Miscellaneous: Why bother getting better?

\Before I am going to write any more articles on improving your COH game, I have decided to write one on why you should. I’m not going to use what you may think are the obvious reasons either. Fame, respect, or being feared should not be the reasons you play Company of Heroes. It is, after all, just a game. Being good at it doesn’t make you a better human being than players who aren’t as good (contrary to some opinions). I think the strongest reason for learning to play COH better is the most simple one: the game is more fun to play when you are playing at a higher level. Obviously fun is a subjective thing; however, in my experience almost all players say they have enjoyed the game more as they got better at it.

Why is the game more fun as you get better and play better players? The answer is the game gets much more complex as you go. As you become more familiar with the game you no longer need to worry about how to build an M8 or a Puma. Learning when and how to use the unit is so much more fun than just knowing how to build it. As your knowledge of how to use the units you have available grows, the game becomes less about button mashing and explosions and more about finesse and strategy.

There is also a huge sense of accomplishment that’s gained after beating players that have beaten you before. One of the things I liked best about learning C&C 3 was that almost every day, I’d beat somebody that had beaten me before. After playing COH at a decently high level for such a long time, I lost feeling unless it was someone such as Nystrom or Sepha I’d just beaten.

The reader might say “a more fun COH? sign me up!” However, it is not that simple.

Getting better at COH means giving up cherished excuses for losing. No longer can must you consider balance, luck, or your opponent being a basement dweller as acceptable excuses for writing off a loss. After every loss you must say “I lost because I was not better than my opponent.”

George S. Patton, whom the Nazis feared above all other Allied generals, has a maxim: “Never make excuses, whether or not it is your fault.” During the 1912 Olympics, Patton placed fifth in pistol shooting because the judges ruled he had missed one of the targets completely, even though later research shows it is highly likely that two of Patton’s bullets went through the same hole. He would’ve received a gold medal if this were the case. Though Patton himself offered this same explanation, he was given fifth place. Patton didn’t complain or make any excuse. Priding himself on being a military Olympic athlete, he noted that among the military participants, “there was not a single incident of a protest or any unsportsmanlike quibbling or fighting for points which I regret to say marred some of the other civilian competitions at the Olympic Games.”

The point is simple. Your excuse may be justified, or it may not be. But you should just assume in every case that there was no excuse, and that your play was responsible for losing. 

It then becomes your responsibility to find out why and where you lost the game and how to avoid it in the future. In fact, to someone truly learning COH, balance is really not a concern at all. All that is of concern is learning to play stronger. If playing stronger involves using things some people (usually noobs) consider unfair, it becomes the opponent’s responsibility to deal with it. If you have trouble with a tactic (such as PE halftrack spam) you should play PE and use halftrack spam yourself until you come across people that do not lose to it. By studying these people, you too can avoid losing to halftrack spam.

To sum this article up, getting better at a game is a journey. The beginning is the most difficult part, filled with discouragement and frustration. At times it will seem you are not going anywhere or even sliding backwards, so call this your warning and do not give up. The journey will never be finished, but it will not be long before you can have more fun with COH.


3 Responses to Miscellaneous: Why bother getting better?

  1. iaguz says:

    He’s pretty much right you know.

  2. jodonnell says:

    Great post! I’ve done my share of complaining about balance, but I too eventually came around to this view. Even though there are imbalances that can cause you to lose to a player who objectively less skilled than you, there’s nothing (that I can think of) that is literally unbeatable, so it’s incumbent on the player to try harder and perfect some other nuance of his play.

    For me, these revelations you write came about when I thought about my experience playing fighting games. Since fighting games effectively have a static “factual” metagame (driven by gameplay updates through patches, as opposed to the “perceptual” meta driven by changing strategies and player behavior,) there are only two options when you lose: improve your playskill or quit. You can’t hope for a gameplay change via a pach in the overwhelming majority of cases. My character in Street Fighter 3 is Dudley, who has a very poor match-up against Ryu and (like everyone else) Chun-Li. The match is imbalanced against me, sure, but I realized that the match was still essentially winnable despite the unfairness – I can still win if I play excellently. This is a big psychological hurdle to jump over, but once cleared I became a much better player.

    As an aside, as I gradually adopted this viewpoint, my political outlook generally shifted towards a libertarian stance – don’t rely on game developers (the government) to bail you out when things are tough, and let the metagame (free market) sort things out on its own.

  3. Surprise says:

    Believe it or not I became pretty much a libertarian a little after reading David Sirlin’s articles and book, but never connected the two. I think you may just be onto something jodonnell!

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