Why You Keep Losing
Gather 'round children while uncle Chef rambles to himself
Gather 'round children while uncle Chef rambles to himself
The Emotional State
My last OP on TL was about concentration and the ways we spend it. In many ways the emotional state of a player is very much connected to the amount of concentration he or she has at his or her disposal. This means that being able to control one's emotion state is an extremely valuable skill one gains from StarCraft (or doesn't, if one is bad).
Controlling one's emotional state doesn't just mean not getting angry after a loss. Shrugging one's shoulders and saying "oh well!" neither gives a player the closure he or she needs to play the next set, nor identifies what went wrong. In a way, it is like dancing around a problem in real life, letting it build up to get worse and worse.
When one loses a game one thinks he or she should have won, a critical attack is being made on the player's emotional state. As I said before, ignoring it and trying to be calm doesn't help. That only means that one will make the same mistake next game.
Getting angry does not help either. While a completely calm player doesn't bother to think deeply enough about the game to identify the reason he or she lost, an angry player focuses too much on a minor detail. How many times has it happened that after losing a frustrating game, you've decided it was that one micro mistake that cost you everything? "Oh, if I hadn't lost 3 mutas for nothing in my first attack this game would have gone so much better!" Maybe. But why did you lose those three mutas? Was it just control?
Losing is Deceptive
Losing a frustrating game gives a lot of players tunnel vision. Half the time the immediate solution for why one lost a game is 'if I just hadn't let that scout in, he wouldn't have had such an easy time defending my attack.' That sounds like a more intelligent answer to why one lost 3 mutas for nothing later, but it's really not. It's still claiming "if I were just paying a little more attention," "if I were just a little quicker." Games in StarCraft aren't won and lost in an instant. There are huge swings of favour, but games are really won over time.
So what is the intelligent answer to the question "Why did I lose?" The answer is that your opponent caused you to make mistakes, and you didn't cause him to make more mistakes. StarCraft was never about how well you played. You only have to be faster than the slowest person in the tribe to escape the lion. You only have to beat your opponent to win.
Good players do little things that screw worse players up. They do A LOT of them. You didn't lose because you forgot to scout the opponents natural entrance. You lost because you got distracted by the woman in the red dress—I mean the scouting probe. That was where it started to go wrong, and then your opponent kept doing little things like that. You lost 2 Zerglings at his entrance because you couldn't pay attention to them while you were defending from a Zealot. You didn't set up your overlords properly because you were distracted because your build was slower than usual from a little attack in the early game. Everything adds up, and then your opponent just picks one of your many weaknesses and exploits it. You didn't lose cause you lost your 3rd to a DT that you forgot to send an overlord to... You lost because you got flustered in the beginning from not being able to put your hatch down right away.
I've identified the problem, now what's a good way to fix it? When you lose a game or two and are frustrated, just take a breather. Try to recognize when you are over-rationalizing a loss, when you are looking at one specific thing and saying it's completely to blame. Think about what really went wrong. Was it a moment of micro, or upon thinking about it does your whole base seem to not be where you know it's supposed to be (in terms of tech, military structures, etc.) Try to imagine how your base would look if the game were ideal and you hadn't gotten tripped up by one of the opponent's pokes.
That's when you'll start to think clearly and a loss will neither frighten nor anger you. You'll be able to go into the next game knowing what your game should look like, rather than worrying about not making one little micro mistake. You won't even make that little micro mistake because you'll actually feel like you know what's going on. Sometimes we get so focused on not letting a scout in, the rest of our game falls apart (not just build order, but scouting, thinking about the opponent, making our own attempts to sabotage his or her concentration). That's when we lose several games in a row, even though we've fixed the one micro mistake and can't understand why we're getting overwhelmed every time.
It's Not One Little Thing
It's not one little thing that went wrong. It's everything. If you're losing several games in a row that you don't feel you should be losing, it's probably because your whole game plan fell apart. It's good to focus on improving one aspect of your game every time you play, but do that before you've started losing, not after. That way you keep the rest of your game in perspective and do all the things you normally do while adding the one thing... Instead of only doing the one thing and wondering why games suck.
It's worth mentioning as well that if you're playing on ladder this is even more important, since you will play different players who do different things to screw you up. That means the improvement to your game has to be something you can do every game, or you will get even more pissed off.
+ Show Spoiler +
Sorry for switching pronouns randomly and general inconsistencies. I hope that this piece gives you some helpful advice anyway, especially in for people who don't ask the right questions in strategy forums.