Editor’s Note: This article was contributed to Stimhack by kevintame.
This year, I competed at Fantasy Flight’s Android: Netrunner World Championship event. According to several of the players I spoke with, it was one of the best World Championships in history. The field was diverse; no single strategy dominated throughout the day. Spirits were high and competition was fierce. From that perspective, I can see why it is considered one of the best.
The problem is, for me, it was a combination of awesome and awful. King of Servers was a blast and the Cache Refresh and Ice Breaker side events were great. I played well and had a lot of fun. However, during the main event, I lost almost all my games and couldn’t seem to catch a break. Things went from having fun to agony and despair in a matter of hours.
During the main event, the first three opponents that I faced were all well known skilled players who outplayed me fair and square. Round one was Seamus Macleod, who made top 16, round two was Colin Hanna, who is no scrub when it comes to Netrunner, and round three was Raja “ajar” Doake who also made top 16. When I got to round three, Raja and I were in the same boat. We both had been swept in the previous rounds and were in a mental funk. Our games were very close, but he ended up getting me in the end. Check out Raja’s Stimhack article about his experience here. It’s really an amazing story about how he recovered from being at the bottom to reaching top 16.
Now I, on the other hand, lost and ended round three with a 0–6 record. At the start of round four, I found myself at the very bottom table. I distinctly remember looking to my right and seeing a large section of empty table next to me and silently saying to myself, “Crap, you are in last place!”
It sucked… it sucked real bad.
While this was happening to me, my friends and meta mates, Jonas Wilson, Jeff Strube, Ben Mason, Brandon Hauk, and Jesse Vandover were all having a great day and playing around the mid to top tables. I was jealous of how well they were doing and a bit salty about my poor performance. I had worked hard in the months leading up to the event, and was on decks that I knew were good. During the dinner break, Jonas and Jeff tried to build me up while we ate Thai food but in the end I was checked out and a mental wreck.
I finished the day in 211th place. Oof! ☹️
That evening and the following day I was pretty sad. I had spent several weeks, maybe even months, working with my testing group (Jonas Wilson, Jeff Strube, Jon Dalesandry, Jake Tunstal and Josh Gregory) and felt that I had put in lots of effort just like they had. I was sad, confused, let down, and — I imagine — a real curmudgeon.
Losing sucks and I didn’t want to feel sad while I was in Roseville so I quickly began to think of steps to help me become less disappointed.
Worlds Taught Me How to Better Cope with Losing
I admit now I hadn’t immediately come to terms with my losses while in Minnesota, and it took some reflection over the past few days to really understand my feelings. However, while at worlds I did identify a few things I could do to help with the sadness. Below you can find my thoughts on dealing with losing and how I applied it to my Worlds experience.
1. Acknowledge you are sad and accept that those feelings are ok
Feeling sad about losing a game seems illogical. I often want to to say to myself, “It’s just a game, Kevin… get over it!” The thing is though we are emotional beings and we just can’t help it sometimes. Feeling angry or sad are all normal things human beings feel. When you lose, you should acknowledge that those feelings are real and let others know that you are feeling that way. Tell a friend. If they are a good friend they will be supportive and listen.
While at worlds I told my friends and my testing group I was bummed I lost and that it made me sad. I found that having someone to confide in made a difference in helping me recover. Even writing this article is kind of the same thing. It is me acknowledging that those feelings of sadness are real and that it is ok to feel that way.
2. Keep your spirit high
When you are sad about something, it is easy to dwell on it. The best thing to do is to do something light hearted and fun. I personally like games, so I decided on Day 2 while at Worlds I would play some games with all the people that were at the event. Several people didn’t make Day 2, as well, so I knew I would have a large group of people to play with. This ended up being great, and really helped distract me from my thoughts.
- I played some Patchwork with Brandon.
- I watched Jon Treviranus teach people his game Metal Pilot. It is a rad game you should learn more about it from him.
- I played some fun games of casual Netrunner with friends. Shout out to Thomas, Sanjay, Ben and Jeff for playing with me.
- I played Dracula’s Feast for hours in the Radisson’s ballroom with a bunch of Netrunner players. Shout out to Eric, Gustavo, Kirk, Brandon, Matthew, Patrick, Ben, Adam, and Josh. Van Helsing was so OP!
Thanks to all of you who played with me! Those games made a huge difference to my emotional state and I felt so much better getting my mind off of my losses.
3. Take joy in others success
It’s really easy to want to wallow in your own sadness. This is true for gaming and for life. I sometimes even find myself getting jealous of others success. Instead of being jealous, it is best to be happy for them. When you are happy for them it will in turn make you a little happier as well. At Worlds, I realized my sadness wasn’t doing anybody any good so I decided to cheer on my friends and congratulate those who were doing well.
Jonas played well all tournament and was in top 16 so I made it a point to watch as much of his games as I could and cheer him on.
Dan D. vs Jonas W. during top 16 cut. Go Jonas!!!
Brandon made Day 2 so I tried to cheer him up when he lost his first round of Day 2.
I talked with Raja in the morning of Day 2 and he was smiling ear to ear about his success. I told him his story was incredible and making it that far was amazing. I thanked him for our games and wished him the best of luck for his upcoming matches.
The truth is it was hard to do and I could have easily complained about how my day sucked, but honestly — in the end — as I️ took joy in others success, I started to feel better.
Being happy for others actually made me happier.
4. Build connections with others
We are social creatures, and connecting with other humans is one of the most important aspects to our survival. You can be an introvert or extrovert and still need human connection in your life. At Worlds, I was able to connect with several individuals and make new friends. Some I spoke to for hours and some for only minutes. For example, I talked with John Treviranus about his Mechs in Space game and with Chris Dyer about our shared love of Zelda for no longer than five minutes. They were short and sweet, but the point is everyone of those connections, be them long or short, mattered to me and hopefully to the person I connected with. As human beings, we need to feel connected to something and someone. At Worlds, everyone asks how you did and it sucks to have to say that I ended in 211th place. However, by getting over my pride and continuing to connect with others I was able to recover from my losses.
On my way home from Worlds, I realized that I couldn’t let this opportunity of connecting with others go to waste. So I decided to reach out to all of the people I meet on the day and thank them for the opportunity to meet them and/or play against them. It’s not everyday you get a chance to make new friends and build connections with new human beings who like the same things you do. Might as well make the best of it.
One example of a message I sent was to Sanjay.
Sanjay, It was really nice to see you during worlds. I wanted to thank you for letting me borrow your BOOM! and also thank you for just hanging out and chilling with me. You are one of the reasons I ended up having a good time.
Aw, thank you!
I really enjoyed hanging out with you too. It was really wonderful.
I know it isn’t much, and I don’t want to sound pretentious by sharing this, but I found connecting with people at Worlds and continuing to connect after made all the difference in me overcoming my sadness to losing. Seriously, this one might be the most important thing I did.
5. Prepare for your next endeavor
Being mentally prepared is crucial to success in competition, especially after a loss. It is easy to fall into self-doubt and second guess your ability. Don’t let that prevent you from bringing your “A game” to the next tournament. It’s often good to reflect on what happened in the event and what were some of the things you could improve upon. Store champs are around the corner and I’m planning on taking one of those down. For Worlds, I identified three major things I need to do to improve and hope to apply them to my next tournament:
- Get lots of sleep. I stayed up way too late the night before Worlds. I had a bad case of FOMO (Fear of missing out) and wanted to stay up and chill. Get to bed and get some sleep. Don’t let Jesse Vandover lure you into chatting till 3AM in the morning. It’s tempting and appealing but don’t let him do it!
- Trust in the decks you have practiced with. I ended up calling an audible to PU the night before the tournament. I should have just stayed on my CI builds that I had more practice with. I’m not the type of person who can pick it up right away and win at a high level event like Worlds. I should have just played with what I knew and tried my best with that deck.
- Forget about it and move on. When you get in a losing cycle it is easy to stay in a losing cycle. After every loss reset and start fresh. I know this is hard to do once you are in a cycle of losing but it’s the only way you will be successful.
We are emotional creatures no matter how hard we try to control it. When you are in control you make thoughtful, careful, and logically decision. However, when you are not in control, you are more likely to be clumsy and illogical. I think one of the biggest problems I faced on the day was that my emotions got the best of me. Confidence is critically important to one’s success at the game. When I have confidence in my decks, my skill, and my game plan, I usually do very well.
Luck and Variance
Netrunner is a game that contains elements of luck and variance. My first three rounds were tough players to face early. Unfortunately, those three really tough matches set the tone for the day. It’s a bit unlucky to get paired up with that tough of a players that early.
I️ also consistently faced some of the more difficult matches for my decks. One game I️ lost three psi games in a row playing voter intimidation trying to get rid of their film critic. I literally wasted all my archived memories trying to get rid of that stupid critic. Another bad match up was my round five opponent who was super excited when I️ showed him PU. He said he’s been waiting to play against PU all day and I soon discovered he had two Levy in his deck. This turned out to make it very difficult to deck him. Now, I️ don’t want to blame my results on either of these factors but I️ have to acknowledge my path might have been more difficult than others. I own the fact that I didn’t play well on the day but having bad luck made it even worse.
Here is another example of how luck and variance can result in strange outcomes. During the King of Servers event I was paired up against Jesse Marshall and his PU deck. Turn one, click one, I indexed him. Click two I ran RD and won a psi game to steal a Future Perfect. Click three I ran RD and won another psi game to steal another Future Perfect. Click four I ran in with four cards in hand and stole an Obokata Protocol. I remember looking up at Jesse’s face and he just grinned. There isn’t much he can do about that there.
Using up all my luck for the weekend against Jesse Marshall in KOS.
Crazy lucky things happen in games and sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you aren’t. The key is worry about your locus of control and do your best to not worry about luck or variance in the game. I kind of think I used up all my luck for the weekend on the game with Jesse. The turn one win was ridiculous!
Continue to do Something You Love
The most interesting thing about this entire experience is that when I was feeling sad about playing Netrunner poorly I instantly turned to Netrunner as the remedy for my sadness. The following morning after Day 1, I got up and hopped on Jnet and played some games. It felt surprisingly good to be playing a game I truly love and that I’d flown across the country to play.
Netrunner is still the best game I’ve ever played and it still brings me joy every time I play it. I quickly decided that my worlds performance was not going to dictate how I felt about Netrunner.
You are the 211th Best Netrunner Player in the World
My friend Jeff pointed out that there are thousands of Netrunner players in the world. He reminded me that I’m the 211th best player in the world and that’s something to be proud of. 🙄 🙄 🙄 🙄
Ok, real talk…losing sucks and it can make you feel sad. If you find yourself in bad place mentally because of poor performance at a tournament. I suggest you turn to Netrunner and the community that surrounds it to find joy. It worked for me while at Worlds and I believe it can work for you too.
kevintame — The 211th best Netrunner player in the world.