Playing to Win

I recently finished reading the book “Playing to Win: Becoming the Champion” by David Sirlin. It is a fantastic book that applies to a lot more than gaming. It is more than just some specific tactics to use when playing a specific game, like some guides for games are, and instead offers various ways to think, analyze and train for gaming competitions.

It begins with addressing the mindset that one needs going into trying to become better at gaming. The first being the idea that we create rules that will artificially limit ourselves, then going on to dealing with losses, and finally the kind discipline you’ll need to really carry on.

After that it goes into an analysis of Sun Zu’s “Art of War” in the context of gaming. In this section he goes beyond the obvious places where it applies in strategy games like StarCraft, but also in our training and in the real world when dealing with opponents.

Next he talks about the various personality types and approaches to competition. He uses examples from the competitive chess world as well as the Street Fighter world to show what a lot of the best of the best have in common and the differences in their approaches.

Lastly he goes into really testing and preparing oneself. He talks about being the best from a random selection of people you happen to play is all well and good, but to really judge your skill and continue advancing, you have to enter in more serious tournaments.

A lot of the previous will likely be integrated in my StarCraft 2 playing and thought process. The final part though is notable to talk about. Recently, I started working for Mozilla, a company that happens to have a After Hours Gaming League (AHGL) team. Their showing in AHGL wasn’t great but just fielding a team is pretty fantastic.

My plans are to work on my skills and discipline in training, then try out for the AHGL team at Mozilla. From what I hear it should be taking place in a few months, so it isn’t a ton of time to train but that’s alright, it will force me to work harder and focus on the most important things. I’ll hopefully have the support and help of my friends who also play along the way.

I’ll be playing to win.

StarCraft 2 On Sale

The price is down to $39.99 in the Blizzard store.

Normal Folks

A lot more stomachable by the casual or younger gamer who doesn’t put forth the same spending power as those of us who have jobs and love gaming.


It also brings down the cost for people who would like a smurf account. This phrase is newer in the online gaming community, only a few years old at best. It means to get a new account with the goal of playing against lower level people and/or climbing up through the ranks.

In SC2 the primary use case appears to be for race switches. Say someone makes it to platinum with Protoss then decides they want to play Terran. They are going to get crushed in their current league with Terran, so they start a smurf account and play Terran on that until they are comfortable enough to take it back to their primary accounts.

Initial SC2 Goals

These are the things I’m working on for the next month:

Consistent Macro.
Problem: Once I have to micro at all, I have a hard time catching back up on my resources. Also my probe production has a pretty steep drop off after I have a few buildings to look after, especially once I have taken my natural.

Solution: I plan on working on this by tracking my average unspent resources and aiming to lower it to a reasonable level. I need initial stats before I can say where I want it in a month

Keeping my calm under early pressure.Problem: Cheese gets me worse than it should. Even if I can repel it, I’ve taken a huge hit to my economy because I spent time on micro and forgot to macro. Not only that, but I don’t make units to defend as often as I can which leads to it being distracting for longer. Together the two make it so cheese eventually destroys me.

Solution: I plan on working on this while laddering and during my Saturday night practice sessions with my friends.

Both are things I can continually improve on, they are fundamentals. But as fundamentals, I need them to be at least not weak before I can start to worry about other things.

StarCraft 2 and eSports

I’ve recently found camaraderie with some fellow software developers who play StarCraft 2. Not only that but they get excited to stay up late and watch the big league matches. Note these are people with solid careers, some of them even with a significant other and children. These are not the living in mom’s basement, unemployed or working a dead end job and the other general stereotypes of people who get really into video games.

I’d been considering whether I wanted to start taking my SC2 playing a bit more seriously and try to push myself into being halfway decent at the game. I waffled back and forth until I watched Day[9]’s #100 Daily. I challenge anyone to watch this and not get (at various points) choked up, excited, happy, and finally no longer ashamed of their love of video games.

I’ve been a gamer most of my life, but I play that card close to my chest. Tell someone that not only do you play a game 4-5 hours a week, you don’t just call it playing it is practicing and training. You’ll probably not enjoy the reaction. Especially since if you are willing to spend time practicing, you have likely become pretty passionate about it.

The above video and Revenge of the Nerds both have something in common. Nerding out on something can be great, especially if it is something that makes you happy. Programming is that way for me, which has led to some great opportunities and friendships, perhaps SC2 will be the same.

I have no delusions of becoming a pro gamer, I’ll be taking it more serious but not that seriously. My goal is to make it into Master league, meaning top 2% of players in my region (North America). I’m currently Gold league so I still have a long way to go. If you play SC2, add me on Wraithan + 968.