Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Giving Up, Part 2

Okay so last week's post was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it was also serious at the same time.  I don't think it's really okay to give up and quit.  But what do I mean by that?

I think it's okay to forfeit under the right circumstances.  It's fine (and sometimes the only respectful option) to concede or resign a game.  And there's nothing wrong with retiring.  But I'm not okay with quitting/giving up.  If that sounds like semantics, it kind of is, but here's why.

Conceding and resigning mean you recognize a completely unwinnable position, and respect that your opponent isn't going to blunder repeatedly and give you the game for free for no reason.  It happens in Chess when you simply lack the forces/position to compete with the opponent, and both of you can clearly see it.  It happens in Starcraft when you lose too many resources (units, workers, buildings), and your opponent's victory is nothing more than a formality.

You don't concede just because you're at a disadvantage, because people throw away advantages all the time.  You don't resign because winning is going to be tough, but doable.  You resign when you believe that, due to your opponent's competence and the current situation, your odds of winning have legitimately reached zero.  You concede when you've lost, but the game isn't over yet (I think the term for that is the "lame duck scenario").  I think you get the idea.

What makes that different from giving up?  The mental and emotional processes behind it.  Giving up is deciding that something is too hard or too hopeless from a position of despair, frustration, irritation, or laziness, rather than from your logical analysis of a game's position.  When there are ten minutes left on the clock, and you're down ten points (in something that's not soccer), and you say "ugh it's hopeless I quit," that's not okay.  When it's possible to make ridiculous comebacks with tight and perfect play, you don't say "well I'm not good enough and I never will be so I quit," you strive for tight and perfect play.  You attempt amazing things even when the pressure is on.  You can be three games down in a best of seven series, and win four in a row.  It has happened in the past and will happen in the future.  If your game allows for your comeback, you fight for that comeback.  One percent chance of victory is not a zero percent chance.

When you look at a scenario and decide--based on your knowledge and not on a desperate mood-swing--that it's unwinnable, and you acknowledge your opponent's competence by conceding, that's one thing.  When you quit your game or match from a position of despair or frustration, that's another.

I have a similar attitude towards retiring.  You may decide you legitimately don't derive satisfaction from playing your game.  You may decide that you've reached your goals, or decide that the goals don't matter as much to you as they did before.  Other things in life may crop up, and force you to stop playing the game.  That's fine.

Again, what matters is the process.  Do you come to this conclusion by examining everything carefully based on what you believe and value?  Do you do it based on an honest analysis of your life and future?  Or do you quit in a moment of frustration and rage, then work backwards to justify it?

One of those processes leads to decisions that are healthier for you in the long term.  One of them does not.  If you can guess which I think is which, congratulations, you're literate.

The last one I want to address is forfeiting.  Forfeiting is okay for life and health reasons.  It's okay to say, "hey I have a fracture in my arm, and I'm going to need this arm for the rest of my life, so I'm going to prioritize my long-term health over the desire to win this game.  If I seriously hurt myself I damage my ability to play in the future, and I'll probably regret not listening to my body.  I forfeit."  It's not okay to say, "I'm losing and my arm kind of hurts and I really want to quit.  Hey maybe the problem is my arm, I dunno."

As people we're really good at backwards rationalization.  We can decide that we want to quit--to avoid public failure, because we're having a crummy day, because whatever--and then look for legitimate sounding reasons to justify what we want to do.  We'd rather do what we want than what we don't want (obvious?) and it's really nice to have a "good" reason for doing it.  If you don't clearly establish your values and criteria for decision making beforehand, you can fall into that trap of making poor decisions for ostensibly good reasons.  Heck, you might do so anyhow.  Emotional and logical discrepancies are real.  Our fallibility is real.  What matters is the process we use for making our decisions.  Deciding things based on a momentary, illogical emotion, then reinforcing it with logic afterwards to avoid changing your mind is typically a poor way to do things.  Take it from somebody who has done it many times and regretted each one.

Thanks for reading.

PS:  On another note, the blog is down to once a week, because I'm kind of low on ideas for things to write.  I decided that then forgot to tell anybody.  I might update randomly so you can check the site whenever, but the solid update day is going to be Tuesday until stated otherwise.  Thanks again.


  1. I've read every single one of your blog entries, and it's been a very enlightening and enjoyable experience. If you are low on topic ideas, I have more than a few things that I've mulled over with myself. If you interested in any of them, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.

    Here's a few:
    - CHARACTER DEDICATION (sticking with a main; whether or not secondaries are really effective/worth it overall; low tier heroes; players switching characters because they perceive their own character as too weak)
    - EXPLORING DIFFERENT TACTICS (sticking with an idea that seems to be ineffective at first vs. abandoning ideas that are unlikely to yield any results)
    - COACHING (legality; what it brings to and takes from games)
    - TRASH TALKING/HECKLING (legality; players in a sound-proof box vs. crowds just a few feet away screaming obscenities; how vicious is too vicious; dealing with it when you are the target)
    - BEING A GOOD TEACHER (how much you need to know about the game; telling vs. showing vs. helping them discover things for themselves; promoting understanding over "knowing" things)
    - BEING A GOOD STUDENT (respecting your teacher; keeping an open mind by taking input that you may not initially agree with into consideration; at what point a teacher becomes a crutch that hinders progress, if ever)
    - THEORY CRAFTING (practicing on your own; simply thinking about the game without playing; brainstorming for new approaches to or perspectives of common problems)

    Thanks again for all the content. It's already helped me in my quest to compete to my complete potential. ^_^

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  3. I don't plan on giving up. Even this promise I made to read your blog and comment on each post... I'm still working on.