Ethereal delves into human experience and life lessons as they relate to video games in his “Next Level” column.
“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” – Andrew Grove, CEO of Intel Corporation
“Complacency is the enemy of study.” – Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China (1949-1976)
“Complacency is the enemy of excellence.” – Robert Zell, founder of BrassCraft Manufacturing, a highly successful plumbing manufacturer built in the 1940’s (still running today).
Complacency. Rolls off the tongue. Easy to say, easy to fall into.
Merriam-Webster defines “complacency” as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”
What does that have to do with us, and what does it have to do with games?
Complacency is a mental disease, one that a doctor is not authorized to diagnose. We’re all either sick with it, or on the verge of suffering its destructive symptoms, holding it back only by continuing to work, play, and live with everything we’ve got. Sounds easy to keep it in check, doesn’t it? Statistically speaking, I can reasonably guarantee that complacency is present within your own life, somehow. Somewhere, you’re fine with the way things are, and you’ve “succeeded” in your mind. The truth, though – and it’s not the cliche you might think, I promise – is that success is a mindset, not an event. Success is a lifestyle, a manner by which you continue to consciously push to better and greater heights.
For example, let’s take two League of Legends players – I’ll use myself and one of my best friends as examples. I play a great deal of Renekton, a hard-hitting, high-sustain, early-mid game bruiser champ for about 75% of my games. I am an -excellent- Renekton, considering that my game knowledge and gamesense are actually somewhat remedial. Even after upwards of two thousand games on the primary map, I still have to look up the details on what my lane opponent’s abilities do, or how much a core item costs. It doesn’t prevent me from becoming a monster in the late-game, and I either escape or double kill on jungle ganks more often than I die to them.
My friend, on the other hand, owns every champion in the game (I own about 30%, by comparison). He knows them all – I won’t say by heart, but he’s got their abilities down, he knows all the new items, etc. To put it bluntly, he doesn’t possess the raw skill I do. However, he is not complacent with his gameplay.
I worked fairly hard to reach the Gold league before Season 4 ended. It was after a long period of inactivity in ranked, and I’d climbed from Silver V, a result of heavy elo decay. I wanted to climb the rankings and secure that sweet, sweet Victorious Morgana skin (though I don’t even own the champion), but self-improvement was never on my mind. I recall noting to my friend one day that I felt I had gotten better, but that seems more to me to be a natural result of having practiced and refusing to lose lane. This is where my League game differs from my friend’s. The preseason preceding Season 5 has just begun, and he’s already thrilled about the possibilities of how he can abuse the new, heavily-modified jungle, what champions he can fit back into his primary roster, what crazy new strategies are now viable, etc. Heck, I’m not doing any of that. Up until now, I’ve been satisfied with myself.
The ugly truth there is that I’m missing the “drive” portion of what a successful mindset looks like. I can score well, I can consistently go positive and be a great asset to the team and win nearly every lane I fight as Renekton, and some would argue that my results prove myself to be a “good player.” Maybe that’s true – maybe I am good, but I’m not great, and this failure to recognize that I could be pushing myself to improve instead of merely playing the game and riding off of the skill I currently have is responsible. I am responsible.
Complacency has become a theme for me recently. My thoughts on the subject leaked over the mental dam when I lost my main Diablo III character – a hardcore seasonal 70(64) Crusader. Whups.
In Diablo III, you never stop leveling up. Upon reaching the “cap” at level 70, you then begin to accrue “Paragon Points” indicated in parentheses next to your character’s level. These paragon points are shared across all characters in the same character type (i.e. all hardcore characters receive the same paragon points). At 64, I was getting tired of racking them up so slowly.
As a Crusader, you are a tank of holy absolution. The amount of force it takes to actually bring you down is far beyond that required for any other class in the game, and even once you’ve lost all your health, you’re not necessarily dead. For example, I use a passive titled “Indestructible,” which gives you another chance to save yourself after taking fatal damage.
In D3, “hardcore” characters die, and don’t come back.
Let’s put two and two together here.
I screwed up pretty badly.
How did I manage to do this anyway? The answer’s pretty simple, so let’s get the head-shaking, face-palming and noob-calling out of the way: I popped right into Torment 6. The difficulties in D3 are as follows: Normal > Hard > Expert > Master > Torment 1 > Torment 2 > Torment 3 > Torment 4 > Torment 5 > Torment 6. There’s not good enough nouns to name each level of torment, so there’s just six of ’em (I mean I guess you could label them agony, suffering, etc).
As previously mentioned, I had become impatient with the rate at which I was gaining new paragon levels – I had epic achievements to score, after all. Running bounties with a full group elicited several yawns from me – in Torment 1, which I had been in since I hit level 60 (when that difficulty is unlocked), I was taking next to no damage. Thus, I kicked it up a couple notches to Torment 3. Even in T3, I wasn’t under much of a threat. I was clearly gaining xp faster, but the numbers on that glorious T6 panel drew me in, and since some of the greatest rewards in the game are had by playing on T6, I jumped right in.
Lasted about five minutes. The three players that watched me die (to the most embarrassing of enemies, no less) must have laughed their legendary, triple-socketed boots off. I knew what I was getting into, for the most part. I knew I would struggle to survive, and a small part of me wanted the challenge of doing so, but I had become so comfortable with the idea that I already took no damage. I already had legendary gems in all applicable gear, I already had top-tier regular gems, and half of my gear was set pieces – but I didn’t grind enough paragon levels, and thus, enough bonus stats, to survive. Had I truly a desire to succeed instead of a desire to be carried to success by better-geared players, I would have been more informed, I would have been stronger, and I probably would have been ready. Instead, I took the success I’d already experienced, and attempted to coast off of it.
Complacency killed the Crusader.
In the grand scheme of things, it was a pretty minor loss. I’d only logged just under 28 hours on my beloved paladin before he’d met his untimely demise at the hands of a stationary enemy. I have high-tier gems to give to my low-level characters. My Monk is instantly slaughtering enemies on Master difficulty despite being below level 40. I can repair and rebuild, and it won’t take long – but isn’t it thought-provoking, the idea that you could be succeeding so much more if you didn’t settle for the success you’ve already reached?