Motivation From The World Of Starcraft

Sean “Day[9]” Plott reflects on his life of Starcraft in this 100th episode of his “Day[9] Daily” program. His experience and his words of encouragement are applicable to any person, anywhere who is striving to improve at something they’re passionate about. What Plott says about Starcraft mirrors what others have said about baduk, namely that it must become a lifestyle. In the words of Justin “odnihs” Teng 6-dan:

If you really want to improve at this game, you need to adapt it as a lifestyle. Go is NOT a game you can just play once a month and expect to not get soundly trounced over and over again. Getting out of beginner island is really NOT difficult. All you have to do is dedicate yourself consistently and soon you will begin to internalize the very basics of the game. Play as many games as you can and don’t care about the results!

I was surprised how much emphasis Day[9] places upon the support of family and community in his journey through Starcraft. It is something that I’ll be reflecting upon, especially since there seems to be a burgeoning sense of online/real-life community within the baduk world. Is this something we can do more to foster?

Also of note is Day[9]’s experience of training. His words on frustration and anger are apt (considering I’m on a losing streak) as are those on learning from defeats. It took eight years of playing before Plott won his first major tournament, and that remains his sole gold medal.

I derive two conclusions from this video: (1) Strength comes to the relentless. Effort must be expended each day, it must be systematized. Having a goal is not enough, the effort must become a lifestyle. (2) None of this happens in a vacuum. The support of family, of friends, and community is essential at sustaining effort. Get others interested, get others involved and keep on playing!

While you’re at it, check out Day[9]’s gamer manifesto. It’s well worth reading.


Here’s a selection of takeaways from the video:

On high standards

The winning! I was valuing it too much! I loved learned, I loved figuring things out, I was generally a very quiet gamer, I didn’t post much on forums, I didn’t publish my replays, I just trained in private. But just because I didn’t win this tournament didn’t mean that I was somehow a bad player. That somehow I had sold myself short. And….I just spent too much time focusing inward and not…and just not trying to…To just be reasonable to myself, to be good to myself. I mean, I like this high benchmark that I put myself to.

On anger:

I had such a useful discussion with my mom, one of the most eye opening discussions I’ve ever had in my entire life, ’cause I said, “You know mom, I have been working…I just get so angry after some of my games, and you know I’ll…I’ll..I broke, I’ve actually broken my keyboard multiple times, you know, I’ve broken mice. And I just get really upset and I get shaken up.” And my mom said, “You know what Sean? That is totally normal. Don’t you worry about that, Sean. Don’t worry about those feelings.” And she said, “You know Sean, the thing that’s so important to know is that all that feeling of tension, and anxiety, and the adrenaline that goes into your system and more importantly the adrenaline that comes out of your system after you lose a really intense match, that stuff is just chemicals. And it’s so easy to get sucked in by that, and to believe it, and and to direct that anger at yourself.” And she’s like, “Which I can see is, as you said, what you’ve been doing.” But she said, “But Sean, remember: I could give you a pill that will make you feel the exact same way. It’s just chemicals. Just ignore it and wait for it to go out of your system, and then don’t believe it. Don’t think anything, just be very calm, and just deal with the emotion, don’t think about anything else.”

So, from that point on, I would go on losing streaks, of course I would get angry…Just don’t hate on yourself! If you get that feeling of anger and feeling flushed, just go sit down somewhere, and just calmly..wait for it to go away, and then you can go back and look at your game. Then you can start thinking, then you can start analyzing, then you can start working all that good stuff out.

And that has been like so valuable to me, that’s been just the biggest help in terms of all my practice.

On losing:

There are so many lessons that I’ve learned that have been so valuable to me, for instance: losing. A loss is not a bad thing. Failure is not something to be scorned or avoided, or something you should reassure someone on and say: “No, no, no! It’s okay. The Russian judge was just in a bad mood.” Those losses, those games that you did not play well…that you lost, that is not you, that is not a reflection of you, that game is completely external to you. And if you just look at it, all that loss is, is an arrow that points you in the wrong direction. In the worst case scenario, if I lose a hundred games, I have a hundred different sources of information I can review in order to become a better player. So now I have such a small fear of failure, because you know what? If I completely botch a tournament in the 2005 finals against a player, because I choked, no big deal. I’ll be back next year and I will learn from that mistake, and I will be clutch in the future.

On decisiveness:

I know that because you have to make decision so quickly in StarCraft I now have very little issue just making decisions, and I realize the importance of being able to decide now and figure out if that’s better later. Too often I think people spend all this time waffling on various issues, they say “Should I do A or should I do B?” And they’re too scared to make a decision. Starcraft makes you proud to be a decision maker and makes you love being a decision maker, all these situations you can end up in…are so much easier if you have that experience.

On community:

[Y]ou learn the importance of community. No one in StarCraft held themselves up, played by themselves, and then came back and was better than everyone. Players played with each other, and discussed with each other, and formed really tight friendships overseas….That community aspect is just so dear to me.