Greetings, Adventures in Poor Taste readers. My name is DonutTheDragon. I’m a Diamond support player in League of Legends. I love this game, and I love to think about it on many different levels. As you probably guessed from the title I’m going to be discussing the psychological aspect of League of Legends.
Competitive video games are games of the mind. Whoever can outwit their opponent is likely to take the victory. Obviously there is some luck involved, but the crux of a game like League of Legends is being able to outwit your opponent in every situation given to you. Clearly you’re not always going to win, however you can minimize the chances of losing. You can play the game so that luck favors you most of the time. We are going to look deep inside your mind and the minds of the enemies you face in an average game of League to improve your play style on a psychological aspect rather than mechanical skill.
Step one is realizing that, contrary to what fellow AiPTer Brendan believes — Elo hell or whatever you want to name it does not exist. This is a game, and there are so many ways to play it. Challenger and Diamond level players will consistently climb through lower Elo. If Elo hell existed then boosting would not exist.
Like I mentioned earlier you can play so that luck favors you. Play less risky. Know the scenarios that can unfold. If you are as good as you think you are then it means you as a single player are better than each individual player on the enemy team most games. And if that is the case, statistically speaking, you will have a positive win rate. I’m not just talking about skill here. There are so many variables in games. For instance, we have emotions that influence our thoughts and actions. However, that works both ways. Our thoughts and actions influence our emotions as well. If you can train yourself to have a clear mindset emotions will have less influence on your actions.
When I first started playing competitive games I was aggravated very easily. I remember being at a friend’s house playing Team Fortress 2. The session consisted of: screaming at teammates I thought were underperforming and screaming at the opponents who camped the corners. My friend mentioned to me that I should record myself playing this game, because my rage was amusing. At that moment I sort of had a revelation. “Actually… why am I so angry?” I cannot control my teammates. I cannot control my opponents. I can, however, become a leader. I can check my blind spots for campers. Why get upset when you can become analytical instead? That is the first step in becoming a better player: accepting mistakes and trying to improve upon them. Do not ignore the idea that your emotions could be denying you clarity. Do not deny the fact you make mistakes every single game. Embrace it. You learn much more from failure than victory. As long as you have the right mind set. Don’t blame teammates for losses. The only person you can fix is yourself.
Now that we understand this we can move on to the more interesting part of this article — understanding why a player performs the actions they do and being able to take advantage of that. Psychology is an important part of any game. Simply stated, certain information changes the actions a player will make. An extremely simple example is if a player is walking through the Jungle alone and sees four members of the enemy team, their instinct is to run. And they will. You can plan for this inevitable outcome and send your 5th member in a flanking position to cut them off when they run. Unfortunately the game doesn’t end up being that simple.
I like to use Thresh as a good example of psychology. When he is winding up his hook, your opponent knows what is coming: a fast moving strong CC lock that could be a nightmare for them.
So they will likely do one of three things in response: Run away, attempt to side step/dodge, or dash/blink. In my opinion, this skill shot is one of the most psychological and skillful spells to use because of the fact that it has a wind-up. This gives you a lot of room to outplay if you know your opponent. I will reference Super Smash Brothers to help explain this. In SSB predictions are very important. People have to make predictions at certain instances of the game. Because of this it is very important to change your play style through the course of the game. If you constantly perform the same movements you are easy to read and therefore easy to outplay. The same applies for League of Legends on a smaller scale. During the early game you can pay attention to the movements of your opponent. Obtain information about how your opponents like to dodge. You can use this information later in the game to make it more likely you hit your skill shots! Only the very self aware players will actually change the way they dodge often throughout the game. Speaking of only the very self aware players, try to relate points in this article to yourself so you can view yourself in the 3rd person more often.
Next we can talk about the manipulation of players. Morale is important in this game too. Every single game we all want the same thing: victory. In theory you would do anything to achieve it except cheat, correct? Then let go of your pride and self righteousness. Do not argue with your teammates. Emotions influence your play, so do not aggravate your teammates. If they are mad at you then apologize, even if you are completely in the right. Be submissive. It’s okay to tell them what to do, but you have to be friendly. If they get defensive, don’t bother. And use pings often, especially if you have a less stressful role like jungle or support. If you are a good shot caller be a leader, but do not do anything to promote bad morale (unless you’re promoting bad morale on your opponent’s team.) You can manipulate your teammates into following your leadership by being nice all game and making good calls. I guarantee you if you make a good dragon call early game they will follow your baron call late game, assuming it’s not obviously the worst call ever called in the history of LoL.
You can also manipulate your opponents. By taking certain stances, or positions, you can force your opponent to move in a specific way or to a specific position because of psychology. Intense examples of this are hard to describe without drawing out a situation, however I’ll give understandable examples. If you start playing more aggressively, generally speaking, your opponent will play more passively unless they think they can fight you. If they can fight you and you play more aggressively it probably means a gank is coming. So keep an eye on the way people are playing. Sometimes it will give you important information that can save your life. Back to manipulating opponents. Good examples of this include walking into the bushes or baiting. In the bot lane the support should stand in the bush as often as possible assuming it isn’t warded. This makes it so your opponent will not know your exact location which can force them to miss CS. Baiting is the obvious tactic of appearing “out of position.” Making your opponent commit to something they think is free, but is actually a trap.
If you play confidently your opponent might be more passive because they expect you to have something up your sleeve. However, this is a risky way to play, so I don’t recommend doing it often. For this example, I’m going to reference Yu-Gi-Oh! In Yu-Gi-Oh! there are trap cards, cards that stop your opponent from performing certain plays during their turn. Some of them can be devastating. If you’re in a losing position sometimes it might be opportune to set a spell card (a card that cannot activate on your opponent’s turn) as a bluff to suppress your opponent’s aggression. If you play it confidently enough, it might just trick your opponent into thinking you have something up your sleeve you do not. However it is risky because cards are safer in the hand than on the playing field. You risk your opponent taking out the card for free. This works the same way in LoL. You can trick your opponent by playing more confidently and getting into their face, however you risk being caught on your bluff. Sometimes, if played correctly, in the early laning phase you can be heavily rewarded by getting more CS with this tactic than previously possibly.
That is it for my article about psychology in games this time. Obviously there are so many other ways to abuse the human aspect of players, and so many other things to think about. But that is all I’m talking about this time. If you like what you read you can check out some of my other work at DiamondSupport.tumblr.com. Thanks for reading!