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kenshin89 avatar 9:02 AM on 06.30.2014
MOBAs !== Chess or Go, feat. numbers!

Rest assured, this is not another MOBAs suck or MOBAs are the future rant.

This does address, in a very balsamic way, a few things:

- the popular opinion that MOBAs share similarities to mind games like Chess or Go
- the popular opinion that MOBAs require the same mental prowess as mind games like Chess or Go (aka WeiQi; Baduk)

I'm already breaking my thesis by making these cross references, but it's necessary for balance and demystifying theories.

Let's start with profiles:

League of Legends

~ age: 4yrs
~ players: 5v5
~ real-time
~ gameplay influenced by 'shot-calling'
~ avg game length: 20-50 mins (same for professional scene)
~ 189 items to internalize
~ 119 champions to internalize (or about 600 spells/abilities)
~ 3,610,000 units of map internalization; relatively small map memorization
~ 105 masteries (/w ~30 popularized 21pt variations)
~ 98 runes (/w ~50 popularized 30 slot variations)
~ Praiseworthy mentions from Confucius? No.


~ age: 2,500+ yrs
~ players: 1v1
~ avg game length: 20-90 mins
~ avg tournament game length: 1-6 hrs (rare cases; multiple days)
~ turn based
~ 19x19 grid
~ 'pure' gameplay (not influenced by teamplay )
~ Praiseworthy mentions from Confucius? Check: Gentlemen should not waste their time on trivial games - they should study go. --- Confucius, The Analects, ca. 500 B.C.E. via

Before I start making claims, please note I'm not discrediting League of Legends, Dota, or any other MOBA. I'm simply explaining that many articles are flawed by drawing comparisons between MOBAs and mind games. Each has respective traits/skills necessary to be a competitive/top player, but the main idea is you cannot extract viable/weighty similarities when comparing these particular games. The second you do your argument becomes flawed (in my opinion).

Let's start with age and theory development, also known as theory crafting:

League of Legends

Primary theory crafting involves:

- individual character builds (items, runes, masteries)
- individual character strategies (gameplay mechanics)
- matchup counters (lanes)
- team synergies (lanes, team-comps)
- objective prioritization (early, mid, and late game breakdowns)
- meta theory of micromanagement play 


Primary theory crafting involves:
- fuseki / opening game
- middle game life, death, sacrifice
- yose / endgame
- influence & prediction 
- joseki / outcome
- tesjui / shape
- miai /equivalence 
- aji / potential
- kikashi / forcing moves
- thickness / power
- korigatachi /over concentration 
- sabaki / sidestepping 
- furikawari / exchange
- yosumiru / probe

Let's explore this a bit further with set path differences:

In LoL, by the 10 minute mark a high level player will know what build paths their opponents are set on. Generally, there can only be a few possible outcomes with 1 or 2 being very likely. Knowing these build paths are generally limited to internalizing the 50 ish possible sets. 

In Go, this is never the case. Common patterns arise in the most popular openings and the most common fights; however, every sequence has an unfathomable amount of variations. These variations can become more "predictable" when facing higher skilled players that won't make random moves for the sake of making random moves. But the number of possible game scenarios remains greater than the number of atoms in the universe. (ref: ) - actual number of legal positions is near 10^170.

It's impossible to have your opponents possible paths limited to a handful, let alone 50. A highly skilled Go player can play-out hundreds of potential scenarios when they need to in their minds. Every scenario comes with incremental differences in gains and losses. This type of calculation is not comparable, in any way, shape, or form to a MOBA. It's literally beyond prediction and intuition, which are "defeat-able" by raw calculating power and speed.

I acknowledge there are calculations in MOBAs and RTS's like SC, but they are one dimensional. For ex:

1D, LoL: base stats + items, my stats - enemy stats, time stamp + timer
2D, SC: calc1[resources per time + costs]calc2[real-time micromanaging + scouting]
3D+, Go: calc1[gain/loss for play]calc2[gain/loss options for 2nd tier of play]calc3[gain/loss options for 3rd tier of play] etc...

Ease of Access / Learning Curve Differences

Go comes with a history of over 2,500 years. That fact alone should debase most direct comparison attempts right off the bat, but for the sake of this piece, let's look at what this history exactly entails.

From the American Go Association: By 400-300 B.C., Chinese scholars such as Confucius were writing about wei-chi (a Chinese name for the game) to illustrate correct thinking about filial piety and human nature. By the 1600's it had become one of the "Four Accomplishments" (along with calligraphy, painting, and playing the lute) that must be mastered by the Chinese gentleman. This kind of sanctified thinking about the game has inspired people to play for millennia.

The impact of Go on the world - especially in Japan, China, and Korea, has been huge:

Hundreds of books...
100% Go-Schools; a complete life sacrifice/dedication to the game.
TV channels/networks similar to Golf in the U.S.
And for fun, here's two thousand years of select quotes:

Learning the very basics of Go takes about a week to fully grasp. After a few more weeks, an individual might be able to visualize how to win in the most basic scenarios and start defeating other beginners. However, they will eventually get to a point of realization. It's at this point they realize just how little they know - even though they can play the game and understand the the first tier of what's happening, their eyes and mental processors have yet to awaken.

In LoL/Dota, the primary roadblock to learning is fully internalizing the abilities, builds, and strategies for most heroes. The actual gameplay mechanics are more WYSWYG than go; you right click and you will attack, you hit 'Q' and an ability enables. These mechanics do not have a high ceiling and, as professional players have stated, simply take a lot of monotonous practice. 

Rankings & avg time commitment for improvement


5 subranks for each..
Bronze: complete beginner level (start)
Silver: improving, 1 month+
Gold: improving, 3 month+
Platinum: point of realization / make or break point, 6 month+
Diamond: top % skill, 1yr+
Challenger: pro, ceiling skill, 1yr+


30kyu-10kyu: complete beginner level (start)
10kyu-3kyu: improving: 2 month+
3kyu-1dan: point of realization / make or break point, 4 month+
1dan-5dan: competitive and above average, 1yr+
5dan-9dan: top % skill, 3 yr+
1p+: pro, "ceiling" (technically, there is no ceiling) 5 yr+

Many professional LoL, Dota, and SC players have public bios stating how long it took them to get to a professional level. With luck/other factors aside, generally, we're looking at a 2-4 yr commitment. Anyone can acquire these games with ease and start practicing on their own; learning from tutorials, friends, sites, etc.

The best shot at becoming pro for a Go player is to apply to become an Insei where you essentially pause everything in your life (usually for people under 18yrs old) and dedicate 18 hard months to living and breathing Go in an academy, like this one:

Mind Game Differences

I used to play Go with someone who listened to binaural beats while he played Go. These are eseentially an auditory hack used to influence brain states. The science shows it's complete BS but the placebo effect is strong enough to actually work for some people, allowing them to either relax or quicken or hone their brain. Binaural beats could be used for LOL as well, but I would say 99% of players would prefer real music - or at least something like EDM. This is just a quick preface to spark the idea that different games requrie different planes of thinking. Like a "ready state" and an "attack state" for our brains.

Before reading the rest of this section, I recommend keeping this quote from chess master Jeremy Silman in the back of your head:

"Much has been made of psychology in chess, but rarely have I seen anything about how one player can get inside his opponent's head and make him accept a false image of what's really happening on the chessboard. And, once you buy into your opponent's version of reality, defeat isn't far away. This course is all about making an opponent accept your 'orders', while also showing you how you can avoid the same fate by not falling for this kind of subliminal illusion. How often does this kind of thing occur? All the time!"

Similar to the difference in set paths, mind games in LoL generally fall into a less-than-ten scenario consideration; the primary being you can always be 'ganked'. Ploys are limited to baits involving gains and losses that range from 1-5 (in terms of hero kills) and/or 1-10 gold gains (in terms of objectives). Sacrifices and lures are often the general strategy. Responses must be made on a second-to-second basis. Players do not have enough time to calculate the actual/accurate cost and benefit - they must use intuition; quick estimations. As noted earlier, prediction is < than accurate calculation. It's a completely different mental process (which I'm not knocking!). It's surely not easy and this is the moment where many games are decided; tipping/breaking points; comebacks. It all happens so fast - the nature of shot calling is efficient decision making; both strategic and quick. The outcome of any game, whether it's football, chess, or LoL, is the ROI of calls and successful (or unsuccessful) plays. It's the nature and makeup of these plays that separates them from being easily compared. 

LoL-ish games also involve probability distributions. Information is imperfect

"Go is a non-chance, combinatorial game with perfect information. Informally that means there are no dice used (and decisions or moves create discrete outcome vectors rather than probability distributions); the underlying math is combinatorial; and all moves (via single vertex analysis) are visible to both players (unlike some card games where some information is hidden). Perfect information also implies sequence—players can theoretically know about all past moves." (via) Each player has the "option" of calculating single vertex playouts that spread into multiple dimensions of ROI. By opting out or not calculating deep enough a player can easily lose advantage. 

In Go, baits and ploys are exponentially greater and more complicated; such is the nature of turn-based games. Let's say you have 10 potential ploys on the board, each with 5 good ROI plays. That's 50 possible play-outs you can consider; 50 calculations; 50 predictions. Think about Silman's quote and how it relates to this scenario - that's 50 mindfucks and they're ever-present; these are 3-dimensional+ calculations. They'll plague the weak minded for much longer than a handful of seconds. 

In LoL there's luxury to be found it quickly decisive actions; we're not chained by sequential playout comparisons or taunted by silence while tracing potential futures.

After having fallen prey to outplays and ploys, LoL/Dota/SC have developed a reputation for rage quitting; while in Go, it is customary to restrain emotions and humbly resign...although sometimes this is easier said than done:

I'll digress for now with a quote from Zhang Yungi:

Success at go requires the tactic of the soldier, the exactness of the mathematician, the imagination of the artist, the inspiration of the poet, the calm of the philosopher, and the greatest intelligence.

On a completely different note, can someone help me?

y u do dis?

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