The Devil Plays Protoss: Ladder Anxiety

BY Andrew Miesner / August 9, 2011

The Devil Plays Protoss: Ladder Anxiety

by Jacqueline Geller

Hello. My name is Jacqueline, and I suffer from ladder anxiety.

I love StarCraft2! Since the Wings of Liberty launch last July, I have become an okay player. I am not good by any stretch of the imagination, but I have greatly improved, much to the help of my friends. Trust me when I say that I was absolutely miserable when I started playing the game last summer. My friend Blake will give you a fabulous description of how frustrating playing 2v2 games with me used to be. I’ve improved tonnes since we first started playing together. I love team games on the ladder, and I have no issues playing custom games with friends. Playing 1v1s on the ladder, however, stresses me out. I have an impossible time simply pressing the Find Match button, and I often just put off playing until someone asks me for team games or customs. Avoiding the ladder is a bad habit, and it’s only getting worse.

When I really think about it, ladder anxiety seems so silly. Professional players, who play SC2 for a career and income source, seem less nervous when they play tournament games than I do playing ladder games. If DignitasNaNiwa and LiquidRet aren’t having panic attacks playing in the finals of the EU SC2 Invitational fighting for $5000 and a first place title, why am I stressing out playing on the ladder? Pros don’t even take the ladder seriously. For professional players, the ladder is an opportunity to practice build orders and play with a larger variety of players. The ladder does not even matter to them. The majority of my friends approach the ladder with similarly cool attitudes. It just seems to be me that has a hard time playing.

As I’m improving as a player, I’m getting to a point where I need to start laddering to improve. Playing customs and team games helps, but it only helps so much. I’m hitting a ceiling with my play, and the only thing that is going to help me is hitting the ladder hard. If I want to get better at SC2, I need to get over my ladder anxiety. I need to hit that Find Match button with ease, multiple times per day.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who suffers from ladder anxiety.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who suffers from ladder anxiety. As usual, the TeamLiquid forums are full of useful advice! Here’s what I’ve found and what is relevant to me:

Some players are worried about their number of loses. I laddered 1v1 more in Season One than in Season Two, and I do not think that taking out the losses from my profile affected my ladder anxiety. I was not a sensitive player that got upset when I viewed my profile and saw numerous losses. In fact, I’d rather see the number of losses and considered keeping track of them on Post It notes beside my computer but thought that was a little ridiculous. For me, I think the ability to track losses would be beneficial, but I am not going to drive myself crazy with tick marks on scrap pieces of paper.

Although I am not worried about my number of loses, I am irrationally worried about losing. More importantly, I am worried about getting demoted. What if I lose so much decides I don’t deserve to be in the league I’m in!? This wasn’t an issue until I got out of Bronze league, but for whatever reason, getting demoted is a real worry. I read a statistic on TL once that said that something like one in five Masters League players had played less than ten ladder games the entire of Season Two. Are these players just as nervous about laddering and demotion as I am? Why do I even care about being demoted? My league placement is nothing more than a fake accomplishment that does nothing but boost my ego and ensure I play against others with a similar skill level. Ladder placements allows to place me against players with similar skills which will ultimately help me improve my game. I should embrace both demotions and promotions.

One piece of advice on TL that I found insightful was to change the way you approach the ladder. This will be something that I will struggle with. Players often approach the ladder with the goal of getting into a higher league. I’ll admit that my goal is to get into a higher league and has been for quite some time. The ladder is set up to have this as a goal. It is quite easy to look at the ladder and pick a goal of wanting to get Rank 1 or getting into a higher league, Instead of approaching the ladder with the goal of getting into a higher league or a better rank, players should approach the ladder with the goal of practicing, improving and learning from mistakes.

You’ve been promoted!

If the ladder is to be used for just for practice, though, what exactly am I practicing for? With the abundance of weekly online tournaments for amateurs, perhaps it’s time I start competing more. I have played in a handful of online tournaments here and there, but I have not played in many. A reasonable goal for me would be to play a minimum of three SC2 1v1 ladder games per day to practice for competing in one tournament every week. It could encourage me to play more and take the ladder less seriously if I have something more serious than ladder games to train for. I know a handful of lower league players who stream their games while they ladder. Unlike the pros who stream to educated, to earn money through ad revenue or to entertain, amateurs often stream for two reasons: accountability and advice. With the pressure of an audience, players are more accountable to press the Find Match button and to play their best. Stream watching critics are not shy and will voice their opinions if the player they are watching is bad. On the plus side, stream viewers can also offer advice and feedback on game play. Personally, I do not want to stream my games anytime in the near future, but it could be a way for you to reduce your ladder anxiety.

I want to be a better SC2 player, and in order to improve, I am going to have to bite the bullet and face my ladder anxiety. If I force myself to ladder frequently, I’m hoping the anxiety will fade. My goal for the rest of the year will be to 1v1 ladder a minimum of three games per day. If I am out of town, it will be okay for me to miss days, but I have to return to the routine of laddering when I return home. I will use ladder games to practice, to improve and to learn from my mistakes. In order to have something to work towards, I will start competing in online tournaments on a weekly basis. It is a touch corny announcing this grand plan on compLexity, but setting goals publicly will keep me accountable. As my skill improves and my ladder anxiety washes away, I can readjust my goals in the upcoming months. Wish me luck?

Readers, do you have any additional advice for me? Have you had experience with ladder anxiety? I want to break my ladder anxiety and could use all the advice I could get.

Thank you!


About the Author – Jacqueline Geller

After years of playing World of Warcraft, a friend introduced Jacqueline to Starcraft early last year. Jacqueline’s relationship with Starcraft started out slowly: a handful of casual dates, a little bit of flirting but nothing serious. She took her relationship with the game to the next level after BlizzCon 2010 where she experienced eSports magic first-hand and realized that Starcraft was the one. Despite being a mediocre player, she has been clambering the ladder at a glacial pace and has spent more time watching Starcraft online than she’d like to admit. In March, Jacqueline made the leap from eSports fan to eSports professional when she was hired by the Handsome Nerd as their Art Director, combining her design skills with her love of Starcraft. Since its start in April, Jacqueline has been a contributing writer for the North American Star League, writing coverage for Division 1. Offline, Jacqueline is a bookworm, a runner, a freeride snowboarder and has a Human Ecology degree with a Clothing and Textiles major.

View Jacqueline’s profile here.
Visit @jacquelinesg on Twitter