Lessons Learned from League of Legends: Tenacity and Adaptability

No writing log for you today, brothers and sisters. Maybe I’ll have one for you next week, but for now, I want to write a video-game related entry. I haven’t written one or many of those in quite a while, so I wanted the change of pace 😀

I’ve been playing an online game called League of Legends a lot recently. Just in case you don’t know, it’s one of the most popular multiplayer games in the world. It’s of a type called a MOBA, or “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.” The history behind such games is a little long, going back to Warcraft III (or even Starcraft). Long story short, in MOBA games you have two teams composed of 5 player-controlled champions (or heroes, whatever) who each have a base located at the far northeast and southwest corners of a square-shaped map. These bases generate small armies of little creatures or soldiers who are far weaker than the champions but assist their team nonetheless, and these creatures travel in three “lanes” across the map. One lane goes straight from base to base while the other two lanes wrap around the top/left and bottom/right edges of the map. These lanes are lined with turrets, half of which belong to one team and the other half belonging to the other. The object of the game is for the five champions on one team to work together (using their unique abilities, usually activated by the Q,W,E, and R keys) with the soldiers generated by their base as well as special items bought with in-game gold to fight and kill the other team’s five champions, then destroy their turrets and then the enemy base.

That’s pretty much league of Legends in a nutshell, along with its competitors, like Heroes of Newearth or DOTA 2. I’ve been playing a few games of it here and there recently. Not too many, as I’m busy teaching a class, and after today I’ll be playing even less of it, as I need to get started on the second draft of my dissertation prospectus. But before I bid the game adieu entirely (at least ’till I have a bit more breathing room), I’d like to share a few whimsical lessons I’ve learned from the recent matches I’ve won and lost. I suppose it may seem silly to take any degree of moral guidance from a videogame, but hey, wisdom is wisdom, even if one finds it in strange places. XD

Now, in League of Legends there’s a very wide selection of champions to choose from in a game, though only a certain number of them are available for free at a time–if a champ you like isn’t available during “free week,” you have to wait until he or she is or buy the champ with a lot of in-game currency or IRL money. One of the champs I bought with in-game currency is called Darius. He’s a big guy with an axe, and can do a lot of damage, especially with the ability activated with the R button. He can also be very hard to kill if you buy him a lot of health-increasing items. For these reasons, as well as the fact that I generally liked his aesthetics (his axe looks badass and I liked his spiky pauldrons), I tried to play him a lot in my LoL matches this week.

However, Darius also has a few drawbacks. He has no dashing or teleportation abilities, so he can be slow and easy to ambush. He has no health regeneration abilities, which also makes him easier to kill if you don’t buy health or armor increasing items. He also has no skills that can stun or otherwise immobilize foes, aside from an axe-grab technique activated with the E key, so he’s not good at shutting down dangerous enemy champions. These drawbacks led to me doing very poorly in the first few matches I played with him, I’d always die, and my team would always lose. I started to get fairly discouraged, and at the end of one game, said something to the effect of, “Man, maybe I ought to give up on Darius and find another champion to play with.”

I said that, but I didn’t end up doing it.

After that game, I kept playing as Darius, and this time I modified my approach with him. I was more careful about getting ambushed and I bought different types of items. I concentrated more fervently on what my opponents were doing so I could most effectively use my axe-grab technique.

In short, I didn’t give up, and instead tenaciously dedicated myself to getting better playing as Darius.

And my efforts, it seems, were worthwhile. Following that one game which made me doubt myself, my performance improved dramatically. I died fewer and fewer times, and went on to score a string of victories; my team won like seven matches in a row with me, then lost one (because I disconnected, unfortunately, and not due to my internet connection–sometimes the League of Legends program itself screws up, I’ve heard other people talk about it on the forums), then had another string of five victories. I was often complimented on my abilities and strong teamwork. Now, I’m not saying I’ve mastered playing Darius, or even that I’m a particularly good league of legends player. There are tons of people out there far better than me. Still, I think my tenacity paid off. By refusing to give up, and instead continuing to pursue my dream of eventually become at least a competent Darius player, I ended up achieving that dream. And I’m glad I did, even if it’s a small thing. Sure, being good at a video game isn’t that important, but the principle of the thing–of not giving up immediately when things don’t seem to be going your own way, to try and weather through an adversity through hard work and determination, of tenacity, essentially–is something I’m glad to have learned. Or at least, glad to have demonstrated to me so aptly in the form of a computer game. XD

Now, this isn’t absolute, of course. Tenacity isn’t a synonym for “dogged obsession.” There are many instances in life where it is indeed better to just cut one’s losses, or to abandon a quest that’s obviously quixotic, i.e futile. I may make an entry later about such doomed quests I would have been better off to abandon. In those cases where it isn’t, however–and I think the quest to become a *little* better at League of Legends isn’t such a quixotic pursuit–a little tenacity can go a long way.

So, too, can another positive trait–adaptability. Another reason I started performing better as Darius was because I began to be more flexible in the sorts of items I’d buy. Beforehand, I would only purchase the exact same items pretty much every match I played. When I started to improve, however, I began to buy different items according to the sort of situations I’d face. If I was fighting enemies who used many magic spells, I’d buy things like anti-magic shields, and if I was fighting against foes who used mainly physical attacks, I’d buy armor that protected against fists and steel. One recent game in particular sticks out to me–my team was really struggle against one particular player on the other team, who used some devastating physical attacks, so I got the best armor I possibly could and concentrated on that enemy as much as possible, forcing her to focus on me so she couldn’t kill my teammates. They were able to dispatch her team quickly and then defeat her, which led to us winning the game.

That was what really drove home the power of adaptability for me. Instead of panicking when I encountered a strong opponent, I kept my head and changed my approach to counteract her strengths and alleviate my weaknesses. Rather than just buy the same items I always used to, mindlessly and without change, I got some items tailored specifically to defeat her and ended up doing so. I adapted my approach to confronting her. That, I suppose, can be a lesson in real life as well. Instead of mindlessly and rigidly locking yourself into one approach to a problem, or one set of behaviors, or one way of doing things, changing your actions or adapting your worldview to different situations can often be a great boon. Just like I was able to start winning games with Darius when I changed things up, you might meet more success with whatever challenges you face if you modify a strategy that’s not working, or come up with a whole new one.

And, at the very least, even if a new approach doesn’t work, you’ll have had more fun than you would’ve just doing the same old thing over again. XD

Anyways, that should about do it for this week. I’ll be spending all of next week working on my prospectus. So maybe I’ll write an entry about the challenges of working through that next Friday. If I have any free time, of course, I’ll spend it working on Wayward Son. So if I get any work done on that, maybe I’ll give a little writing log update too. 😀

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