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Ladder anxiety: wanting to play, but not

Ladder anxiety: wanting to play, but not

Like a lot of people starting out with competitive gaming, I’m having some problems with ladder anxiety.

For the uninitiated, ladder anxiety happens when you avoid playing ranked (or even unranked) matchmaking due to different reasons. Some people might be hesitant to risk the rank they’ve already earned, or those that are starting out might be discouraged with the prospect of losing repeatedly until you improve.

I’m falling into the latter at the moment, but not as bad as it used to be; winning and losing meant a lot more to me when I was more unstable in my confidence, but now I’m able to at least not spiral if things go a bit rough.

Right now it’s just the feeling you get when you’re about to go to a new job; sometimes you’re sitting in your car outside, and realizing that if you just never showed up, you would be able to just avoid that uncertainty and move back to something comfortable.

This isn’t to imply that playing video games is uncomfortable, and I also don’t want to imply that starting Street Fighter V is a chore. I’m interested in the game and want to see what it has to offer, but the prospect of breaking away from my team-based habits is a little daunting.

The “what if I suck?” question seems silly because I know I will. It’s more that I’m worried I’m going to get mired in that disappointment, slow down, and quit.

This is obviously a bit heavy on the overthinking.

The thing about ladder anxiety — or well, anxiety in general — is that you either re-frame it or push through it to the point that you’re proven wrong about the things you thought would happen. Right now I’m thinking that I won’t have any fun if I’m not winning, and I know that objectively to be not true.

Also, if I’m concerned about losing, I need to think of it to being a chance to learn. While I know this, I’ve been waiting for myself to grow and then apply it to this situation; the thing is, this is as good a place as any to practice that.

I went through the same thing with Dota, but mostly the narrative of growing to get better carried me through that. The thing is, if I suffered an overpowering loss there, I had teammates or excuses (disconnects, feeders, abandons) that could explain away or salve particularly bad losses; regardless, there were still things I could improve on myself regardless of how bad those games went.

I think all I have to do is focus on that this is going to make me a better person and player the sooner I get over it. Focus on the moment, get playing, and learn.


Matt Demers writes about video games, culture and the Internet. You can find him on Twitter and watch him stream on Twitch.

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