Hate is a very strong word. I tend to agree with those folks who say hate comes from either ignorance (“Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love,” says John Steinbeck) or fear (“In time we hate that which we often fear,” says Billy Shakespeare).
I’m wired as a Pollyanna. I’m an optimist. I usually trust people and institutions. I seek harmony and joy in life. I’m blessed to have loving, deep relationships with my wife, two kids, and several friends. I’m intellectually curious and seek to understand the mysteries in my life. Hatred is a word I rarely use with any sort of seriousness.
I hate losing. Hate. It.
My League of Legends-ful weekend ended with me winning a game of ARAM with my kids. I rolled up Ashe, a Champion I hadn’t played in ages, with which I went 30-3-23. For those who don’t play League, that’s a truly dominant game—thirty kills against the opposing team, three deaths, and twenty-three assists. It was the kind of game that had teammates and opponents alike commenting in the post-game chat screen, usually with lots of exclamation points. It was so stunning a result, in fact, that I had to seriously wonder why I don’t play Ashe more often in regular League games.
On Monday, I found myself craving more ARAM games. With a meeting cancelled that afternoon, I convinced some folks from the Talent team at Riot to play.
The result? Roll up Trundle. 0-10-4. Defeat. It was so fast and brutal a loss, in fact, that we all decided to try again before running off to our next meetings.
Roll up Corki. 2-8-5. Defeat.
Now I was annoyed. I’d just experienced humiliation in front of my own co-workers and team. I’d let them down. I knew that I was a better player than that, and I wanted to get the feeling of uselessness out of my system. I ended the day begging those around me for more ARAM. We ended up finding ten whole folks from Talent on Monday evening, made a custom ARAM game so we could all play…
Darius… my first main Champion. 3-8-4. Defeat.
Jinx. 6-8-5. Defeat.
That night before bed, I was still fuming at my day of futility. I wanted to get a better proverbial taste in my mouth. Where was that I-played-Ashe-and-carried-my-team feeling? So against my better judgment, instead of sleeping I logged back into League for more ARAM…
Sion. 9-14-25. Defeat.
AARGH! That’s five—FIVE!—losses in a row, all in one day. [pounding head against desk]
On Tuesday morning, I woke up thinking about when I could carve out time for another game of ARAM. I arranged with a few folks around me to try a game or two from 1-2pm, the only time I could justify some games amidst an otherwise packed day.
Karma. 2-11-7. Defeat.
Jinx again. 3-10-5. Defeat.
You have got to be kidding me.
At the end of the day on Tuesday, I prepared for Riot Rumble. Because of GDC, though, both teams could only field three players each so we decided to reschedule for some time after the conference. That meant a chance for more, hopefully redemptive, ARAM…
Kayle. 19-11-27. Victory! Finally!
Sejuani. 1-7-28. Victory! (this game doesn’t look like much, but I got kudos from my team for playing tank well, acting as a meat shield while they focused on offense)
Okay, whew. Pause. Catch breath. Reflect.
That’s honestly the most games of League I’ve played at Riot in a two-day span since joining the company. And yet as I reflect on those two days, they were mostly characterized by deep frustration, shame, hopelessness, and anger. I didn’t sleep particularly well on Monday, and I am 100% convinced that it was my ARAM performance that caused it.
Say what you want about games being only games, but losing stinks. Games are competition. If I spend time (easily my most valuable resource these days) on playing a game with peers, I want to win. Losing feels like a personal affront, a bad piece of food I’ve eaten and need to get out of my system. I had measured myself up against others seven times in a row, and seven times in a row I’d been found lacking.
This attitude has helped me out in life. I’ve achieved a lot—way beyond what you’d think from my upbringing. And, hey, I fit in at Riot Games, which is a company full of highly-competitive people. We’re constantly testing ourselves against epic challenges, and Rioters refuse to take “no” for an answer.
Still, the full range of my negative emotions brought on by losing is staggering. So staggering, in fact, that I would call it hatred.
I hate losing.
Amidst my seven-game streak, I was visibly distracted. Rioters, who also index high on empathy, regaled me with stories of long, deep furrows of losing in their League of Legends careers. It appears to be a game with about a 50-50 winning percentage over the course of a player’s lifespan thanks to a matching system that gives you opponents of your same skill level. As you get better, your games get harder. And just like coin flips, it’s easy to get a long streak of “tails.”
(I also received a lot of “Wait until you start playing Ranked games… Oy” comments from Rioters, which frankly makes me more hesitant than ever to wade into Ranked.)
I’m pretty sure that my hatred of losing is borne more out of Shakespeare than Steinbeck. Clearly I know losing. I try very hard to use my losses as learning experiences, ways to regroup and be better next time. What I fear, though, is losing’s consequences. I’ve achieved so much… Will it all be taken away somehow? Will people stop respecting or liking me? Will I never win again? Am I bad person/player/[insert descriptor here]? Am I… [shudder] a … loser?!?
Clearly the answer to these questions is no. Being more internally confident and grounded is something for me to practice. If I ever learn to take the fear out of losing, I’ll stop hating it quite so much.
I’ll also, paradoxically, probably win more.