Monday, 29 July 2013

What's in a Name? Don't be a Scrub!

The blog's title - "Playing To Win". It's received mixed reaction. I would like to briefly explore the meaning behind it. This won't be an egotistical post - because the name was not my invention :)

Play To Win is (now) a book, written by someone called 'Sirlin'. I know the author supposedly has a lot of gaming fame for their participation in tournaments - but that's the limit of my knowledge, from examples in their book.

I don't want to try and breakdown the entire book (you should read it, it's really good!) but the key part for me is this: "Don't be a Scrub." A scrub is someone who can never excel at their chosen game. They have a mental obstacle that hinders them far more than the rules and boundaries of their chosen game: they don't play to win.

The obstacles vary from game to game, in an FPS you've probably heard "stop camping, such a noob!"; fighting games often have "stop using the same move over and over, that's cheating!"; if you're playing EVE you might kill someone only to be told "EWAR is totally cheap, you're shit!"

Basically, they've invented their own rules in addition to the rules of the game. Whatever made up rule it is: they handicap themselves. In fact, they're no longer playing the same game as everyone else. Mr EVE example is now playing a game where he isn't allowed to EWAR but everyone else is. How could he ever be successful at that?

The good players will find a way to counter their opponents; the really good players will find a way to counter their opponents counter; and then eventually you've got fleet commanders directing hundreds of ships with counters, counter-countering... all with such an immense level of skill that a scrub could never, ever comprehend as they sulk in their recently ejected pod yelling "EWAR is cheap! When you play like that it's no fun!"

This is the second part of the scrub - they believe that playing with their amateur skill level, against equally unskilled friends, is the most enjoyable. When Lucky versus Unlucky determines the winner of their button-bashing fight off. Never seeking improvement, just "playing for fun".

... and that's fine. To each their own! In theory I hold no prejudices against the "playing for fun" mentality. It's just that - personally - winning is fun. Not lucking in - actually out playing, out gaming, out skilling my opponent. To me that's the most fun you can have.

More than a Game

The book was written with the intention of helping gamers become professionals in their realm of choice. However, we found Sirlin's theories applied to real life in a surprisingly accurate way, as we started approaching real life tasks with a 'Play To Win' mentality.

Please don't mistake playing to win as arrogance. It's just about knowing what you want to achieve and then making the appropriate decisions to get there. Sort of like a goal; but with the understanding that you will use all the legally available resources you have at your disposal.

For example, your 'winning' in the career aspect of your life might be to gain promotion. There's nothing arrogant about that. Except, even in something as fundamental as work there are scrubs:

"Well I won't apply for the promotion this time, because I know Steve's been here longer than me and it wouldn't feel right if I got it."

The scrub has created a completely new game whereby: they aren't allowed a promotion until Steve gets one (of course we're assuming the scrub wants the promotion) Regardless of the fact that Steve might not be suitable for the promotion, might have bad relations with the management... nobody else is playing that game! 

I'm aware, that things might be more complicated when you stray from competitive gaming. The two might be close friends. He might owe Steve a favour. It does get complicated - but it's the example that counts ;-)

Back to the Blog

So hopefully that's a fairly average introduction to the ways of Playing To Win. It's not just about gaming, it's about life; and it's an ethos I've trying to stick to over the past years. The blog is a place for me to express these things, as well as updating you all on my gaming activities. I hope you enjoy what I'm waffling on about, as always I appreciate comments & feedback, good or bad.


  1. I don't understand your point about scrubs not having all the tools, surely if a scrub thinks EWAR is cheap and shit he can still learn effective counters to it? (no experience with it, i've never used EWAR because i'm too new to EVE and I really don't have a clue how to practice with it once i've skilled it) to use you other example I do think camping in FPSs is cheap and unfun and I don't camp personally, but i can counter campers and counter some of their counters.
    Not a flame, just genuinely curious as I am a scrub

    p.s. couldn't see time stamp, no idea how old this is

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Thanks for the comment :) If I take the FPS camping example as something we're both equally familiar with. As you say, it's important to learn to counter it sure. In terms of using all the tools available - I definitely prefer rushing, but sometimes camping is the best strategy to use in the situation. (Counter Strike) Perhaps the bomb has been dropped early game and by camping the enemy spawn for 4mins & 30secs you guarantee victory. That's perhaps too basic an example but I think it explains what I mean? Hopefully.

      Oh and welcome (ish) to EVE :)

      Timestamps - Gah. Every time I play with the template I lose/gain bits I didn't mean to.

  2. Timestamps - Gah. Every time I play with the template I lose/gain bits I didn't mean to. - this is why i hate making website, or anything with a graphical user interface, gimme a command line any day.

    I think I do see what you mean, I tend not to play objective based MMOFPS (team death you can carry a bad team if none of you're friends are online, pretty sure you can't in CS lol) so that scenario hadn't really occurred, 'preciate free education

    1. I suppose something I neglect in the article, is the sandbox nature of EVE. Take an FPS - The Game is to beat the other team or rank top in a free for all. You can't really change that game. Whereas EVE - you get to make up your own objective, your own game.

      I live in null sec & I do a lot of bubble camping. I could make more money doing other things, I could get more PvP action by roaming instead of camping. Yet it works for me, I enjoy it.

      So I'm definitely not playing the most optimal game - but I like to think that WITHIN My Game of "Bubble Camping Null, in EVE" I'm playing the most optimal that I can, avoiding dumb things, taking advantage of situations when I can.

      I guess what I'm saying is - do what you enjoy. Be it missioning, piracy, industry, wormholes, PvP... Don't let me or anyone else tell you that you're doing it wrong, that's not the idea of EVE. It's all about setting up your own game and enjoying it.