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Winning Without Winning – Succeeding at Failure in Online Games

It’s the last round; the bomb is planted and nobody has a kit.

There’s just one tower left; before long the base will fall.

Pushed back to the final point and already down a player; it’s time for the defenders to take their last fight.

Sadly, none of these are the enemy team tonight. They’re yours and man, losing is just the worst, isn’t it?

It’s the dual nature of team-based competitive games. When the only difference in whether you win or lose is whether or not your team of players can play better than theirs, the rush of a well-earned win is irreplaceable. Equally though, the competitive drive is just as much a curse as it is a blessing when the semi-random nature of online matchmaking is allowed to poke and prod at your ever-dwindling patience. You can’t pick your teammates without putting a party together, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. You sure as heck can’t pick your opponents, and what are you supposed to do about getting matched against amazing players when your own teams seem to consist mostly of orangutans, Tamagotchis and bags of hammers that have somehow been trained to use a mouse and keyboard? It’s so dangerously easy to become apathetic, frustrated, and downright mad at a loss.

Well, you shouldn’t. Harder than it sounds? Absolutely, but I’m here to show you why a hard-fought loss is actually one of the best things that can possibly happen to you in online gaming… as long as you know what to do with it. Winning is great, but only by analysing your mistakes can you improve and those are much easier to spot in a loss than in a victory. You just need to know how to self-analyse, so here are some pointers to help get you started on winning your losses.

The Sliding Scale of Overcome to Overwhelmed

The first step in making the most of a loss is also the most intuitive, because it’s often the first thing that will naturally come to mind anyway. “Wow, that sure was a close game!” and “Wow, we sure got a mudhole stomped in us that would bring a 30% alcohol-by-volume tear to the eye of Stone Cold Steve Austin!” are two very different beasts which have to be approached differently. It’s not always a totally clear immediate distinction, either, because frustrated annoyance can make a close loss feel like getting stomped, while frustrated apathy can make a stomp feel like a close loss. Before asking yourself what went wrong, it’s important to sit back, take a breath and ask yourself: how close, realistically, was that game? This can be done from memory or, if you’re serious about improvement, it’s often worth skimming through the demo/replay, assuming your game of choice has that feature. Identifying how close you came to winning is hugely important in putting everything else about a loss into context.

The Three Points of Focus – Us, Them and Me

To make a productive start on analysing your losses, there are three questions you can ask yourself after a match. The way you look at answering them will change from game to game, since different games have different formats. For some games, like MOBAs, these may apply to entire matches. For others, like CS:GO, individual rounds. However, the concepts can be applied to any player-vs-player competitive game, even 1v1 games with a little tweaking.

The first question: What was our win condition and how did we fail to achieve it?

A win condition is exactly what it sounds like. Within the context of the match you just played, what specifically did you have to do in order to beat their team with your team? This can be tricky to pin down in games with random matchmaking as often everyone on the team has a different idea of what the win condition is, but it’s not impossible. In CS:GO, it may be that their AWPer on B site was getting the vast bulk of their team’s kills, therefore keeping them pressured above all others or, conversely, avoiding and killing their team around them may have left them outmatched in firepower, allowing you to take more fights and win more rounds. In Dota 2 it may be that their heroes were weak in the early-game and strong late-game while yours were the opposite, meaning that your window of opportunity would have been to get aggressive as soon as possible, turn that into tower kills, control the map with wards and presence and never allow them to make a comeback. In Overwatch it may be that the enemy were using far more ultimates than you to secure fights and leaving themselves at what the competitive community often calls an ultimate economy disadvantage and your team could have taken points by capitalizing on that more effectively, or perhaps their supports were frequently out of position and could have been killed early to win fights. To wrap everything together, as well as figuring out the things you didn’t do which could have led to a win, identify any things which you did do which were unnecessary for your win condition. Did you spend that extra 5 minutes farming your next item when you should have been looking for kills? Did you spend 30 seconds looking for solo kills while your team was preparing to push a vulnerable area, and by the time you grouped up with them that area was no longer vulnerable? Identify these and you’re well on your way towards improvement.

The second question: What was their win condition and how could we have stopped them from achieving it?

Just as you and your team have a win condition, so do the opponents. The easiest way to stop them from achieving their win condition is, of course, to reach your own first, but often when push comes to shove that’s not a viable option and you’re left to identify what they have to do to win and stop them from doing it. Let’s take our earlier Dota 2 example. If your team has failed to dominate the early-game, the enemy are now free to work towards their own win condition of avoiding fights and farming until their heroes hit their main power spikes and suddenly they can throw you so far across the map that you land in a Heroes of the Storm match. In this situation it’s often productive to focus on their win condition and anything you can do to mess with it. Stealing their jungle camps, forcing their attention with split pushes which spread them around the map where they can be picked off, doing anything possible to prevent them from comfortably preparing for a late-game win. Being able to look back at a loss and recognize times where the enemy were doing something to work towards their win condition which you could have prevented can prepare you for those improbable, clawed-back-from-the-brink games where you win by leaving the opponents unable to close out the match and slowly neutralising their advantage.

The third question: What could I, individually, have done better?

In team games, by far the most common trap I see people falling into is blaming their team for everything, not taking full responsibility for their personal screw-ups. This is rarely conscious and almost everyone falls victim to it at some point. This can boil over into becoming frustrated in-game and giving your teammates grief which, for the record, never helps. If someone’s being counter-productive, mute them. If you’re considering communicating in a way which is counter-productive, follow the system of Stay Targeted, Focused and Understanding.

In other words, if you’re considering giving people grief, remember to S.T.F.U. and keep playing.

But I digress. The final and arguably most important question to ask yourself following a loss. Disregard your teammates’ mistakes – it’s good to recognize them so that you don’t make the same ones yourself but – and I cannot possibly stress this enough – you can’t control or change what other players do. Ask yourself, simply, what you could have done better. Look at the shots you missed, the kills you could have gotten by acting just two seconds faster, the teammates you could have saved by healing them instead of someone already close to full health. Don’t focus on how your teammate let you die that time, focus on how you died and shouldn’t have been in that position. Don’t focus on how your teammate couldn’t finish that important kill, focus on how you also missed the shot in the first place. It’s especially important not to forget this in games where you felt like you carried your team. Even if you did, you did not play a perfect game, because in pretty much any modern competitive game that’s impossible when you account for human error. No matter how hard you carried, there’s always something you could have done something better. That goes for every player of every skill level and any successful professional gamer will tell you the same.

Applying the theory

All of this, of course, is just a set of pointers and guidelines, something to point you in the right direction. The most important part – and if you only take one thing away from this, it should be this – is that winning isn’t everything. A loss can be just as valuable as a win, if not more, if you take the time to look at how and why they happen and for that reason, why be upset by them? Losses are a necessity, and a beautiful one. Competitive games are all about the rush of competition, about proving your skill, about the satisfaction of being the better player. Without the sting of losing, winning wouldn’t taste nearly as sweet. So, embrace it. You’ll get that win back sooner or later.


GOVG – Video Game Night #3

We’ve done alright recently with our GOVG nights, so if you’re looking for an event to pass the time this coming Saturday, then why not consider joining us for an evening of fun and games? We’ll be playing some free to play games, as well as some other games that people choose throughout the night. It’s always a good laugh, so if you’re up for joining a bunch of the GeekOut UK community for some laughs, then join us on Discord today.

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Top 10 – Intense Boss Battles

GeekOut Top 10s

Boss battles are a staple of video games, usually combining all of the skills you have learned up until this point with some extra challenge on top. They’re built in such a way to test that the player has understood the core mechanics of the game: But if you haven’t, then you’re not going to succeed (At least, not easily). These are our Top 10 Intense Boss Battles, where the rules are very simple:

  • The battle must make you feel like you’re experiencing a challenge.
  • The battle does not have to be a final boss.

We will not be focusing purely on action games: But RPGs can make an appearance. Heck, even puzzle games sometimes have an intense battle. Here we go… (more…)


Top 10 – Tyrants

These vicious villains typically rule over their people through fear, oppression, cruelty and downright nastiness. They’re menacing, they’re daunting and imposing people in their own way – Sometimes through reputation, but often through physical violence or threats that even the most prestigious of world leaders wouldn’t be able to get away with. Cruelty is the name of the game in this weeks’ Top 10 Tyrants.

We took a little bit of liberty with the meaning behind a tyrant for this list. We took it to mean someone who rules over something; so it doesn’t have to be a definitive leader of a race, or over a land – They could rule over their peons in sweatshops, or over those who are their minor.

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Top 10 Axes

GeekOut Top 10s

Everybody’s second favourite weapon, but we already did swords. If you’re looking for a top-heavy blade that can really give you an edge, nothing beats an axe for helping you get into the swing of things. Whilst this side-splitting introduction is enough to give you a splintered headache, the axe is one of those often forgotten about weapons. It’s strange too, considering how many awesome ones there are out there.

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Top 10 – Explosives

GeekOut Top 10s

Kaboom! Rumble, tremor, yes, it’s true that a good explosion is probably one of the most fun sounds out there – but have you ever stopped to think about the aftermath of said explosions? The lives potentially lost by the blast radius; the millions of pounds of damage caused by one of the most destructive forces out there? Well, it’s true, explosions are damn cool, yet they can be damn dangerous.

In this weeks’ Top 10, we’re going to look through our favourite explosions in media – If it takes place in an anime, a book, a video game, a TV series: basically anywhere geeky. We’re keen to nuke our way through this volatile list and set the foundations shaking. We’re bringing you our Top 10 Explosions!


Top 10

10) Andy D. Kaboom – Red Vs Blue

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Caboose’s second best friend, after Church of course, was a bomb. Andy was constructed from pieces of an old protocol robot with only one mission, explode, preferably when in close proximity to the Omega AI, also known as O’Malley. It’s something of a fixation of his, almost as if his entire life revolved around that one singular moment, and yet he has so many other uses. He’s a multi-lingual translator, a broad bank of knowledge, and a highly sophisticated AI, who can also be handy in a negotiation situation as both a diplomat and an ultimatum.

Downside, Andy has an attitude problem, and it’s a big one. Aside from the need to constantly distract him from the concept of exploding, exploding, countdowns, or loud beeping noises, he’s also intentionally provocative and insulting to everyone he meets. It’s almost like he’s looking for a reason to go off. And yet he and Caboose seem to get on great, and no one mourns more keenly at Andy’s passing… or rather that time when Sarge swaps Andy for a skull and hopes no one will notice.

9) Stickybomb – Team Fortress 2: Demoman

stickybomb

Team Fortress 2 is a well renowned arena-styled game, where you and a team of bizarre brothers-in-arms go against an enemy team of brothers-in-arms. The team are rather diverse, from the slick and quick Scout, to the sneaky and stealthy Spy. But amongst all team games, there has to be that one person who picks the most destructive of them all.

Whilst Tavish Finnegan DeGroot might not be such an imposing name, the name Demoman strikes fear into the hearts of anyone who might be attacking. From his famed stickybombs to his rather powerful Grenade Launcher, you can bet your butt that the attacking team will be sent flying off through his explosions. None are more feared than the dreaded stickybombs, which are capable of destroying just about anyone who steps too close to one. Better keep your eyes peeled for this drunkard Scotsman.

8) Holy Hand Grenade – Worms

The Holy Hand Grenade is a reference to Monty Python, for anyone who isn’t aware. But in Worms, the Holy Hand Grenade is truly one of the most powerful explosives in the game. Put your Dynamite away, hold back your Super Sheep and by god, why on Earth would you throw the crazy Banana Bomb? No, it’s all about blast radius and strength of the explosion, so if you need power to destroy whole chunks of land, the Holy Hand Grenade is the weapon of choice for you!

Okay, so perhaps it’s a bit risky. If you lob it incorrectly, it might bounce back into an area of you and your team’s worms and then who knows what’ll happen to them? I’ll tell you one thing, having one of these landing at your worm’s body is not going to be a pleasant way to end proceedings. You might as well have skipped rope instead.

7) The Bomb – Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

I don’t think I’ve played a game that builds so much tension with so little action. A one player sits in a room with a suitcase bomb while others sit outside and try and talk you through deactivating the bomb one module at a time, and it’s that composition that makes this game great. Simon Says, complex wire sequences, symbol matching, the wickedly composed word codes and the demanding “needy modules” that require your frequent attention.

For the player in the room, it’s heart-stopping, as you watch the timer tick down, and every misstep brings you closer to the sudden darkness. The player outside is left helpless and yet burdened with responsibility, holding your life in their hands. Communication brings frustration, music, timer, and the sudden blare of the alarm clock (why the hell is that even in there?) shred the nerves like a cheesegrater… of emotions. And at the end of it all the quiet relief of success and a job well done, or blackness.

Funny thing, the bomb doesn’t really explode as such, not in the big fiery way we’re all familiar with. There’s a boom, and everything goes black. It’s all rather elegantly final and makes for a great game.

6) Gambit’s Cards – Marvel

xmen-gambit

The card-slinging Cajun is one of the most famous X-Men of all time, making it frankly disgusting that he only ever appeared briefly in one X-Men film and it was a lousy spin-off. But that’s a rant for another day. Remmy LeBeau actually has the power to infuse any object with powerful kinetic charges causing them to explode violently with a concussive force rather than a ball of fire, and can channel that power down his staff to create collisions that can shatter bones and walls alike, but that’s not what everyone knows him for.

A thief raised in New Orleans, he turned the parlour trick into a weapon when his mutant powers manifested, making the common playing card into an icon, small enough for him to charge quickly and easy for him to throw accurately. He has a variety of other powers, many linked to his kinetic control, that make for one of the most charismatic and darkly suave characters in the entire Marvel Universe, and he is perhaps better remembered for his moral ambiguity and accent, but the guy can turn poker into russian roulette with a thought.

Where’s his movie Fox?

5) Turnabout Countdown – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies

ted-tonate

Bringing about the dark age of the law is quite the accomplishment, but in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies, that’s kind of exactly what happened. For those who are uninitiated in the crazy world of Phoenix Wright, you play as a defense lawyer who always believes in his clients. In this particular title, you play as the famed lawyer himself, Phoenix Wright.

This case was called Turnabout Countdown, because it was all about the counting down of a time bomb. Injuring dozens of people and blowing up an iconic courtroom for the games legal system, this was a very impactful scene. One of the main protagonists, Apollo Justice, even took the brunt of the explosion. After he recovered, he needed a break from his law office, the Wright Anything Agency. During his time away, he gained wrong information which turns him on one of his friends.

Oh and the guy who placed the bomb was called Ted Tonate. He’s pictured above.

4) Spirit Bomb – DragonBall Z

goku_universal_spirit_bomb

Kamehameha! Okay, so the Kamehameha wave is one of the most devastating attacks in all of DragonBall and that’s A-Okay! I mean it’s a signature move which causes some serious damage, exploding land all around… But what about the single handed most dangerous move in Goku’s arsenal? The Spirit Bomb is the name of Goku’s arguably most deadly attack and damn, does it cause a serious amount of damage?

The Spirit Bomb is the collection of energies from the spirits of the world. Effectively, he draws upon the power of all of the people, all of the creatures and all of the wildlife. Any energy that can be spared, which is then turned into one massive ball of raw energy. When it’s finally ready, Goku throws this at his opponent which sorta crushes them – before the explosion happens. This strange ability doesn’t always explode… But when it does, things are going to disappear rather quickly.

3) The Atom Bomb – Fallout 3

megaton-nuke

The number 3 slot is occupied by the only explosive ever to spawn a religion and a political party. It’s also amongst the best known decisions to make in a game, the ultimate Big Red Button: Would you kill a city full of survivors, lose the trust of the people, and cut off your supply of sidequests for a stack of caps, an achievement, and the most luxurious apartment in existence… and a bigass explosion?

The bomb at the centre of Megaton is pivotal in Fallout 3, a huge plot point and a question I am always asked despite never getting far enough in the game to answer “Did you blow up Megaton?” A religious order believes truly that the war of 2077 was a time of rebirth, bringing all people together in “The Glow” of Atom, and that the unexploded bomb is a holy symbol. And on voting day 2015 in Shrewsbury, my pencil hovered curiously over The Children of the Atom on the ballot paper. Whoever you are, I didn’t vote for you, but I love you.

We have a tie for #1! Choose your winner!

1) Voltorb/Electrode

ir6ikiq

Oh this is a difficult one. Let’s start with the older entry, the Pokemon the really encapsulates the term “Self Destruct”.

If you’re a veteran of the series you’ll have fond memories of burning through Repels to keep the incessant zubats at bay, the fingers crossed behind the Gameboy trying to capture an abra before it teleports, and the suicidal efforts of wading through the powerplant amidst these volatile little balls of electrical energy. They appear to have either gathered to feed, or they’re born there. They’re rumoured to have spawned in a bizarre energy surge in a pokeball factory, which would explain the uncanny resemblance. Or they originate in Indonesia. Or Greenland. Or Poland.

The Route 10 Power Plant is the only place one could find the legendary bird and posterboy for team Instinct, Zapdos, but the unwary are best advised to stock up on potions and be wary of items. That’s not an icon my friend, that’s a bomb with a smile on it’s face. If you’re lucky they won’t self-detonate immediately, opting instead to zap, shock and roll out some pain, giving you chance to catch one for yourself.

VS

1) Creeper

Creepers Valley

Yes, the Creeper is making it into this vote at an explosive joint number one, but there’s some very clear reasons why. Whilst Voltorb is more nostalgic, the Creeper became an internet phenom. From the early days of Minecraft, where people would turn around and see a Creeper and literally scream, to the current days where Creepers are still an annoyingly terrifying prospect to encounter, these creatures know how to make quite the impact.

Whether it’s because they’re bright green and look absolutely devoid of life, or if it’s just because you know they’re going to damage your beautiful house and garden, these creatures will come towards the player and explode. It’s enough to make you shiver, thinking about all of the work you’re going to have to redo. It’s probably why they made bricks in the game, so you could literally damage control these explosions. But do NOT let them get hit by lightning, whatever you do. You do not want to meet a supercharged Creeper.


Honourable Mentions

Some explosions are memorable, but others not so much. But these would-be forgotten explosions do need to at least be mentioned, as they left a crater in our minds and hearts… Because no matter what you say, explosions are still damn cool!

Michael Bay

WARNING: Explicit content

When he’s not too busy blowing up the box office, Michael Bay is busy blowing everything else up. Okay, he’s not an explosion in and of himself, but basically everything he produces is a massive explosion and we’re not upset about that. Even in the above Epic Rap Battles of History song, Michael Bay is blowing minds (and ratings) out of the water.

Whilst there’s no single explosion we can point at, I’m sure if you watch any Michael Bay film, you will feel that sense of “I’m waiting for the explosions now…” He’s a great director, who could be even better if he’d reign it in a little bit. But ultimately, I’m happy to wager that you’re content with watching some pretty explosions happening on screen!

Nathan Explosion – Metalocalypse

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Sadly disqualified for not actually exploding, Nathan Explosion is the frontman and lead singer for the globally worshipped death-metal band Dethklok. Explosion lends his rumbling growls to the band’s thunderous instrumentals, and has incredible stage presence despite only ever standing still, shoulders hunched and staring angrily into the middle distance. Despite not actually being a bomb or anything like it, Dethklok is notoriously followed by massive destruction in which fans are accidentally killed in their hundreds, and the (literally) die-hard audience returns more maimed and disfigured every gig.

Brutal.

Nathan’s metal-growls are pretty much just his voice, as he talks in the exact same rumbling monotone except with less rhythm or volume. He and fellow band members, Skwisgaar Skwigelf (lead guitar, taller than a tree), Toki Wartooth (rhythm guitar, not a bumblebee), William Murderface (bassist, Murderface) and Pickles the Drummer (drummer, doodily doo ding dong doodily doodily doo) live lives of excess thanks to the incredible riches that death-metal have afforded them, and pursue the most metal lifestyle they can possibly muster in a way that certainly doesn’t parody anything.


We’re out of natural disasters and there’s no more dynamite. This article has gone up in a puff of smoke, so don’t let us cloud your judgement any more, as we’re now passing on to you, the GeekOut South-West audience. Let us know what you think next week’s Top 10 should be, amongst these three dynamic choices.

Just like the best of explosions, these articles have to come to an end at some point – and you’ve been patiently waiting for the smoke to clear and the rubble to settle. But don’t be alarmed, we’ll be back next week with another Top 10 – But in the meantime, let us know what you thought of this weeks list. Did the right explosion make it to number 1? Do you think we forgot any in particular? Did we order the rest of our list well? As always, let us know what you think in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.


Top 10 – Killer Fish

GeekOut Top 10s

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the internet…

They do say that worse things happen at sea, but frankly any large body of water can hold a variety of toothy, poisonous, bloodthirsty or otherwise deadly aquatic horrors. And water… deadly, deadly water.

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Tip of The Hats, TF2 Charity Event

Video games and charity; two things that have gone together hand-in-hand over the past few years, and for good reason. The gaming community has, time and time again, proven to be one of the most effective, most ambitious and most generous when it comes to fund-raising and this is perfectly exemplified by Tip of the Hats, an annual 48-hour stream event run by the Team Fortress 2 community, bringing the best names and personalities of both the casual and competitive scenes together under one banner and one cause: to raise as much money as possible for One Step Camp. If you’ve heard of it, you understand the hype. If you haven’t, dear reader, you’re in luck; this year’s event is coming up very soon indeed, on the weekend of the 19th-20th of September.

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Top 10 Death Noises in Games

For the most sobering quote you’ll ever hear: Death happens. I’m sorry to tell you, but whether you’re playing through Half-Life, or even a jolly old game such as Super Mario brothers, death happens. One thing about death is that it does take you by surprise. Your character may let out a little yelp from pain, or perhaps he or she’ll get some form of fanfare in his or her honour? Honestly though, we’re not going to lie… We were a bit weirded out that you, the GeekOut universe, wanted to pick… the agonising… Screaming… Death sounds of the world of games.  But, you chose it and we’re going to deliver it! This is our Top 10 Death Noises in Games!

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Cosplayer Highlight – Rezzed

EGX Rezzed has now come and gone, which was three days of pure fun, games and discussion. I thrived in the atmosphere in all honesty and I can’t wait to see the works of the indie developers, as well as the big name developers such as Team 17 and Blizzard, get their latest games out there.

As per usual, I didn’t just go to an event. I lived the event. I made sure to be in costume, but sadly Mega Man couldn’t make it due to him being slain by a Robot Master. Sorry about that, folks, but I will keep working to build my Mega Man costume anyway. With more time on my hands, I can make it the costume it needs to be, but not the costume it wants right now! Er… That’s a weird quote to use there.

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