Super Learning and Overwatch Week 1: The Great Humbling of Uncle Mayonnaise

I can’t get started without first extending a huge thank you to everyone who has reached out in response to this undertaking. I’ve received words of encouragement, advice, and constructive criticism. I’ve received coaching and mentoring offers, and people have offered to take time out of THEIR day to review my VODs and provide feedback. It’s truly a special feeling. The Overwatch University reddit deserves a special shoutout of its own for being especially welcoming.

One quick note: I changed “Meta Learning” to “Super Learning” so that people don’t oversimplify things and thing I mean simply “learning the meta” to get better.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can begin to tell you about how I completely ignored everyone to kick my first week off. I replied to everyone who reached out and said that I’d be in touch (I promise that I will be!), but I wanted to have at least one week where I ran through the learning principles on my own before I started taking steps with others’ help. I took advice and the results of my interview questions, of course, but I didn’t let anyone get hands on with my games.

So, I tried to do things on my own. I completely shit my pants. I performed so badly in the first week of competitive that I debated hiding away from this project so that I didn’t have to tell the internet about how things went.

What this train wreck resulted in was a great lesson in humility, adversity, adaptation, dealing with tilt, and owning my losses and mistakes. You’ll notice that this introduction has been extended to 5 paragraphs because I’m delaying telling you how bad my first week was. Why don’t we just dive right into it, and let my twitter do the talking:

twitt

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twit3

This is just the tip of the iceberg. It gets worse, all the way down to what I sure hope is rock bottom:

yuck

 

If I could characterize the experience so far, I’d say it’s like preparing endlessly to run a race, finally getting up to the starting block, and getting a cramp as soon as the gun goes off because you didn’t stretch before.

To elaborate, I had the building blocks in place, my plan for learning was set, I followed the recipe I set for myself for training, and then when I actually got into games, I fucking PANICKED. I forgot everything about my learning. I strained myself and forced everything. I played like the most rigid asshole you’ve ever seen. Soldier ulting right in front of roadhogs who could hook me, D.Va ulting with a shield tank clearly ready to address it, you name it.

In short, I deserve my rank, and I have nobody to blame but myself. I could have blamed my teammates, team comp, teamplay, circumstances, there’s a million bullshit things that I could have said, but none of them would be the right answer. The trenches exist, but you always put yourself there. No one else puts you there.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to update my learning recipe based on what I’ve discovered from new advice and a week in complete Hell. I’m sure you’ll find some excellent lessons sprinkled in here.

Communications

Holy Fuck. I paid FAR too little attention to this element. There are so many nuances in play here that I never would have even thought to mention before I dove into this adventure. This is probably the area I’ve learned most about during my “baptism by fire” period. Here are some of my most important findings:

Mute the Dickheads

Plain and simple. You have to do it. You absolutely have to. The energy that you put out to your team is your choice. If you’re being negative or a complete dickhead, you’ve made a choice, whether you’re willing to admit it or not. Even if you’re being negative in response to someone else’s toxicity, it was your poor choice to react. You’re not absolved from blame. Your pretentious sighs over voice chat count as toxicity, too.

Thankfully, Blizzard gives you two great two tools: the mute option, and the “avoid as teammate” function, that make hearing these kinds of people now, and into the future, a choice as well. It is imperative that you use them. A raging, toxic teammate on my team seemed to be as good as a loss most of the time. If I engaged with them or entertained them in the slightest, I started to feel worse, and then play worse. Same goes for my teammates that weren’t acting like psychos.

The effects didn’t just last for one game, either. It spread over several. I could feel the anger causing me physical pain, feeling like my blood was truly boiling. I wanted to kick my damn dog for looking at me funny. There’s actually quite a bit of meaning to someone being called “cancer,” though people float the term around carelessly. If you don’t cut it out at the source, at the moment it’s noticed, it will spread over you and your teammates’ current and future games. Get rid of their ability to affect you, encourage your teammates to do the same, and move on. Your progress depends on it.

Too much communication can be just as bad as too little communication

This one was a very interesting but important find. The one recommendation that I received quite a bit at the outset of this journey was to make sure I communicated with my teammates. I definitely did look back with some regret when I didn’t let my teammates know something that could have saved them in the moment. I never had anyone tell me that too much communication could be bad, but I saw that happen quite a few times.

With new players, a little direction can go a long way. Too much direction, however, can lead to problems. I generally try to stay quiet unless it’s necessary on comms. I had some teammates, though, who would report everything that was happening to them as if they were shoutcasting their own autobiography. They call out every time a hero fires a bullet in their direction. They announce every single movement they’re making. They’re just saying things that are plainly obvious or seen by everyone. I appreciate the commitment to being a team player, but I wish I could smack these people with a rolled up newspaper.

There’s a “cry wolf” scenario that happens with this tactic. If you’re shouting out every single problem you’re dealing with, you’ll be less likely to get what you need from your teammates right when you need it.  It’s impossible to react to every single thing. People who are still learning the game will end up with more confusion than direction from something like this. Moreover, if someone has to talk over you to say something that’s really important, vital communication has a bigger chance of being lost in the chaos.

If you feel like you may have just identified yourself as one of these people, try to keep things simple. If someone is attacking you, and you can get away without help, do it, and don’t make a big deal about it unless you need to identify that enemy’s position to your teammates. “Mercy is 1 hit” is good enough to signal someone to finish them off.  “Reaper behind you, Rein” says everything your teammate needs to know in 4 words. Keeping things simple will allow everything to be more efficient and crisp.

Though I wouldn’t consider communication an 80/20 (see my previous articles for that definition), it is a hugely important factor in your improvement. Making better decisions for yourself by listening to the right people, and making your teammates’ decision-making easier by communicating is definitely a big way to win games and climb ranks.

Deconstructing Deconstruction

As far as my process of deconstructing Overwatch goes, I think my main “pillars” of knowledge were pretty spot on. Learning the maps, positioning, how to aim, and ability management are still in my mind the most important things to focus on.

What a lot of my interviewing and advice-seeking has yielded, however, is the idea that I need to “deconstruct my deconstruction.” I found the most important pieces, but I didn’t break them down into the “minimal learning units” that I described when defining deconstruction. I knew this process certainly wasn’t yet polished, but I really have only hit the tip of the iceberg so far. Let me provide an example:

When learning a map: Instead of just knowing the layout of the map, I need to ask some more detailed questions.

  • Where are the health packs? How long does it take me to get from one health pack to another in critical situations?
  • Where are the perches located for heroes like Soldier, Widowmaker, and Hanzo?
  • Where are the chokepoints that I’ll need to push through as a tank, or will love to fire into as a hitscan?
  • Can Orisa, Lucio, Pharrah, Roadhog, Winston, D.Va knock me off an edge or down a hole?
  • What type of game mode occurs on this map?

    • If it’s an escort map, what path does the payload take? Where are the checkpoints located? If I’m a hero that doesn’t normally sit on the payload, where are my vantage points at each payload position?
    • If it’s a control map, where are the two points located? If I’m defending, how long of a walk back is it to the first point? (I’ve found this one to be crucial. Dying at objective A on Volskaya Industries is about a 30-60 second walk back as an Orisa. Knowing that, it’s not smart to trade your life for one attacking player’s life more than 9 times out of 10.) Where will players funnel in or sneak by if I’m on defense? How far will I have to walk if I die on objective B when attacking? Where will Torb, Bastion, or Orisa set up?
    • If it’s King of the Hill Best of 3: Will my hero be effective in all 3 (or sometimes, just 2) locations, or will switching between rounds be high value? What heroes can take advantage of the open space around the point?

Boiling down map learning even further allows me to truly get what I need from a walkthrough of a map. I’ve been doing a walkthrough of an empty custom game to get further acquainted with every map, and I now run through the above bullet points every time I do this. I’ll cover one map per day of play. It also gives me a better idea of which heroes I should consider, and how I should play when I’m at each map. Overall, I now feel much less like I’m wandering aimlessly when I do map analysis.

Revisiting Hero Selection

When I look back at my earlier articles and compare them to my past week’s results and advice received, I realize that I wasn’t really following my own formula when I came up with my list of heroes to focus on. I also used some very laughable assumptions when developing the list.

Abandoning comfort once and for all

I picked my heroes for the list almost entirely based off of comfort. For example, many people mentioned that D.Va and Roadhog, though perfectly fine heroes, certainly aren’t the highest value picks in their category. They function more as “off tanks” rather than “main tanks.” They don’t provide a reliable shield. If no one else on my team picks a tank, I’ve made a bad choice by sticking to one of those. I picked them because I was most comfortable with them.

To clarify, it’s not bad to say “I want to be an off-tank specialist.” For me, though, someone who wants to be as efficient as possible and play heroes who will provide the most value both overall and in the moment, off-tanks don’t cut it most of the time.

I was the first one to say that picking heroes based on comfort or level of enjoyment was the wrong way to go about climbing. I then, without really knowing it, proceeded to announce my intention to ignore that statement in the same breath. I needed to call myself out on this one. Comfort is a direct trade off for learning at times. This was one of those times.

At this point, switching things up costs nothing.

I should have designed my hero list without relying on any previous information from my time as an Overwatch player. What works in quickplay doesn’t necessarily work in competitive. I also just haven’t played enough Overwatch to say I’m better at one hero over another. I haven’t even played Symmetra once, for Christ’s sake. I’ve never completed a full game with Bastion. I’ve played under an hour on countless heroes.

The opportunity cost to me of learning a new hero and staying off some of my regulars is almost zero. The amount of potential upside is incredible. I don’t undo any of the progress I’ve made with heroes I’ve played a lot, and I add more heroes, and therefore, more value to my portfolio.

It’s probably more likely that I haven’t found my best hero, or even my top 3 heroes yet. I haven’t even played Symmetra once, for Christ’s sake. Because of this, I’ve realized that it’s not the right time to be rigid with my hero choices. Instead, I need to put my focus on which heroes excel in which roles on which map, and which heroes are high value in the most situations.

Orisa, for example, has found a nice place in my hero pool because I started to realize how versatile she was in so many game modes and maps (plus, I’ve learned that people love playing with shields on their team).

Ditching the list… for now.

For now, since I’ll be taking coaching sessions and VOD review feedback within the week, I’m going to suspend the use of a rigid list of heroes for competitive. If a coach recommends a hero during a session, I’ll take their recommendation. I’ll also use weekends to get some quickplay time in on heroes I don’t normally play. This way, I can learn how they work when I’m at the controls, when they’re my teammate, or when they’re my enemy.

I thought that learning too many heroes might cause anxiety or overwhelm, but I’m finding that there’s too much to be gained in getting an intimate feel for heroes that are alien to me, at least until I’ve hit a certain number of hours played. Jamming Soldier into bad team comps or game modes produces more anxiety than that.

It’s okay to be wrong. In fact, it’s necessary.

Though I feel pretty stupid for the assumptions I made, there’s so many learning opportunities, and so many opportunities to take my progression in this game to new levels. It’s a reminder to me that sometimes we have to look at our outset assumptions and ask, “what if I did the opposite?” We’ll never be completely right from day one, but we’ll always be wrong if we don’t admit flaws in our process, adjust, and adapt as they are noticed.

The One Pager- Harnessing compression

The biggest thing that I felt plagued by in the first week was execution. That seems pretty normal to me. To elaborate, I was able to come up with a formula for learning this game, which is all well and good. When it came to applying my formula, however, I was a colossal failure. As soon as a game began, I was like a teenager on their first date. Everything that I had rehearsed vacated my mind immediately, and suddenly I was nowhere near as smooth as I thought I was. I stuttered through many awkward, demoralizing experiences where my mind’s nervous autopilot overtook everything I tried to feed it.

How to remedy this? For one, playing more games will certainly calm my panicked mind. When more things become second nature, I’ll be able to focus more on my formula in real time. But I don’t just want to wait for that to happen. I want to speed things up.

The solution, though I haven’t developed one just yet, will be a one pager. Another excellent Tim Ferriss principle (references to him are located in earlier articles and the end of this one) is compression. Designed to simplify things further still, compression focuses on getting all of your most important learning pieces on one easy to read page.

The plan, when finished, is to have this one pager available next to me while I play. I’ll read it every time I hit the queue button, every time I die, and at the end of every round. This should help keep what I need to be thinking about at the top of my mind as often as possible, to help foster better decision making in the heat of the moment.

Compression will help me keep things simple, sure, but it’ll also allow me to have something that I’m able to prepare and reflect with in the blink of an eye. Not only will it work me toward more mindful play quicker, it’ll allow me to spot my own mistakes and  cast out bad habits quicker as well. If you have any input on what should go on the one pager, reach out and let me know!

This week’s wrap up

I would feel confident in saying that what I’ve written here covers far less than half of the learning I’ve undergone by sucking shit on my own for a week. I covered what I believe to be the things that stuck out to me the most.

Though I feel bad that I tossed 3-400 SR out the window,  I wouldn’t trade the position that I’m in for another one. Constant success teaches you nothing. Adversity and accountability is where you grow. Owning my mistakes and making them public will make this project the learning tool that I want it to be. Hopefully that will make this series read well as a tool for learning, but also personal growth by the time it’s finished.

I’m excited to bring mentors and coaches into the journey, and have some VODs out soon, so that everyone can witness the train wreck firsthand rather than hearing my account.

Credit Where it’s Due

I just want to end by giving Tim Ferriss the deserved shoutout that I’ve owed him for several posts now. He is the main inspiration for me to take on this journey, and a large percentage of my formulas are adapted directly from his work. I’m mainly “porting” it over to the gaming world. I hope that I’m doing him justice. Check out his podcast here (it’s only been downloaded over 300,000,000 times, so he could use a few more), and check out some of his books including: The Four Hour Work Week, Body, and Chef (the 4 hour chef contains a lot of the “meta learning” information that I’ve used here).

Thanks yet again for reading. Your comments and feedback have fueled this project and helped keep it active and thriving. I can’t do this alone, and I haven’t. I will try to maintain one update per week. Best wishes, and happy grinding this week!

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Meta Learning and Overwatch: the Quest for Diamond

Last week I wrote an article on getting better at games, quicker. I gave an introductory look into the principles of Meta Learning, and announced my intentions of using them to climb out of the trenches of Overwatch ranked play.

On the eve of a new season, I’m back to narrow the scope, and show how I will be using Meta Learning specifically as it relates to this one game. If you found the last article to be a bit vague, you’ll be able to learn a lot more about the process when specific examples are used.

Remember, the acronym that we’re using is DiSSS. Let’s run through each bullet point again and give some specific insight on how I developed what my focus will be over these next 6 months.

Deconstruction

Deconstruction, as a quick review, involves breaking down the learning process into the “minimal learnable units” to avoid anxiety over a huge task, and to help prioritize focus.

One of the biggest things that Tim Ferriss recommends to help deconstruct a task is interviewing. It only makes sense to ask advice of those who are already successful if you want to jump-start your learning. There is, however, a trick to who you should ask, and what you should ask them.

Tim recommends “avoiding hero worship.” Even if you have access, you should not be trying to interview the best of the best. The reasoning behind this is that people who are undoubtedly the top performers in their field generally have a hard time teaching what they know to beginners. On top of that, people who are in the spotlight are much less likely to respond to any sort of communication, as they tend to be busy folks.

For my bit of interviewing, I followed Tim’s advice, and stayed away from active OWL (Overwatch League) players. I reached out to players who were over 4000 SR, and were actively involved in teaching, coaching and/or entertaining others with their high-level gameplay. Through Twitch donations, DMs on Reddit, and generally taking advantage of what people already had put out there, I was able to get a few responses that I was very happy with. These were the questions I asked (again, all inspiration for the questions come from Tim Ferriss):

  • What are the biggest mistakes that people make when they first start learning competitive Overwatch? What are people wasting time on that they shouldn’t?
  • What is the one most simple thing that I can focus on to improve at competitive Overwatch? (this question was my own, and many people I asked found this to be too vague. I will probably toss this question in the trash and reform it).
  • What makes you different? What do you do that’s different from other players that you feel makes you successful?
  • Who trained you, or what resources did you use to learn the game and improve? Who are the most impressive lesser-known teachers?

From these questions, I got a lot of similar answers. This is a good thing. It made the deconstruction process much easier, because it didn’t yield too many things to focus on. I also got some great leads for more teachers to follow and learn from throughout my quest to improve.

After breaking down and analyzing my first batch of interview answers, I’ve come away with the most important building blocks:

  • Knowing the ins and outs to each map, which leads into…
  • Good positioning. Making sure that your hero is positioned in such a way that they can have maximum value to the team.
  • Ability and Ultimate Use. The most specific detail I was given here was to avoid panic leading you to use your abilities too quickly, or to hold on to abilities too long waiting for the “perfect” moment.
  • Being proficient with your aim. There are several tools that I was recommended, both in and out of the game, that can help here. I’ll outline them later on when I discuss my daily practice routine.
  • Communicating with your teammates. Developing efficient comms was mentioned several times. Being able to communicate to your teammates what you see can help everyone. Even if you don’t talk, listening to what your teammates are saying can help you make better decisions, and figure out what’s going on in places that you can’t see at the moment.

This distillation of the Overwatch learning curve will help me focus only on what’s most important and efficient, and keep me from focusing on anything else. Going forward, when I judge my progress in learning the game, it will almost always be as it relates to the above building blocks. By vocalizing the important learning pieces, I’m able to truly get the most out of each game.

A Note on Deconstructing SR Calculation

Quite possibly the most important thing to deconstruct is how one actually gains SR, which determines the ranked tier achieved at the end of the season. From my research, I’ve found these to be factors that influence SR gain or loss:

  • How “winnable” your current match is. If you’re “expected” to win according to the matchmaker’s algorithm, you will get less SR for a win, and lose more SR for a loss, and vice-versa. This is largely uncontrollable, as I have no way to manipulate matchmaking that doesn’t involve some ban-able offense.
  • Your “streak status.” If you’re on a winning streak, you’ll gain more SR per win as they pile up. On the other side of the coin, you’ll lose more per loss (though Scott Mercer has gone on record to say that this has been cleaned up a bit so as to not be as detrimental as it once was). I can actually have some semblance of control over this, at least in losing streak mitigation, by being conscious of tilt. If I start to feel like I’m going to rage, stepping away from the queue for the day, or at least for a break, will keep me from completely undoing any gains with a huge losing streak. When I’m in a bad place, I know that I’m 10 times more likely to lose. Mood control will have a huge effect.
  • Your individual performance compared to others of the same skill level playing the same hero. A quote from the devs should help you understand this one:“we compare your Genji play to the play of other Genjis, Ana vs. Anas, etc. Since we’re comparing “apples to apples”, we shouldn’t see any kind of support specific bias in SR adjustments due to player performance.”This instantly signals to me that it’s not wise to play too many heroes. There’s no incentive to being a jack of all trades and master of none. A master of one will more often than not reap more SR, as their play compared to others of the same skill level with that hero will tend to be much better. No one is going to be the #1 performer on 26 heroes. This influences my focus on hero selection, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Selection

As you could probably imagine, the deconstruction process got me most of the way to figuring out my 80/20’s on its own. Again, to review, the selection part of the process asks us to figure out which 20% of focus points will produce 80% (or more) of my improvement results.

Selection will help me reduce the amount of inputs my brain will need to handle, and maximize the amount of SR gain that will come from each focus point. This will help me become very efficient with training time, and also reveal to me what else I can engage in besides just grinding games to get better. My 80/20’s are as follows:

  • Map knowledge and positioning.
  • Improving aim and accuracy.
  • Ability management

Another place where I will apply the 80/20 principle is in my hero pool. One of the most consistent pieces of feedback that I received is to keep my hero pool relatively small, but make sure that I can play one or two heroes in each category. I’m going to start by focusing on being able to play 20% of the heroes. (20% of 27 heroes is 5.4 heroes, so we’ll round up and focus on 6 heroes).

For determining which heroes you should play, I would recommend a heavy dose of self-awareness. You probably have an idea of which heroes are fun for you to play, but those heroes aren’t always your most successful. Again, for the purpose of getting better, we sometimes have to let fun take a back seat to truly be as efficient as possible. In my case, I’ve noticed that I generally do better with heroes that are largely one-dimensional. They have very basic abilities and their recipe for solid execution is very clear. There are some exceptions, but the more one-track-minded that I can be with my game, the better.

The heroes that I’ve chosen to focus on primarily are as follows:

  • Soldier: 76
  • D.Va
  • Zenyatta
  • Mercy
  • Roadhog
  • Junkrat

To further refine this, I will spend 80% of my time on Soldier and D.Va. This is largely due to the fact that I touched on earlier: if you’re exceptional at a hero compared to the pack, you will earn more SR. I will, however, try not to be too robotic about this. If my hero list clearly doesn’t fit in a given game, I’ll switch to another hero if needed. It’s important, however, to establish where most of my focus will lie, so that when I study outside of the game, I don’t have too many heroes to focus on. Having to worry about how to play 26 heroes proficiently in ranked is too much for anyone to deal with.

Sequencing

Now that we have the 80/20’s selected, it’s time to figure out the order in which I’ll focus on them. Here’s what I’ve selected:

  1. Knowledge of map layouts
  2. Positioning
  3. Aim
  4. Ability Management

First, I will focus on learning each map. This is the most important piece because without knowing every piece of the map, I will not be able to determine how best to position myself. When I’m able to position myself properly, I’ll be able to get maximum value out of my aim. I chose aim to be next, because I can use many different things, such as tweaking settings, using tools outside the  game, etc. to get better, allowing me multi-faceted access to training. It will also help charge ultimates faster, giving me more chances to learn how manage said ultimates. I chose ability management last, because all of the other areas of focus will help improve my ability usage. If I know the maps, am positioned better, and can hit more of my shots to charge my ultimate, my ability management will be all the better for it.

I’m certainly open to some criticism on my sequencing, but I tried to be as logical as possible. The learning seems to run downhill. By taking care of the top priority, the other lesser priorities see ancillary improvement along the way. If anyone feels differently, leave me a comment, and let’s talk about it!

Stakes- The Fun Part

I mentioned in my first article that this system is all well and good on paper, but the stakes need to be set right to encourage you to be disciplined and take your own medicine.

To set my stakes correctly, I’m writing a check to the Donald J. Trump Foundation for $100, and mailing it to my friend Matt. This is probably the last place I’d ever want my money to go, and at this point in my life, $100 is a lot of money to me. If I don’t meet my goal by November 1, Matt has to mail the check. This takes chickening out completely out of my hands. If I don’t perform, I can’t just shred the check. It’s getting sent. This means the only thing left that I can do to avoid my $100 being completely wasted is to live up to my expectations, and commit to my system. Find a result that would piss you off, and make sure that it would happen if you don’t perform. If it doesn’t keep you motivated, it’s not good enough. It also helps to follow my lead, and make it public! I’m sure there will be at least one person who will call me on my bullshit if I don’t go through with this. That’s what I need.

My Practice Routine and Schedule

This is definitely subject to some changes, but to start, I’m planning to play Overwatch for at least 15 hours per week (which equates to 360 total hours of Overwatch training to get to Diamond rank). As I generally keep a pretty busy schedule during the week, I will try to play 60-90 minutes per weekday, and get the other 10 hours in on weekends.

On a typical 1 hour day, My training will consist of 15 minutes outside of grinding games, and 45 minutes spent actually grinding games. “Outside” training will consist of things like moving through a map in an empty lobby to learn the nooks and crannies, studying YouTube videos on that same concept, and doing things like playing Osu! to work on my aim (this came up a couple of times in interviews, and I’ve also had it suggested to me for working on micro skills in games like DotA). More time will be spent on things that I can’t do on-the-go, so YouTube videos will probably be done when I have a few minutes to spare.

As you can tell, there’s not a lot of time that’s going to be invested overall (at least as far as my initial plan goes) compared to the loftiness of my goal. To be able to pull this off, I’ll need to truly laser focus, and commit to my process. The goal is to prove that efficiency and working smarter can make up for a lot of wasted hours.

Conclusion

I’m very excited to begin this journey. One thing to take note of is that this will not be a static process. If something doesn’t work, I’ll eliminate and replace it. I will add and subtract. I will continually work toward greater efficiency as I learn more and establish a greater feel.

Failures will happen, struggles will come, but it’s the ability to harness the lessons in those struggles to make my process greater that will be the true X factor in the finished product.

I would love to hear the thoughts of anyone reading this. If you think I should add or subtract something, if my priorities seem out of whack, give me a shout! This is a process that’s fueled by more than just me. I want this to be community driven.

At the end of all of this, I hope to have something that will truly shed light on the benefits of this fantastic learning formula. I hope this becomes something that anyone feeling down about their abilities can latch on to. I hope at least one other person gets their hands dirty and rises to the occasion of becoming the gamer they know they’re capable of being.

I will try my best to document my progress week by week. I’ll share what I, and others, have observed of my own play. I’ll share where my learning and focus have shifted, and I’ll share what I feel I got right and wrong in the beginning. Hopefully this becomes a dynamic story of personal growth, and not a story of a humiliating donation to a pinhead by a shit noob. See you on the other side!

 

How to Git Gud at Gitting Gud: “Meta-Learning” Applied to Video Games

Nobody wants to be called a pussy by a 12 year old on Xbox live. Nobody wants to endure the blyat cannon (or is it the cykannon?) from their 4 Russian teammates in Dota 2. Sadly, it’s probably the way things will always be, especially if you suck at video games.

But what if you find yourself reading this article as a pathetic noob that won’t settle for that? I have good news. I’m writing this article as a pathetic noob that won’t settle for that. Let’s take our stand together. Let’s see if there’s anything that we can do to climb out of the trenches in a way that’s actually practical.

If you’re like me, you don’t have 12+ hours a day to play video games. The ol’ “10,000 hours” approach just isn’t gonna cut it. I need to tell my mom that I’m Diamond rank in Overwatch soon or I fear that she’ll stop thinking that I’m cool. I need something more efficient. I think you do too.

The solution that I’d like to propose comes from someone I’ve come to admire in my recent self-improvement kick over the last 5 years: Tim Ferriss. If you’ve never heard of him, do yourself a favor and get introduced to his work.

What Tim brings to the table that’s very satisfying to me is his dedication to the study of learning. Tim has spent a large part of his life learning how to learn. He’s one of a multitude of people making waves in this space, but the one I will choose to focus on for the purpose of this series. Through his endeavors, he’s earned himself an incredibly eccentric and impressive resume. An example of some of his exploits:

  • Tango world championships semi-finalist on a few months of training. Holds a Guinness World Record in Argentine tango.
  • Chinese kickboxing world champion.
  • Multiple-time best-selling author, and has one of the most downloaded podcasts of all time.
  • Successful angel investor and advisor to some of the country’s top startups.

That’s a pretty wide array of skills and achievements to have across one lifetime, and the list certainly goes on from there. Many people make an entire lifetime of work out of one of those list items. Tim’s been able to further his crazy resume through the science of meta learning, and in his book, The Four Hour Chef, he gives readers a specific formula for improving at and learning anything fast. The acronym is DiSSS (the “i” exists only to make the acronym easier to say and remember. I will give a brief outline of the system, and elaborate on it more in future posts:

DiSSS:

  • D for Deconstruction

Deconstruction involves breaking down whatever you plan to learn into very small and easy to digest pieces. This is to help combat anxiety about the overwhelming task at hand. It’s important to understand the “building blocks” of what you’re about to dive into. There are a few notable techniques you can use to deconstruct a task, like interviewing people who are in a position that you aspire to, reverse- engineering your final product, and compressing the most important learning points into a single page of writing.

  • S for Selection

Selection involves putting Pareto’s Law to work, and figuring out what the “80/20s” of your specific learning process are. To elaborate, you need to get to work and figure out what 20% of learnable units you should focus on to produce 80% (or more) of your results. You need to shift and train your mind to focus on these things as much as possible, as they will provide you the most efficient improvement with respect to time. Interviewing top performers in your specific game might even help you select those 80/20s without much brainstorming. Remember that these areas of focus might not always be the most “fun,” as it’s not primarily what we’re aiming for. We’re looking to smash 7th graders’ heads into a wall, not have fun.

  • S for Sequencing

Once you’ve figured out your 80/20s, sequencing will help you figure out the order in which you’ll learn them. Obviously, when you’re in the middle of a game, you’ll have to put many of your 80/20s into action at the same time. Things aren’t always so linear. However, when you’re working on your development outside of the game (which is going to be required), you need to be able to prioritize your building blocks from most to least important, so that you can devote your full attention to one aspect at a time.

  • S for Stakes

If you’re even a little bit like me, you’re a disgusting cretin with no sense of self-discipline. This program probably makes sense to you, but it’s as good as trash if you don’t follow through. Since you’re such a lazy piece of shit, you’ll need to make sure that appropriate consequences are put in place for not performing. These consequences must guarantee follow-through with the program. If you pick consequences like “I’ll have one less piece of pizza on pizza Friday,” your stakes are shitty. You must learn how to actually punish yourself for not grabbing success by the throat. If you have an extreme problem with accountability, invite a friend to follow through on the consequences for you if you fail. We can’t spend life sitting around hoping that the motivation fairy brings us inspiration dust in one of those mini treasure chests we put lost baby teeth in. Trust me, you’ll be much more active in your improvement endeavor if your friend is gonna light your $100 bill on fire for failing.

Over the next few months, I’ll be giving you a live case study of this learning process through the game Overwatch. It’s a perfect fit to show these methods off, because I’m absolutely pathetic at the game. I’ve just finished my first 10 competitive matches (plus one after I was placed), and I sit at a humbling 1635 SR. I can’t fall too much lower than that rank, but I’m going to set my sights high using this method. As I go through this journey, I’ll be breaking down the science of Meta Learning even further, and explain the steps I’m taking to laser focus my learning and improve in great detail. I’ll be starting the journey with the May season, with a goal of climbing to Diamond rank in 6 months. I hope you’ll stick around and pick up a few things that you can try for yourself! Proof of my starting point is below, and if you’d like to follow along, I’ve included my tag. I play on US East. If you have anything that you think might be helpful to me on my journey, feel free to leave a comment!

SR
Onward and (hopefully) upward.
Tag
I am Mayonnaise#11446 on BattleNet.

World 1 – Level 1

After some thinking, we’ve come to realize that addiction and passion are nearly one in the same, with one catalyst being the difference between the two. An addiction becomes passion when you take what you love and create something meaningful with it.

We’ve been addicted to video games since our minds could store memories. The older we get, the more we realize it will simply stay an addiction unless we do something about it.

We’ve enjoyed a life as consumers of the video game industry for a couple of decades now. The amount of sheer gratitude that we have for our gaming memories have driven us to try to do anything we can to give back to it.

If you’re reading this, It’s an honor. We’re the Digital Nomads. We’re looking to start a tribe by simply talking about how we’ve been touched by video games. We hope to entertain, and be a companion on the journey of gaming’s rise to legitimacy. We hope to provide community, commentary, conversation, and laughs. We hope to notice and recognize people and things that are interesting. We want to join the conversation, and link up with other existing communities, so that we can work together to drive the industry forward.

This project won’t be anything without YOU. Though this is partially about us scratching our own itch, we want to give as many people as possible a voice through what we’re doing. If you can recommend people that we should know, games or events that we should check out, or things we should ramble about, don’t be shy. Come roll with us!

To many more levels on many more worlds.