Blog written after not reaching WCS S3 Premier league.
Losing in Challenger as a full-time player
I practice tons and tons and I like doing that. But not even my practice could carry me today. Too often I lose faith in my abilities and it happened today as well. I feel like I've hit a wall and that there's something missing.
A close friend of mine still makes fun of me for something I said in 2011. "I reached my limit, I can't get any better". Every time I won against someone I couldn't beat before, he'd make fun of me, reminding me of my skepticism that day. "I remember when you beat DeMusliM for the first time back in 2011, he said. You were so happy, haha." But I still, to this day, can't help but think that things are slowing down, once again. "Yeah," I said. "...and beastyqt, and EmpireKas... back when I couldn't beat them."
I'm no longer the 'underdog streamer' I was when you voted me into the ONOG Invitational 2 during March 2012. It's a whole different game now where I'm expected to perform. I do win against Koreans sometimes, but in most of my tournaments I end up losing to foreigners that people would expect me to beat.
I do win some tournaments and I don't want to be disrespectful to other players that try rly rly hard without enjoying the same opportunities, achievements and financial stability as a full-time gamer (or exposure if that's something desirable to ppl). But at the same time my mind is annoyed by the inconsistency in performance after HSC6. Certain things about my play have been frustrating and disappointing to work with over time. This performance was just another example to add to the list. Once you improve, self-expectations can go too high and you can become too emotionally invested. That's one of the things that I want to fix, but there's probably more to it.
As a pro-gamer when shit hits the fan and you can't take your game to the next level you will hear things like 'take a break' and 'try doing something else' and I've been doing that too without noticing any difference. Sometimes you need something unique that can give you that boost to break the ceiling. So far, for the past 6 months, I haven't found it. I have the awareness that something is wrong and it is now up to me to fix it. I'm looking forward to this challenge and at the same time I want to write down my struggles just to get it out of my mind and perhaps receive some tips for moving forward. I also want to shed some light on how it feels when your mind is in a dark place as a full-time player.
Full-time means you're investing a lot into the game and being one of the biggest try-hard foreigners can be tough when things go wrong. Your mind will tell you to look to others as more successful and to yourself as a failure. Part-time players leading happy lives and grabbing achievements here and there while you're sacrificing everything and gambling it all on this one thing: Reaching the very top of the top, becoming a champion. And then you lose, when you're not even competing at the highest level. Many thoughts appear that are only negative and unreasonable, but they are there and they become very real. While dealing with negativity might be effortless for some, it can be a very real struggle for others. I don't think one can reach the top, nor find peace with oneself, until certain things and thoughts are dealt with.
The piano story
I wanted to be a professional piano player, but there were problems with my improvement. I was good, definitely not by so-called 'talent' and being 'gifted' but rather a fair share of practice and skill obtained from enjoying playing the piano over many years. But when I tried to go pro, no matter how much I would practice, there would just seem to be things that couldn't be understood or mastered. Not even with the help of my amazing teachers and not even when I tried to practice for hours straight, I'd be able to do it the way it should be done and I eventually fell behind my younger peers, unable to enter the school I wanted.
Soon enough I grew impatient and began questioning myself. Was there a lack of talent? Was there a lack of gift? Was it meant to be that I would not be able to play these 4 voices at once, just because that's a limitation of my brain? Stupidity? Eventually I lost my passion and gave in to the doubt. I couldn't do it, I gave up. Eventually I started playing more and more StarCraft. I lost faith in myself on the music side of things. I wanted to do whatever I enjoyed the most in life, whatever made me happy. I had a great time playing lots and lots of SC2 as it was one of my favorite hobbies. Not too long after, I went full-time in the beginning of 2012.
Fast forward a year and a half and I'm questioning myself once more. This time with SC2. But I won't allow the same thing to happen. My struggles are not related to the game, it's about my the self-imposed limitations of my mind. I want to fix this once and for all, and that's one of the best bonuses about playing this game. It's so great at pointing out mistakes and bringing out sides of you that you can change for the better. To fix everything that holds me back.
As a piano player I didn't put in the hours that I do now. With StarCraft I didn't want to make the same mistake again and neglect practice. This is one of the reasons why I'm practicing my ass off today. But when your performance stays inconsistent and stagnant (when you start thinking of yourself as mediocre and you become a whiny bitch), there is a sense of urgency and desperation that attacks your mind. On a good day, you gain awareness and inspiration. On a bad day, you're struck with doubt and a sense of hopelessness. Doubt that will kill any hope of advancing through any tournament bracket or tournament group. Doubt that will make you lose a series to pretty much anyone.
I will now write some of the things that have struck my mind sometimes during games, sometimes after painful losses. Most of the times it's imaginary hate that just appears out of nothing, but it's there, and it is kind of interesting. And some times, you can take it very very seriously, no matter how ridicilous it sounds.
The negative mind and what it might tell you
Imagine being a foreigner. What would you do?
You're good, but not 'there'. I wouldn't watch your games and enjoy sophisticated beverages like I do when watching top Koreans. They know what's up. Most foreigners just can't be like them, that's all. I don't know why, but in the end I really don't care. I just watch games at the highest level and you're not interesting to me. Why should I watch you play when you're not even competing at the highest level?
What's wrong with you anyway? It shouldn't be that hard to understand how to get good at just one thing when you got like what 12 hours every day to think about it and just do it, right?
See, that's the difference between them and you. They just get it. You don't. And it's not just about SC2 either, it's probably just who you are. Some are smart, some are stupid. Some are good, others can't play. That's just how it is. Give up if you can't deal with it, or just be mediocre. I don't care anyway.
You've been doing this with all you got every day for how long now? You still can't hit your injects or spread creep properly. It's a fucking video game and it's your job. What is wrong with you?
Look at this strategy. It's not even legit, it's just some random all-in. And it's not a smart all-in like a Korean would do it, it's just stupid. Your playstyle won't hold up to someone truly good, you just happened to get lucky with your wins so far.
This one guy who just beat you probably plays 2 hours a day and still did better than you. He's probably getting wasted in the weekend with friends enjoying life with a brighter future than you while you're spending your best years in front of the pc doing the same thing over again. He's intelligent, more than you will ever be, so stop trying and spend your time on something you actually can do right already.
You're sad about losing games and feel like you can't do it anymore? You're a fucking professional, I thought you were paid to do this in a professional way. And you're now asking us for help? Get yourself together, this is a joke. I just lost all my respect for you. Stop whining, you have no right to complain or be sad. Oh, and you're also overpaid.
You totally threw that game. What's going on? Why did you do that?
You can't do this.
Can totally relate to this one.
Friends, fans and you
You can do it!! I never doubted you, I always believe in you. You just have to believe in yourself. I'll always believe in you no matter how it goes, even when you lose, even when you play your worst game, it's fine, I'll be there for you cheering you on. I always enjoy watching you play!
You might not win every time but always do your best. If you always do your best, then that's all you can do. It doesn't matter what happens after.
Just try! Just because they're good doesn't mean that you're different. You're good too, don't forget that!
Don't be so hard on yourself! It's good that you're passionate, but remember to be happy! Just look at what you've achieved already, don't forget it!
You will bounce back! Next time!!
Don't forget about your true fans!! We will cheer for you, no matter what.
I followed you since the very beginning and I'm still a huge fan, don't forget us!
It's so amazing that you have the balls to do something like what you're doing now, you're crazy! I'd never have the courage to do something like that. It's so different! You're brave, and it's so cool to follow and watch you!!
Let's do this.
Where to go from here
I'm not going to give up and switch profession just to find the same thing happening again. Not this time, because I love SC2. I want to find back to the peace of mind I had before. Playing to learn and to enjoy it as a passion, not to live up to expectations and deliver results. Not to avoid losing to people I'm not supposed to lose to. That's being afraid and disrespectful, and it feels wrong. But even if I know that, I don't know how to fix it yet in a way that works for me. But it is indeed possible. And with time, I will be able to do it.
I don't want to be the guy that wins a tournament without a smile. I can't identify with that, it doesn't feel human to me. But I don't want to be the one who's hating myself and feeling super emo about playing badly either. That, for sure, is not human. I always leave with a gg, I always respect my opponent winning and the game is the ultimate judge and one does not fuck around with that truth. But I hate myself way too often for my mistakes even if it doesn't help at all. So when I leave all of these things aside, the only thing that should be left for me is to have awareness and make the most out of every present moment in practice and in tournaments. So how does one reach that awareness and presence of mind in every in-game second, exactly?
The truth is, I don't know. But I will know soon. It might take time -- fortunately, I have lots of it. I'm a full time player because I made that choice back then. I made that space for myself, to fix this. And with time, anything is possible. Even to fix the most broken mind, even to overcome the greatest learning difficulties, to improve and have awareness. Maybe then I will be gosu. If I'm not, then well, at least I will be happy ^_^>