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In his seminal book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” there’s one particular anecdote that Dale Carnegie uses which I felt was particularly apropos to MOBA gaming behavior. If you’ve never read it, How To Win Friends is one of the first, best-selling self-improvement books. Don’t take anything here as an endorsement of Carnegie or his methods. I’ve written before about how the history of self-help gurus is tainted at best. But that doesn’t mean it should be completely thrown away either. There’s lessons to be learned here, as long as we’re always careful to think critically about the source and context.
This post is Part 3 of a series on Agency and Communion. If you haven’t already, you should read the previous posts in the series.
I modernize a parable from How to Win Friends and Influence People
The anecdote I wish to retell is titled You Can’t Win an Argument. In its original form, the story is about a genteel dinner party. As I imagined it, I could visualize portly men wearing top hats and tails, all seated at a fancy dinner party, smoking cigars. In this modern retelling, I’ve moved the setting to a game of League of Legends. If you enjoy it, you might be interested in reading the original.
You Can’t Win An Argument
Shortly after the end of last season, I learned an invaluable lesson during one game of League. I was friends at the time with an excellent player. He used to play for a pro team (I don’t want to say which one, but they’ve since disbanded). He’s good at just about any video game he plays, and he plays with a sort of effortless skill that I’ve always tried to emulate. When he pinged me and said he was looking to play a normal game with some low-Elo friends, I jumped at the opportunity.
There were five of us, a full team, all on comms. The game started fairly even, but around the 20 minute mark I noticed that our mid-laner, who was playing Annie, had built a BF Sword.
I saw this as a perfect opportunity. I might not be the most knowledgeable player at League, but I know Annie shouldn’t build that item. Perhaps I could convince him to sell it for something more useful, or at the very least educate him so he could play better next game.
“You shouldn’t build BF Sword an Annie,” I told him. “Annie doesn’t have any AD scalings, so that item is a waste of gold.”
“My W scales with AD and AP,” he replied. “I’ve built this lots of times and it works fine.”
He was wrong. I knew it. I knew it with absolute certainty. I told him he could look it up, but he said he had more experience with Annie that I did, and also he was a higher rank than me. He didn’t want anyone to tell him how to play his champion.
Well, if he wanted to pull rank on me, I could do the same. “We have a pro player here on this team,” I said. “How about we let him settle the matter?” Annie agreed, and my friend unmuted himself briefly to state loud and clear: “Annie is correct. Her W scales with AD.”
We did end up winning that game, but only because my friend could 1v9. Afterwards I messaged him privately: “You have to know that Annie’s W only scales with AP.”
“Yes, of course,” he replied, “It has an 85% AP ratio only. But we were in the middle of a game. Why prove to him that he is wrong? Is it going to make him like you? Will it make him play better? He didn’t ask for your opinion. He didn’t want it. Why argue with him?”
This is a lesson I have never forgotten. When you argue with someone in a game, there’s two possible outcomes. If the other person refuses to yield, they stay angry and upset. If they do admit they were wrong, they are ashamed and embarrassed. In either case, their emotional state deteriorates, and their play suffers for it.
I used to argue all the time in games. I would point out mistakes and flaws in my teammates’ plays. I would try to educate them on proper play. I even (I am ashamed to admit) sometimes even trolled my teammates and tried to bait them into arguments. Since then I have watched other people engage in arguments, and their effects on game play, and I have come to the conclusion that there is never a good time to argue in game. The only way to win an argument is to avoid it.