On Ego and Competition and my Mother's Seashell

I hate losing.

There's something called the Dunning-Kruger effect, and it's how dumb people live with themselves. In short, how people assess themselves at tasks is influenced by their skill or lack thereof. Oh, and the ego hits hard. People, nearly all people, rate themselves as above average. If you want some fun examples, feel free to skip ahead to the bottom of the article.

Competition doesn't have any time for that.

There are literally millions of Hearthstone players who tell themselves that they could hit legend if only they had the time. There are dropouts all over the country who know they could have gotten their bachelor's degree if only they wanted to. Millions toil in bronze of League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients assured that they would be diamond/platinum if only the rest of their teammates weren't bringing them down.

That's one defense. Another is to attack the institution. That game is broken! Degrees don't matter! Intelligence Quotient tests only test one kind of intelligence. I'm ranked so low because of match making ranking hell!

I'm not saying that's not true. It likely is. (Except for match making ranking hell–that's a complete myth). My question for those people, why not accomplish the goal anyway?

The Rise!

My last legend climb in Hearthstone I had a 58% win rate. From rank 5 to legend, my win rate was 67%. Does that mean I'm a fantastic Hearthstone player? No. I had a pretty compelling win streak from rank 3 to rank 1. The best players in the world have win rates approaching 65% in a season. When I'm playing competitively, my average is around 55% which is good. Does this mean I think I'm a good Hearthstone player? Not really. I make mistakes nearly every turn I play. I play too fast. And honestly, at the end of any given season, there are between 500,000 to 1,000,000 people who end up ranked higher than me.

Let's think about what that legend climb means concretely for a second. Each game takes about 10 minutes to play. With a 55% win rate, It takes around 225 games to reach rank 5 (due to win streaks) and about 225 games to reach legend from rank 5. What that means is that you're going to have to lose over 100 games after you reach rank 5 with a good win rate.

Narcissists can't take it. People who have fragile esteem can't take it. Who's got time for 20 hours of losing?

People who want to achieve.

The Success!

This is true for all difficult things. Getting a bachelor's degree (which only took me six years) wasn't about learning. Nobody learned me anything. I spent a lot of time learning on my own initiative, but frequently that had little to do with class work. Now this is only my personal experience, I attended college from 95-97 and from 99-02. Perhaps things are different in university today. But mostly success in college was making a good impression, learning how to network and present yourself, and jumping through bullshit hoops.

I know that most of my audience is successful–offhand most readers I can call to mind are professionals with many accolades, doctors, intelligent, and artsy folk. I'm writing this blog post because I believe it's people like that, like me, that are most at risk for these psychological traps. After all, we are likely accurate about our intelligence, aren't we accurate about the rest of stuff besides?

Well, no.

I don't really believe anything. Even that isn't true. The idea of "belief" is to think a thing without proof. I strive to be a fair witness in the Heinlein sense of the word, skeptical of nearly everything. But still, I fail at this constantly.

The crucible of competitive play forces you to confront this. There's no team member to blame. There's nothing but your skill and the opponent. Diving in even after your 100th loss during the season is what puts my statements above to the test. Every time I experience these thoughts that conflict with reality, they drive powerful emotional states. It pits me against the cognitive distortions in a way that allows my ego no reprieve. And in the end, I come out better. Not because I'm superior, but because even though I'm in the upper echelon of a thing, I just get to realize how flawed my thinking really is.

This applies for everything in life. I can speak confidently on a few things. Dungeons & Dragons. Writing. Game Design and Theory. Because they are my areas of focus and specialty. Even within those areas I strive to understand my flaws. In my interactions with others online, I often discover that they speak just as confidently about areas that are not their specialty. I do not think that is to their advantage.

The struggle for clarity is real. It's not something that can be achieved and checked off. It's a constant process of reevaluation and growth. And it's hard and painful to break down the false physical constructs of your mind.

But what am I talking about, you already know all this already, right?

The Salt!

Aside from the above, every month there are other things about my climb that are worth noting. Most interactions I have from rank 5 to legend are quite pleasant. However, down in the gutter ranks, between rank 12 and 6, you find a lot of people who are not well.

Blizzard and Team 5 have a horrible, horrible, system for communicating with your peers. One of the things I like about Hearthstone is that you can't chat with your opponent. However, that's no excuse for not being able to deal appropriately with situations. Not infrequently during my climb, I'll receive friend requests. Most of these are players impressed with play or seeking to become better or looking for friends on their climb up. Sometimes though. . . Sometimes you regret the fact that you can't contact someone to perform a safety check. Well, see for yourself below.


Ah, yes. My mother's seashell. Or possibly the most serious insult someone from South America can muster. Who can tell?

It's interactions like this that are so worrisome. This person needs a safety check. Not only can I not report him in any way to the parent company, blizzard has no method of reporting these interactions, but this person seriously needs someone to make sure he isn't going to hurt himself.

I mean, this is what I'm talking about. What mental state must someone be into say something like "hope your wife or girlfriend gets raped and murdered while you watch." Or "I'll murder your entire family given the opportunity." It can't be a good one.

Phoenix#12647 get help. Please.

Hack & Slash 


  1. Does Hearthstone seriously not have a report function? In all their other games you right click on their name and you can send one, and I couldn't live without it. It feels like I report at least one person in every match of Overwatch for being a shitty human being.

    It really sucks the joy out of things.

    1. Hearthstone is, indeed, the standout game where you don't have an in-game report function. Given that the rest of their interface design has been driven by "make it as simple and non-potentially-confusing as possible" (down to the fact that players were originally limited to only being able to have 9 decks at any given time), I can't say I'm shocked.

  2. Stupid is as stupid does, Mrs. Blue.

  3. Meh. Just a child who's learned that adults will be shocked when he says forbidden words, and mistaking it for power.

  4. As an Argentintian, I can tell that that first user is a person from my same country and was probably not being serious at all. We tend to use certain insults as a form of jokingly venting frustration which, strange enough, con sometimes be a sign of sympathy.


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