, why I've had trouble finding a new job, also why I'm overweight (somehow). It all ties together, and the guy on the other end is sitting there, of course, savouring his victory and laughing at my idiocy.

I've wondered if this difficulty has something to do with a lack of team sports in my youth. If I never learned to lose well. I've started to remind myself that, going into ranked, no matter what, is good for me. A loss teaches me how to lose. A win is, well, a win. But it's definitely been tough. But it's growth, and that's a good thing. It's funny, the avenues we can find for growth, if we look for them.


How I am a Sim

Sometimes I find it's helpful to think of myself like a Sim.

You know, like in the game The Sims? I have bars that need filling. Hunger. Energy. Bladder (well, that one needs emptying).

The one that's always been a little off for me, though, is Social.

In the Sims, you fill the Social bar of a Sim by having them talk to people outside of work. Usually this means inviting a friend over for dinner, but in later games you could fill this bar, very slowly and inefficiently, by chatting online with someone, or talking on the phone.

In later games, you could develop Sims with different personalities. Some had very easy to fill social, or energy, or hunger bars. Some were more difficult to fill.

What I've come to realize, is that my social bar is very, very easy to fill. Moreso than most, in fact. I'm quite happy to have a friendship or relationship based 95% on text messages. I don't feel a great need to talk to someone on the phone or on Skype, or even in person, pretty much ever. It's not that I don't see the appeal. But just that it's not…necessary for me. I feel connected to people quite nicely online, through tweets and texts and Facebook messages and the like.

It's been a slow and odd realization, though, that not everyone is like that. Looking at my life, at my relationships, I've realized I need to be more proactive about these things. Others need that communication, that attention, and when I don't reach out and make that connection, it's not great. It makes people feel like I don't care, I think, or like I'm not interested. 

I am. I am interested. But voice chats stress me out. I don't have time to think about the right things to say. When I'm talking to someone face to face I have to pay close attention to my appearance, to where I sit and stand and how I act. 

(For those playing along at home all this, of course, ties into the theme that I'm not interesting/deserving of love/attention and that I have to watch VERY CAREFULLY what I say and do or else someone is going to reject me as a friend.)

Text is so much easier. I control when and how I reply. I can think about what I say, and if I want to take a break, I can. But I have to recognize the world doesn't work through text. And if I don't overcome those fears, if I don't recognize that others have different needs, and make efforts to see and talk to people, I may end up only having texting friends, and that's not ideal.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my Hunger bar is getting a little low.


What I’m Absorbing: October 19th

Each week I'll post the things that are in my ears and in front of my eyes. This can include articles, websites, blogs, YouTube Channels, TV shows, podcasts, books, games, programs, utilities or anything I can think of! Where possible I'll try to put links to check things out. The idea here to share, critically look at what I'm doing, and to motivate myself a bit to not just play WoW all the time.

Watching: Homeland - I've been watching Season 1 of this a fair bit and really enjoying it. Damian Lewis is a great actor who, in my mind, doesn't get nearly enough work. The spy aspects, the politics, the family dynamics, coupled with the weaving of Islam into it, are fascinating to me. Not to mention Morena Baccarin…I'm sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes. Homeland. Great series so far, and I'm hoping to finish season 1 this weekend.

Reading: I finished Up and Down by Terry Fallis last week. This is a Canadian author who had written two great books, The Best Laid Plans and its sequel The High Road, both comedic stories about Canadian politics. I love both of them, but didn't love Up and Down. This book centres around the inner workings of a Canadian PR agency, trying to help NASA increase their public profile. While neat, it just didn't grab me in the same way. Could be because I don't work at a PR agency, but that seems a very narrow audience to write for, though I know the author worked at (and I believe founded) one. It was an easy read, though, much simpler than my last one, which was a nice change.

Playing: I've been having tons of fun in WoW these days, playing the new expansion, Mists of Pandaria. It introduces us to a new, Asian-inspired continent and a new race of Pandaren (I'll let you guess what they're inspired by) as well as a new martial-arts themed class called the monk. It's been the most fun I've had in years, to be honest. Tons of guild mates are back for it and I think we've all just been really happy with it. There's lots to do for me; professions to work on, alts to level, my monk to level especially plus the usual WoW stuff. I'm letting myself have a bit of fun with it, and since it's early in the expansion I'm just letting myself play, while trying to balance things.

What are you absorbing this week?