Sunday, 12 March 2017

Facing My Weakness

Alola friends. Very different post today. Much rambling, little to no game-related content. Just been thinking a lot about the game and my place in it recently. Spoilers: no, not quitting it entirely (sorry not sorry haters!), that wouldn't be right. Just some things I noticed and might want to change.

What Happened/Changed?

In a nutshell: I have quit competing in the official circuit and that is literally it. I am not putting less time into the game than before (just less money). I also still enjoy winning and hate losing as much as ever. Well, and that's where I'm wrong. As much as I appreciate this current format over the mostly dreadful one from 2016, I still have lamented a lot on how extremely fast and matchup-focused it is, as a reaction of me not finding a team I'm happy to just keep for months. There are multiple ways how this could possibly explained, but it matters not when the main point is this: I'm just here to have fun, and it seems I am forgetting this as soon as I get frustrated with how things are playing out. I (as much as everyone else) will undeniably have a hard time having fun in losing, being completely irrelevant and all that shit, but the mere feeling when you notice that you're doing things the wrong way, have no solutions but actually want solutions, that's...not helpful. I'm a filthy casual, I could just step away from it for a month or two no problem, but I don't want to. I might find some single-player games to fill my gaming time with no problem, but knowing what Pokémon has given me in the last 15+ years, I just wouldn't find a suitable replacement multiplayer/competitive thing out of nowhere. What an oh so typical love/hate relationship with a hobby...

Reasons Not to Take a Break

Aside from not wanting to move away just out of general enjoyment of the game itself, there's also some moral obligations.

First, the local events and everything around them. It was one of my most unrealistic childhood dreams to have local events every months, and look where we are now, we actually get to have exactly those events as well as a bigger circuit where they are tied right in. Now, I have officially left that circuit for the time being because of some major disagreement. But still, I am not so selfish that I would just leave and be done with it, especially when the overall situation for everyone is so terrible, I legitimately have to be afraid we lose it all if no one stays around to keep it alive. I'd rather have a bullshit circuit than no circuit at all, you know, even when I decide to be no longer a relevant part of it. I'm staying strong for my locals in the face of complete hopelessness, and I have big difficulties motivating them, but I try.

Second, there's also the NPA factor now, finally again. I didn't cost my team much and they could just ditch me for midseason and get someone else just as good no problem, but that's not what I want because I actually signed up to this for, once more, having this team competition experience with and against great Champions of this game in my life. I've played two seasons of NPA before: the first was great (and we won), the second was awful (and we took last place). Well, and what about this one? Seems fair to say it's somewhere in the middle, which is fine, really. Unfortunately, we now lost two weeks in a row to two very beatable teams, but we made too many mistakes and that cost us. This also includes myself at the very least for the current week. StarKO is a great player, I was very happy to be paired up against him for the first time in my life, and it's no shame to lose to him. But, the harsh truth is, I walked in with what should have been a favorable matchup for me and still got outplayed. Winning was humanly possible and I failed to do it, now not only punishing my ego but also my whole team for it. It was, just like many other losses for us, a good lesson anyway. Do we want to take lessons eternally, though? I'm afraid not, haha. Gotta step it up for the (near) future. When you lose points that you shouldn't lose, you have no reason not to to it better when the next challenge presents itself. And sure as hell I wish to get some more chances...and, you know, kick some more awesome players' asses because I can, haha.

The Quest for the Team

Well, that's the thing that everyone's dealing with in one way or another, haha. Some more, some less, something. I feel like it's been especially hard for me in general, because I'm a (hopeless) perfectionist and it's quite a number of varying approaches that have led me to success in the past, so, in a way, I'm just lost! There's three big approaches I want to look at here: using plain standard teams, building original teams and, since it finally is socially accepted now (was not for the longest time, I shit you not!), copying other people's teams.

Standard teams. That's the thing we always recommend to new players. Safest thing to do, little can go wrong. But, if you actually want to win...oh boy, the possibilities of things that can go wrong are endless! Personally, I hate mirror matches more than anything else. Even with a not-so-standard team that I loved dearly (hint: quicksand 2015), the mirror matchup was one of only two matchups where I had a non-positive record. Can you believe that? And when I run the standard shit that everyone else runs, chances are I'll get a lot of mirrors...also known as matchup where my chance of winning isn't leaving 50% any time soon. I just don't know how to get good at this kind of thing. I did sorta deal with it in 2016 with the big-6 mirrors, you know, but naturally that experience was a special kind of terrible for everyone involved.

Copying teams from others, independently of how standard they are. That's a fun one, and also generally recommendable to people of all skill levels. Many cool things have happened from it. In fact, almost all of my favorite teams ever have started as copied teams that I then just adjusted to do some things better. That being said, I feel like I should actually do it some more again. And that's where a luxury problem arises: the vastness of options. It's just too much to try, you need some kind of selection. And by that selection of mine, it's as if everything then disqualifies on the spot because there is some issue or challenge that I for whatever reason am not ready to deal with. And that is basically how I actively reject getting better, as I assume that I will not find answers that I don't already know. That's some detrimental impatience, no doubt...and still, it's sorta necessary because, again, we need a selection somewhere. All of that being there someone who's a god at hoarding and classifying quality teams? I'd much love some educated recommendations matching some given basic requirements, haha, if that's not asking hell too much, anyway.

And then the final stage, building your own teams. Not because you can but because you really can. It's a thing I really love to do, and it's extremely challenging. For every good one I come up with, there's probably around 20 that just go nowhere. I can't feasibly expect to get that ratio up, but dealing with it can be hard at times. Now, just for the IC recently, I did bring a team that's my own creation, but what of it? It could still be just that 1 out of 20 that does something, and it's not safe to assume it actually has a future in development. Anyway, if we are being positive just for this one moment, then we are seeing right with our eyes how full of wonder this metagame is: Spaniards revived Bulu, Smogon leaders revived my favorite team from December, viewership invitational had some cool teams also on the winning end, Tman made fucking Brine work, and the list goes on. If all of that along with my past tells me something, it's that I could very well put some faith in my own ideas. Can't expect that all of them are worth it, but if I explore them more and let them breathe, there's a chance I find some more stuff that's neat. I won't possibly turn into German Enosh and have some new elaborate weirdness ready for every event (well, "event" *cough*), but doesn't hurt to try at this point. It's not like I'm getting too much out of delaying the fun of team building when I'm literally just here for the fun.

So, what will actually happen? Probably still a bit of everything, really (and it overlaps in various parts anyway, so). Just gotta work on the distribution to feel more at ease.

Laddering Fatigue

Don't get me wrong, both the in-game ladder and Showdown's ripoff are helpful and it's good to have them around. It's just not for me anymore. I'm old, I'm not laddering 6 hours per day anymore. But if you want to get top ratings, you're kinda forced to do exactly that...or, if you do want it quickly, you're just never allowed to lose. And losses will happen, a lot of them. Bo1 is the necessary evil and it will wreck your shit if something on that opposing team catches you off guard. And the higher you get, the more it will hurt your rating. Also, Battle Spot ladder resets. Did they just cut the cycles to 2 months!? I'd really like a Showdown-like approach where you can just register alts or something equivalent and then ladder with those and stuff, and without the reset that tends to happen right in the moment when you're finally getting somewhere.

About the Battle Spot part, there would be the obvious way to just force myself to play like 3 games per day or something, but you know what mostly keeps me from doing it: I only have dead teams in-game most of the time, and rental teams, while a really nice concept in itself, are so vast that there's again the selection problem...and also lack of personality, coupled with that one rating per game that will just go to hell should I pick something that doesn't click at all. But really, this is all on me: a classic motivation problem. What motivation could there be when there is just nothing whatsoever that's actually relevant about the ladder? You aren't even getting in-game rewards...except for a pitiful amount of Festival Coins that just isn't worth disconnecting from Battle Spot every time. Well, here's to me not forgetting about Battle Spot in season 3, I guess.

Of Nationals Runs and Mentality

Out of the 10+ National Championships I played in my life, I remember about 6 runs, give or take, that were good in some way or another.

3 of them happened with the perfect "fuck this shit, I'm just here for the hell of it" mentality, and I wanna say they were in fact, even if for strongly varying reasons, the "best". The one was the Nats way back in 2009 that I actually won, where I just played to see some friends and stuff, and entered with a mostly brainless fun team that was an hommage to another friend. Well, the tournament went by quickly, and sooner than later, I was already in top 4, joined by two friends and a random. Since I was the one who got matched up with the random, losing could have meant the instant death of my (then fairly good) reputation, so yeah, that happened, and I went on to the grand final show match on stage that just mattered for the original brick and title alone. Well, and then 2016, obviously. The format was impossible to handle, so what do you go to Nats and play the big six or a variant, lead Xerneas Fake Out every game and autopilot it to whatever result pops up. Not what I actually did, haha, but something close enough anyway, little brainpower needed. Failed me in UK because I ran into too many hard matchups that I closely lost, along with one impossible one, then same team again in Germany and X-0 Swiss run because I dodged all of that stuff, played mostly mirrors, somehow walked away with wins in them etc., it happens. (That's the same day when ecopoképsychological Ph.D. Billa attested me a "Mew2King mentality" in the morning before, whatever that actually means. Well, I think M2K is fucking boss amazing at Melee, but sure he's behind his prime for an eternity by now as far as results go.) And then for Italy, I changed it up to this patchwork of double Primal team that was fairly nice but also had some flaws, same fuck-it-all-mentality, had a good time and got the same result as far as CP go, whatever.

The next 2 of those runs happened in years when I was mostly grinding just one team all year. Kinda long for doing that again some day, I have to say, but some stars would need to align. In both cases then, I just made a decision to run archetype X at the start of the format, then found out it was good by playing, and failed to find something else that worked better (but did try!) for me. Good times. In 2012, I had that well-practised TR team and realistic chances to win, still in Bo1 single elimination. What then actually happened is, for the only time in my life (!) I fucked up with getting one of the mons in-game -- as in, I forgot to teach my new custom Speed-IV Tyranitar Protect before the Battle Box lock. With shock I learned about that right in the middle of round 1, and saved a losing game to the timer somehow. But still, Tyranitar was so important, there wasn't a game all day where I didn't bring it. As it turned out, only one of my other games went smoothly, the rest all went to me bullshitting people on the timer, either because I was unable to play normally or because they actually were difficult matchups and I had to get creative. This way, I carried the run all the way to top 8 and was one win away from getting the trip to Alola, I mean Hawaii, but then karma bit back and I ended up somehow losing a game where I wasn't even in a losing position. So yeah, that one was actually a mess, but the result, on paper, still is my best non-winning one. The other of the 2 would be 2014 with Team MEGATAAAAAARRRRRRR!!!!!! That's when circuit injustice hit me the hardest: I got a respectable 6-2 in Germany and was eliminated at the end of Swiss. If I had went to the UK and gotten the exact same run, I would have cut. If I had went to Italy and gotten the exact same run, I'd have had another round to determine if I'd make cut or not. But because I was just in Germany and things happened as they happened, I had no chance.

And that would also be another kind of special run which matches with the last example, too: the greatest comebacks that fail in the dumbest ways. Said run started at 1-1 because Raichu/Blastoise wasn't a thing I could comfortably beat with my team, then I brought it back to 6-1 before the last round. I faced the guy who had a good team but played so randomly, barely anyone was able to make heads or tails of him. Or, more directly and critical of myself: he bullshat me with turn-1 Rock Slide magic and I was too much of a pussy to Swagger his Garchomp to bring a losing game back by some well-deserved revenge RNG So yeah, in a way, that was on me, circuit weirdness aside. The other comeback run happened a year later in Italy, and boy was it a story. But that story has already been told in great detail on this blog before, so...suffice to say, I started 1-2, brought it back to 6-2 with one more round to play, and had the game already won!, but in some delirious twist of mind, I clicked the wrong move without any reason and threw. Worst mistake ever, absolutely qualifies as Choke™. (That reminds me...I've been watching many NPA replays as they were posted. You wouldn't believe how many locked up endgames were pissed away literally in equally dumb ways! Doesn't make me feel better about myself, just makes me feel like...why does this even happen!? This should not happen! If you're a good manager, I recommend giving those persons a good and thorough pep talk...and likely also some bench presence for 1-2 weeks to follow.)

In a nutshell: Nats was only ever good when I was also feeling "good". "Good" as in casually fatalistic. Like our ancient heathen ancestors, you know. And it makes sense, because if I'm there to do anything of value, I have to bring out the plays and do stuff right on site, and if I lose, I'll lose with the blade of glory in my blood-drenched hands. The game has become too big to win Nats in my living room, it's impossible to catch all possibilities in preparation. It's a very important thing to remember, and it's exactly what has slowly but surely led me out of complete irrelevance throughout those recent years. That's good! I just never quite finished the job, and that's the bad part...and whether the opportunity ever presents itself again, that will depend on what TPCi will be doing in the future and whether I can learn to deal with those decisions even if they aren't going to bring back what we used to have before 2017.


Obvious conclusion is I'm probably bad. More productive conclusion is I can change a few things as long as I still am in that blissful situation where competition doesn't matter at all, and maybe it would make me less bad. I'm still the same person as one year ago, but I'm not the same Trainer by my own choice, so I shouldn't try to behave the same way, as it can conflict with having an exclusively good time. Let it go and move on, you know. (God, I fucking hated Nahyuta Sahdmadhi in that game, but still this character has left quite the impression on me with his nonsense, haha.) I've arrived at a point where it made sense to think about it all and put it into perspective, so I actually have some optimism that good things might come of it, no matter how irrelevant and forgettable they might be in the big picture.

And what even is your, the reader's, part in the whole thing? I don't know, depends. Naturally, you'd all have different personal stories to deal with, and possible similarities and their meanings you'll have to find by yourselves. If I somehow inspired someone to do something just from this wall of rambling, it was my pleasure. With that being said, we will be back at normal Pokémon content next time, whenever that will actually be. Alola!

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