It Takes a Team

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from League of Legends, it’s that going in at a man disadvantage is almost always a bad idea. When you enter a 4v5, a 3v4, or heaven forbid a 3v5, you’re almost guaranteed to lose in every situation. Occasionally you can be pulled out by a player who’s really ahead or a colossal misplay by the enemy team, but more often than not fighting an uneven fight is downright suicidal.

The concept carries over from teamfights to map control in general. Teams can take objectives by out-rotating the enemy team, but in order to do so they have to appear to be everywhere at once, and that takes a lot of coordination. If even one person is in the wrong spot, split-pushing or soloing dragon can go horribly awry. I’ve seen entire teams wiped because a split pusher got caught out and the rest of the team got trapped in a 4v5. It happens, and it’s a crucial reminder that League of Legends is a team sport, not an individual one. You can’t succeed without your team, and the myth of carrying is mostly a false one. You can help your team win, but winning the game single-handedly is a pipe dream, not a reality.

In game design and engineering, we see the same patterns. At my recent Thursday night research meeting, I was reminded that as a novice games researcher I have a ways to go. My initial expectations and impressions of the project were largely incorrect, and my research advisor had to lay out some better ones for me to follow. A year ago, that probably would have bothered me, but League has taught me something else – you aren’t limited by what you start with. A year ago, I didn’t know who Shen was. I didn’t know how to CS or even that it was important. I played what I was told to play by more more experienced friends. But all of that has changed.

Now, when I enter a game, I’m comfortable playing mid, support, or jungle. I used to only main support. Now, I have decent CS and it’s getting better; before, I couldn’t CS at all because I mained support. I can duel my opponent at level two; before, I would dive towers whenever I felt like it because I didn’t understand how they worked. In every way, I’ve grown over the last year as a League player, and that gives me hope. It’s changed my mindset. I used to think people’s capacity was limited, inspired by some God-given talent. Now, I realize that talent is like your starting items. It can affect how you do in lane, but what’s more important is the work you do to get there.

So now, when my team corrects me, I don’t take it personally. I know they’re trying to help me grow. If a teammate tells me to focus on playing safe, I try to die less. If I find out my research proposal needs some work, I work on it. And if I find out that I’m doing poorly at a class, it’s incentive to try harder. I know I have within me the capability to grow, and League has taught me that. In a way, I guess, you could say that League has changed my life.

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