Communion Skills

12 Nov 2021
5 minute read

In this follow-up to Why Players Int I take a closer look at Communion Skills.

This post is Part 2 of a series on Agency and Communion. You can read Part 1 here.

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, please check it out first because it covers the basic concepts that I’ll be expanding on here. To summarize:

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a popular framework for understanding what motivates people
  • This framework has been updated and renovated by several researchers. One particularly relevant update divides needs into communion and agency.
  • For esports players, agency needs are those focused on individual accomplishment; communion needs are team-driven.
  • League of Legends, in particular, has shifted focus from agency to communion, and this has resulted in unmet needs by the players.

Focus on the Agency you Have, not What you have Lost

Frequently players will focus only on their lack of agency. They will complain about unskilled teammates, poor matchmaking, and an inability to “carry” the game by single-handedly overpowering every other member of the enemy team.

I don’t mean to dismiss these concerns as false. Certainly, Riot games has worked to decrease agency in some regards, and there is a degree of validity to player claims that it’s no longer possible to express skill through solo carry. But in dwelling on what is missing, players will miss something that’s right in front of them: there is still plenty of agency in the game. In fact, there are more avenues of agency-related skill expression than any one player could possibly exhaust.

Recognize Failure as an Opportunity

Failure to acquire skill, or acting unskilled oneself, leads to frustration of a different kind. Instead of bemoaning agency that’s removed by a third party, a player perceives they lack the agency themselves to improve. “I suck” or “I can’t believe I made that bad play” or “I died to that stupid cheese again”. This frustration leads to a sense that improvement is impossible, and thus the player has no agency.

Learn to laugh at your own mistakes. And see it as an opportunity for growth. If you are not improving, you need to ask why you are not improving and perhaps looks for a change in your gameplay approach. Every time you fail, you are being shown an opportunity to improve, and it is through your own agency that you will do so.

There’s always going to be someone who is better than you. If you are unable to accept that it can lead to an inferiority complex. People who are overcome by inferiority complexes believe that failure is a kind of proof that they are unable to cope with their failings. The truth is your ability to cope is independent of your individual agency skills. By focusing on areas where you can and do improve, you gain resiliency and an ability to handle the times when your skills aren’t up to the level you expect. Look back at the times you were less skilled, and learn to appreciate your improvements. That’s where confidence comes from.

Build Your communion Skills

One area that I think deserves more attention is communion skills themselves. So many people are focused on agency skills: How do I improve my team fighting? How to I get more CS? How can I do more damage? You can see people making posts like this in help forums, videos from content creators covering these subjects, and any number of guides that promise the secrets of skill-building.

But notice these are all agency-related skills. Where are the guides for communion skills? If League of Legends has decreased agency in the game in favor of communion, wouldn’t it make sense for players to focus on improving communion skills to gain rank?

Here are some communion-based skills to think about.

  • How can I best get my teammates fed? What can I do to make sure none of my teammates fall too far behind in their match-ups? It’s not just the jungler who is responsible for ganking. By paying attention to your teammates and rotating appropriately you can ensure their success, which will lead to your own.
  • How can I be a more effective shot caller? This is a communication skill as well as a macro skill. You need the macro insight to recognize a good play, but – just as important – you need the social skills to communicate your calls to your team, and convince them to listen to you.
  • How can I help my team mates play better? There’s a right and a wrong way to give someone advice. Giving someone advice poorly will only cause them to resent you. But someone with the proper skills can use their influence to make their teammates play better.
  • How do I lose graciously? There’s a right and wrong way to fail. Athletes who practice judo know the most important skill is how to take a fall. What do you do when you misplay? How can you make your misplays less troubling to your team?

There is a rich, unexplored set of communion skills that players can focus on to improve their play. This is only a quick sample, but already I think I’d like to expand on them in future posts.

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