The Problem of Morale In PvP

How do you cope with PvP gaming in the losing streaks?

That’s the kick-off for a really great post from Jeromai of Why I Game, looking at his experience with World vs World vs World in Guild Wars 2. He’s a hardcore PvE player under normal circumstances – highly competitive and used to beating anything he puts his mind to. And as a result, moving from PvE to PvP has given him a lot of challenges – not skill challenges, but attitude challenges.

How do you cope with an environment where, at best, you’ll only “succeed” 50% of the time, and often less?

“When looked at objectively in this fashion, it becomes clear that if we want to continue playing around with PvP and competitive formats, we need to get used to “losing” and get out of the mindset of playing to win being all important.

This is not a new concept. It’s as old as competition and sports.

Just idly flipping through stuff people have written, I’ve found such disparate things as a discussion thread about losing Starcraft 2 matches and how different players deal with the blow to one’s morale, an advice article on a wiki about Starcraft 2 anxiety playing ladder games that run the risk of doing horrible things to one’s ranking with a loss (or so I gather, I don’t own SC2 yet,) a Warhammer article about the impact of losing on player morale and how it impacts one’s judgement and decision-making while tabletop gaming, and even a general sports article on emotional mastery and how various athletes may react in a competition.

I’m especially amused by the last one, because it gives one of those cheesy classifications that group people into different styles. He differentiates between the seether, the rager, the brooder and the Zen Master.

Watch any sports competition and there’s a pretty hefty grain of truth in the simplistic classification. Everyone can tell the explosive ragers, who wear their frustration on their sleeves, have little self-control and will no doubt be voted ‘most likely to break their wrists punching a wall.’ The seethers also steadily become obvious if the match doesn’t go their way, and you can see them gradually lose it and their play deteriorating.

I identify most strongly with a brooder, alas. My impulse is to think bad thoughts, look upon a situation helplessly and then become avoidant and sneak off without a word or quit silently, because it’s just as pointless to scream and yell at idiots or the just plain ignorant.

The Zen Master, naturally, is the ideal goal to strive toward. Being unaffected by emotions, being focused and playing consistently, win or lose.”

This is important, interesting stuff to anyone looking to achieve on a high level. I’ve never PvPed seriously, but I recognise a lot of what he’s discussing from competitive athletics, martial arts, and entrepreneurship. I’ve also seen serious poker players struggle with the same issues.

If you’re extremely competent – particularly if you’re extremely competent – entering these arenas where success depends to a great extent on luck, and you’re not outgunning the opposition anything like as much as you’re used to can be very hard. And it’s smart to consider how to deal with that problem – rather than just engaging in the wide variety of unhealthy defensive patterns Jeromai discusses.

This is a great article, covering the problem from multiple angles. He talks about mindset, but also subsequently considers morale, in a battlefield sense, in a separately very interesting section.

Read and enjoy – and perhaps, get some useful ideas.

Have you had trouble with morale in MMORPGs? What did you do about it?