Using PvAI State of Mind Against Anxiety
Updated: Feb 7, 2019
TL;DR: Turn off chat. Pretend you're playing with bots. >_<
BACKGROUND I have once made a post in my old blog about AoV being a more complex tower defense. As a person dealing with ranked anxiety, my own post gave me an idea on how to face ranked games.
Ranked anxiety can be experienced by some players. Oftentimes, it is due to fear of failing. My anxiety stems from the fear that my failure would affect other people. Losing by itself is fine by me. I've lost 3v3s and 5v5 casuals and didn't feel salty or tilted afterwards. I don't have anything to lose after all. In fact, I've gained some from those lost matches -- knowledge plus a free time to experiment on the item builds and the limits of my hero. For example, I'd sometimes dive on the enemy team just to see how tanky my build is. Don't worry, I only do this in casuals and when I feel the game result is sealed.
Ranked games, on the other hand, has something at stake. There are competitive players who want to reach certain goals or just casuals who want to see how far they can go. I can't fathom why there are other players with the desire to troll players who are trying. I guess some people just want to see the world burn. Failing those who try to win leaves me with a feeling of guilt. That's why I usually just play ranked games with friends or try to play when I have a "positive winning vibe" and try not to think too much of the outcome. When I'm aware that I'm in a ranked game, I tend to play too cautiously to the point that sometimes I tend to miss opportunities for making plays that I know I can successfully pull off due to the fear of failing.
There are times when I would just spam custom AI games. This is where I just test all sorts of stuff. Doing so, I was able to develop an exercise to improve some macro with AI. Jumping to PvP (player vs player) from PvAI (player vs AI), I felt that games felt more relaxed as I got used to thinking that I'm playing alone. This mindset I brought to ranked games and it greatly helped with my unease.
CONDITIONING THE MIND a.k.a. FOOLING YOURSELF
For developing a PvAI state of mind, treating each game as a more advanced tower defense is a good starting point. In order to achieve this, we are going to set some rules:
#1: DISABLE CHAT This is the most important since there is no chat in PvAI. There is no advantage in keeping it up anyway. Everything you want to communicate to your teammate, you can do with pings and if they're not receptive, chatting won't help you either. Chances are you'll only read toxicity and that's what we're trying to avoid.
#2: TEAMMATES = AI As a follow up for Rule #1, just use pings. If you're issuing commands to AI, do you use chat? Of course not! But the AI usually follows your commands, right? Well, just assume that the "AI code is broken" if your teammate won't listen. At least, you won't get salty with an AI.
Even you're "playing with AI", try to use pings to warn or inform teammates of your intentions. We'll never know if we're playing with a "smart AI" and it might respond to our commands. There would even be times that a "smart AI" would come do a broken AI's job. Good bot!
At times when the "AI is broken", you'd have to do what you want them to do. Did the "AI" leave its lane to farm the jungle? Do a quick rotation after whatever you're doing and clear the waves then go back to whatever you need to do. This would vary from hero to hero though, depending on the mobility and waveclear of the hero that you're using. But if you think you can do it without compromising your role, just do it instead of spamming pings.
#3: FOCUS ON TOWERS AND ALWAYS CLEAR THE WAVES Protect your tower, destroy theirs. Guess what? The enemy is playing tower defense too, and the only way to win is to kill theirs first. And like all tower defense games, the enemy minion waves will destroy your tower. Losing the main tower will make you lose the game. Losing makes you lose stars. You like stars. It's as simple as that. Focusing on waves and towers also improves rotations and is a good habit to gain. Just always look for the minimap for incoming enemy waves that might take down your towers. Another effect of tower and wave focused playstyle is it helps maintain a PvAI state of mind.
#4: ENEMIES = BOSS MINIONS = AI There are times when a boss minion spawns to take your tower (or sometimes just make your life a living hell). Do you have to kill them? Of course, if they're a threat to your tower or they're blocking your path to victory. If they run away, do you need to chase? Well, if a single egg rolls towards the edge of the table, would you catch it? Yes. But would you still do so if the entire egg tray is about to fall too? Just put that in mind. Most of the time, there are more important objectives over an escaping enemy hero. I've seen a lot of towers getting wrecked because of players focusing on a low HP enemy and not able to defend in time. Always check if there is an egg tray that is about to fall if you're thinking of catching a single egg. After all, you're only fighting AI heroes so why bother giving a chase in risk of losing a tower? No bragging rights in taking down an AI, right?
#5: GOLD IS IMPORTANT In tower defense, you need resources to build towers. The same is true in AoV but instead of towers, you buy items to be stronger than the enemy. Check this guide for info about the best gold sources. Still, the easiest way to get gold is to follow rules #3 . Follow that and you almost automatically follow #5. Two birds with one stone! Pretty neat huh?
#6: IT'S OK TO LOSE Seriously, it's just a game. I have to tell this over and over even to myself. Yes, it might be a big deal to others but as long as you tried your best and learned something from your loss, you'd do fine. Plus you just lost against the "AI", so it's not that big of a deal, right? >_< Just don't be too hard on yourself as there are really bad queue moments. If you're on a losing streak, take a rest instead of trying to recover lost stars. Tryharding oftentimes just lead to more undesirable results.
SUMMING IT UP There are many causes for having ranked anxiety. Sometimes simple deep breathing can help but for others like me that would have to psych ourselves up, this Tower Defense/PvAI mental state can help in soloing. Still, if you found "good bots" in a game, don't hesitate to queue with them. After all, MOBA is best enjoyed with buddies.
P.S. Sometimes, all you need is a good duo (or even premade) to relieve your anxiety. The Squirrel Nation is a place to find one. It is a friendly community of players helping each other to improve. Do visit us some time. Everyone is welcome!