Why I don’t play competitive games any more

This post is more of a personal one and contains a brief insight into my relationship with gaming and perhaps even perspective on why I enjoy esports more so than engaging in esports activities (competitive games).

The short-answer to my title’s question is because I realized I put too much emphasis and self-value on my achievements in games that ultimately hurt my day-to-day emotions and productivity. In other words, instead of seeking healthy routines to balance my gaming hobby, I often equated my pro-activity with my rank and gains in Dota 2,AutoChess, Overwatch, etc.

If I didn’t gain any new ranks or often found myself losing many games, I would feel my day was lost/wasted and get frustrated with myself, rage and attack my teammates for not meeting my expectations. Additionally, I found that when I was not playing, I was often obsessing about my rank and grew insecure about my public placement even though it has no real-world value, attachment or consequence. Lastly, I often felt that my desire to play games was not for the enjoyment of the gameplay but rather for the psychological feeling of succeeding in my quest to play stronger teammates and earn a ranking that I would be proud of.

Combined, I have 13,769 hours of total playtime – approximately 1.5 years of my life spent playing competitive games (more if we include other platforms/games outside Steam).

This is not to say I don’t play multiplayer or competitive games. I still enjoy Dota 2, Artifact, Dota AutoChess, Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six: Siege and more, but only unranked modes. I still heavily enjoy these games but my ability to detach from them at any point, with the understanding to realize that a loss or win does not persist into future experiences or outside the game alleviates me from a lot of stress, frustration and irritability that should not come from a leisure activity. I feel a lot of people also suffer from a similar obsession, where instead of seeking to expand their life, activities and day-to-day routines, they try to substitute it with progression a video-game that may lead them to getting frustrated and creating a unhealthy image about themselves. On the flip-side, there are people who do have healthy point-of-views of themselves and enjoy the challenge, additional emphasis in games due to persistent rankings and more – but not everyone. One areas I wish esports did better is educate its fans on the balanced lifestyle you should seek and maintaining a healthy environment.

As of recently, I’ve re-installed Team Fortress 2 and have ceased playing Dota AutoChess as I saw myself transform from someone who enjoys leisurely learning and playing a new game to waking up and immediately trying to gain ranks – ultimately deterring me from my actual work and responsibilities. With Team Fortress 2, I can casually stop and play whenever I want. And whenever I find myself getting bored, I make the active effort to do something pro-active with my day, such as writing this article or even exercising.

The truth of the matter is that I don’t actually need progression or ranked games to fulfill my enjoyment of playing video games. I just need to realize that I actually want to do more with my days than playing video games for an arbitrary rank that will never be good enough for me or the people who incessantly judge me because I do not meet their standards.

In my few years playing Dota 2, I’ve played ranked 3 times and reached several levels. But to others, it’ll never be enough and it’s a constant battle to realize that your pride is not dictated by the judgement or thoughts of others. Often times, the reasons they’re judging you is for their own reasons rather than an objective and honest opinion about your self-worth.

When I refer to judgemental others, it is often those who seek to tear down my personal projects like the Dota 2 Hero Builds. Who often label me as X rank (in a negative way) and not fit to publicly do something that no one else is pro-actively doing anyways (making popular hero builds for millions of users). It takes an active effort to forget about these people. That their active search to tear others down is more of a projection of their own insecurities. That someone who does (publicly) anything they love and enjoy, only reveals just how inactive or unaccomplished they are. This sounds like a ‘haters gon’ hate’ kind of rhetoric but it, too, is a projection of how I see my younger self. A time when I was full of anxiety (turned hate), concern of others, their work (instead of focusing my own lack of things to do/be passionate about). It was a time where I was in university, with a blank CV and the future scared me because I thought it was filled with endless uncertainty rather than opportunity to becoming anything.

From 2004 to now, I’ve been playing Dota 2 without really partaking in ranked and it hasn’t hindered my passion. In fact, my lack of a rank freely allows me to do as I please and at a rate I personally enjoy rather than indulging the idea that this is a job of which there is no full-time pay or support for. To summarize, as obvious as this may be, play the games you want at the pace you want. If you see yourself getting excessively violent, moody and angry playing a competitive game – it might be time to reconsider how you use your time and how you want to spend your life. No one really cares about your rank or your worth in a video-game except to remind you that you’re not worthy (and that is if you are doing anything remotely public that may affect them). I often think about exercising: the more you work out, the better you feel and appear (more or less) whereas when you play a ranked game in Dota 2 or Counter-Strike, you are not inherently guaranteed to go up in ranks. This is often a mistaken equivalency when in reality, working out and becoming more fit is equal to playing a ranked game and win or lose, you will have enjoyed the game or have learned from a mistake you made (which we sometimes forget to reflect on).

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