How a new perspective can make you better
By Nicolai ’Hazel’ Larsen
Football. Baseball. Basketball. League of Legends. E-sports, be it the professional side with millions of dollars in circulation, or a more casual approach, one in which five friends from the Freshman class has decided to band together in the pursuit of entertainment, has become increasingly likened to sports. The argument typically facilitates itself in the shape of its strong similarities in terms of competitiveness, usage of team play and strategy, and it’s value as an enthralling spectator event. As a seasoned sports coach as well as an avid League of Legends coach, I am a firm believer in the value and benefits of pushing for an athlete’s mentality for the sake of personal improvement. But there might be another way.
The next level
In a sports setting, we talk about getting into ‘the zone’. It’s a diffuse point, one that is difficult to explain to those around you, but it is nonetheless a major factor for the top performers in most any sport. Being in the zone means that your mind, your body and your heart is dedicated wholly to the completion of a single task, everything comes together to take your performance above and beyond what you would be capable of in a normal situation. And there is scientific backing for this mindset. Scientists have for a while now been documenting cases of the so-called ‘Runner’s High’, wherein an enormous amount of endorphins are released during physically strenuous activities. Getting in the zone, in a traditional sense, requires two major components. Firstly, it requires a complete and total immersion into your field of expertise. You must not only have the capabilities, you must immerse yourself into your work, becoming part of the process and accepting that the output is your output, the result of potentially thousands of hours of beating on your craft. Second, it requires an trigger, or a physical activity that can pump your body full of adrenaline. Adrenaline in an environment you are not comfortable with leads to stress, while adrenaline in a situation you have total control over – and faith in leads to endorphins being released in your brain, and this is the state that we call The Zone. But this leads us to a problem. Because League of Legends, or E-sport in general, has no trigger to speak of. There is very little physical activity involved in the scene, which means that attaining this heightened state can prove difficult, neigh-on impossible for some.
Borrowing from the best
In order to optimize the conditions for improvement in the E-sports scene, we must be willing to look outside of our own culture, and borrow from other fields of expertise that has ways of dealing with similar issues. Previously, we have borrowed unconditionally from sports, applying solutions based on their likeness to the world of sports. But we have no way of giving players this, dare I say enlightened state of mind, we have no way of bringing our craft to a higher level, because we do not have a physical trigger that can go in and allow a seasoned player to feel ‘In the zone’. So, the question then becomes, are there any other fields in which we have heard of this transcendence? After all, we still hear about, and occasionally experience games that just feels right, where the surroundings fade and it feels like your mind is sharper, your reactions are faster, where we get to be truly immersed. And that draws a parallel to another field that we may be able to borrow from, namely, the arts.
Yes, the great arts. Be it music, poetry or painting, history is riddled with artists who, through sheer immersion in their craft, has reportedly achieved this same heightened state that is so desirable. So what do they do differently?
You see, by treating our game like a sport, we accept that a key area of the sporting experience hinges on the fact that you will always have a winner and a loser. This, then, translates in E-sports into a focus on winning and losing, but that focus can be damaging to your abilities to seek your own growth. This is because instead of having improvement as your goal, you now have ‘not losing’ as your goal. And that mindset can hinder you, can prevent you from seeing the improvement in a loss, or can stop you from taking a step outside your comfort zone in an effort to find your personality through the game. We talk about different playstyles, and finding your own can be a rewarding pursuit. But in order to do that, you must be willing to try new things, to test out different styles, you must be willing to let your creativity take the steering wheel. And perhaps most importantly, by simply having ‘I must win’ as your sole driving force, you will naturally reflect your anger and resentment unto your teammates, disallowing self-reflection. So the solution has to be a shift in focus, one that takes away from the mentality that states ‘I must perform’, and unto a more conductive mentality, one that states ‘I must find my solution through trial and error’.
Alright fine, but how?
In order to treat League of Legends, there is a few things that you must be aware of. Firstly, it’s important that you understand and accept that whatever game you are playing, your goal cannot be to simply win the game. Your goal set should always be to play a game in which you have tried your hardest, a game where you have performed not to the standard of your peers or anybody else, but a game that you feel you can be proud of, one where you gave it your utmost effort. Like an artist pouring their thoughts and ideas unto canvas, joining a game lobby becomes your medium through which you can play, experiment, learn, and share your interpretation on how a proper game of League should look like.
Second, you must acknowledge the fact that finding your niche, finding your art style, or in our case, finding your playstyle takes time. Because of that, you will inevitably go wrong more than once, but it is important that you keep your eyes on the process.
It is my greatest hope that right now, somebody reading this feels inspired, or reinvigorated enough to try and gain a new perspective on their game of choice. Who knows, you might even have a little artist inside you?
About the author: Nicolai ‘Hazel’ Larsen is a certified sports coach of six years, as well as a challenger ranked fives coach. In addition, he is a trained orator and published article writer. Also, he’s pretty good at juggling!