When I wake up in the morning I find myself with a cup of coffee and Overwatch sitting on my desktop, staring me in my face. Those dreaded placement matches have been sitting for weeks and the season is almost near. Ranked rewards, present in most competitive games these days, urging me to play in order to get those sweet skins and currencies. Yet despite these dangling carrots, I always struggle to muster up the courage to play these competitive games. Overwatch, Dota 2, League of Legends, PUBG, Fortnite, Rainbow 6, etc., you name it and I can guarantee you I've delayed placements until the last moment.
I, much like yourself, have a multitude of games on my platter that demand my attention. I'd like to call myself a Jack of all trades, master of none. I am plenty capable of grasping the basic concepts in a game but when it comes to deep mechanics and understanding advance concepts I can find myself at a loss. That's when I lose. And losing sucks.
At the core of any game with a ranking system is the concept of winning and losing. Winning is great; numbers go up, you get ranked higher, and you get a shiny new medal to display your dominance over others. Losing sucks; you risk potential demotion, players look down on you, and you are looked on with shame. We all I don't want to take a risk of losing. Losing brings about stress, anxiety, and fear for the next game.
So how do you deal with ranked anxiety? You don't. Or rather you shouldn't.
Your reaction to ranked anxiety is a perfectly normal reaction to a potentially stressful situation. You are not alone in feeling anxious before starting those placement matches. It shouldn't be something you avoid or try curing when it is a natural human response and emotion. That said, people will still try and come up with clever ways in dealing with ranking anxiety. From drinking tea before a match to taking a warm shower, I've heard it all. Playing fighting games has taught me however that anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of.
Perhaps its the short amount of time invested in fighting games or the low stakes in a 1 vs 1 situation, but I find my ranked anxiety to affect me to a lesser degree when playing said fighting games. Cranking out hundreds of losses for just one victory is something you have to learn and experience on your own. But going through that exact experience has helped me understand where my fears come from playing ranked games.
Whenever I play an individual game like Hearthstone or Starcraft 2 my ranked fears are diminished. Losing still sucks and deranking still sucks, but it doesn't sting as much as games of Overwatch or League of Legends do. The multiplayer factor when playing placement matches makes ranked games overwhelming however.
Consider the factors that go into multiplayer games. Your success directly correlates to the success of your team. Conversely, your failure reflects the team's failure. It is easy to drag your team into the dirt; it is difficult to carry others on your shoulders. The social aspects of ranked multiplayer means toxicity is rampant and griefing frequent. Not one multiplayer game I have played has never had a completely toxic free environment, and people are clever finding ways to be dicks to one another. Even in a game such as Call of Duty with no social chat, players will teabag losers as a sign of disrespect.
And no team-based multiplayer game has ever gone without someone raging. I understand where that comes from. I would get angry all the time playing Dota 2 when my team wasn't pulling their own weight. Then you find yourself in the same position; letting your team down by being a burden. It isn't a good feeling being berated by another person, and worse so when you know they are right.
That's why I don't deal with anxiety like other people. I embrace my fears and worries when I played ranked queues. I understand the reality of gaming is eventual loss and disappointment. You can only be perfect for so long before someone else beats you. As the old saying goes, no matter how good you are there is always someone better than you.
As I start up another game of Overwatch I am reminded that I am human. And so is everyone else reading this article. Anxiety is just another emotion that comes with being human. When that final victory screen arrives and I can unwind from another stressful game I look towards my cup of coffee and take a sip. One win down, nine more games to go. I soldier on.