Introductory StarCraft: Mindset to Improve

Why do you play StarCraft?

I play StarCraft because I enjoy it, it provides a fun and challenging experience on a level unparalleled by any other game I have played. I also play StarCraft because it is naturally rewarding in its gameplay for a few reasons. I find it rewarding because of the impossible to reach skill cap that allows us to always be improving. There is always something to do better and finally being able to do those things better after having practiced them for many hours is rewarding in itself. StarCraft doesn’t provide an endless grind to collect the most experience points or get the best equipment/armor/weapons etc. I can start a new account and have it be in the master league after a few days solely because I have developed the skills required to do so. That is rewarding to me, to see the practice pay off. There have been multiple times throughout playing StarCraft for me personally where things just started to click and in those moments I begin to feel myself playing better. I can feel it in my own play, my play being faster, build orders being sharper and better decision making in general. This improvement is what many strive for in such a competitive 1v1 game, if I only wanted to have fun playing the game, I certainly could through any amount of the “for fun” game modes like co-op or 4v4 without really trying to improve.

How to Improve

So now the question becomes how do we, as players, improve our own gameplay? And that is a specific question which will have a different answer for everyone in terms of specific gameplay. We can always tell people to macro better, don’t miss injects, refine your build order, etc. These are ways that eventually improve, however there is a long way to get there and a shorter path. The path you take will depend on your mindset.

Goals

Earlier I asked why you play StarCraft. I answered because I find it fun, but also because I love improving at the game. Improving is my goal in the game. This is incredibly important to realize and focus on for my own mindset. I play to improve and to improve is to play games, analyzing games and focusing on playing better. Those are my goals when I sit down to queue some 1v1 ranked games. Since I have changed my mindset to this one, I do not have ladder anxiety, even when losing I am improving. I rarely go on tilt (and when I do it’s because I am not playing up to my usual standard, not because Protoss is IMBA) because that doesn’t help me to get better at the game. If you only play the game because you want a high MMR, or to have a shiny new league border, then you will find yourself becoming frustrated after losing games or finding it hard to press that play button.

Mindset

So how was I able to create this mindset of improvement. Here are some realizations I have made that helped me to overcome the thoughts of balance whine and other mindsets/feelings/thoughts that hinder my ability to reach my goal (improve).

  • All strategies are a part of the game. Cheese is a part of the game and it is completely viable. People are going to try and cheese you, but that doesn’t make it any less “StarCraft” than playing a 20 minute macro game. Whether your opponent is looking for easy wins and ladder points, or if they just enjoy using aggressive cheesy strategies does not matter. It is a part of the game and you are going to have to learn how to beat it, in the same way that you have to learn how to macro and play 20 minute games that end with infested terrans killing carriers. If you lose to a cheese it is your fault, whether you didn’t scout enough, didn’t interpret your scouting well enough, didn’t micro well enough to defend, etc. But you can get better at beating cheese.
  • There is always a way to win. No matter what, there is something you could have done differently/better that would have allowed you to win the game. You just need to find that and work on it so that you win the next time. In short, be critical of what you can do better and be honest with yourself. Remember though, it is just a game, we all make mistakes so don’t beat yourself up for making them.
  • Losing helps me to find weaknesses in my play so that I can get better. Play games and if you win good work! That is all on you so be happy because your practice has given you the ability and skill to win that game. When you lose though, don’t worry about the -20 MMR, because recognizing that just scouting more with your overlord at a specific time would allow your play to improve is more valuable than that MMR. Just hit the play button and do your best.

Summary

In short, the less you become frustrated and the more you are able to be critical and honest about your own gameplay the faster you will be able to improve. Try to never focus on the balance of specific units or your opponents strategy, focus on what you can do better. Recognise that even if you are on a 15 game losing streak each game you play you are still improving. Realise that if Dark, soO or Elazer were playing the game you just played, they wouldn’t have lost. There was something you could have done differently to win that game and they would have done it. Don’t allow cheese strategies to impact your mindset. Treat them just as you treat every other match you play, focus on what you can change to do better; how you could have stopped it, how you could have scouted it. There is always a way.

This mindset change is difficult to achieve. There are players in grandmaster who do not have this mindset because they never focused on developing it. They have played many more games than most because they required more games to improve because they constantly blame the opponents race or David Kim for their losses rather than being critical and honest of their own game play. This mindset also goes against what we can naturally feel as well, not blaming yourself is easy and blaming anything else we may find is much easier (this may be why team-games like LoL are often more toxic than SC, it is easy to blame teammates instead of yourself). This is true in everything we do in life, when possible if we are given the chance to not take responsibility for our (negative) actions or outcomes then we often will. The good thing about changing this mindset in-game, is that I find it often translating into the real world as well in the other things that i do.

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