Playing to Win

Posted by vpatrickd on January 18, 2012

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The first Day9 Daily I watched this year is the Daily #400, where Day9 talks about eliminating assumptions. I must say this StarCraft Brood War pro, coach and caster of StarCraft 2, have researched deep into the field. Not only he gave a 70-slide presentation, he encouraged his viewers to solve his riddles and go along with him as his show progresses (the beauty of internet TV: chatbox).

A few important points that I got from his Daily:

  • – Depth of knowledge > Breadth of knowledge. Often times we assume breadth of knowledge is skill e.g. knowing every characters’ moves in a fighting game to ensure victory. This is completely wrong. You don’t have to learn and be wary of every scenario that could happen. In order to win, you just have to perfect one scenario to defeat the opponent. In the words of Bruce Lee: “I fear not the man who practices 10,000 kicks once, but him who practices one kick 10,000 times

  • – Do not assume things just because of a certain pattern. Human beings adapt to things, and usually we tend to believe something will happen because of our past experience. We shall eliminate this bad thinking, it is poisonous. You cannot rely on the thinking that your opponent is well-known for strategy A, therefore you execute a counter for it without even confirming if he is that particular strategy.

  • – Make sure you are answering the correct question. Just because you have a freaking good answer, does not mean you are answering the correct question. There is a real-life case where in a hotel, customers complained that the lifts were too slow to come. There were some lifts that could go from 1st to 6th floor, from 6th to 13th floor, and that could cover all floors. But people were complaining that those types of lift has a longer wait time, it was too confusing, they were unhappy because they had to wait for certain lifts to go to certain floors. The hotel manager asked a team of engineers to help him fix these complaints. Now some of you might be thinking to change the lifts, improve the engine, give them clear directions, have lift assistants inside the lifts, force customers to take the stairs, make all lifts cover all floors, etc. These are all good answers, but they’re answering the wrong question. The engineers did not even change anything with the system, they only installed mirrors on the lift doors. And then the complains were all gone. Why? Customers were complaining about the wait time, not about the speed of the lifts. The engineers realized they don’t have to change anything with the system, they just have to make sure people were not bored when waiting for the lifts to come. When waiting, customers look at themselves in the mirror until the lifts came. I don’t know about you, but now I think that everyone has a narcissistic personality, at least a little.

  • – Do not assume the system is broken. The system is never flawed, players have to play by the rules but it is themselves that limit their ability to improve within the system. When things don’t work out, we tend to say that the system is stupid, we should change this this and this. But instead of thinking about the system, players need to think about the process. If you keep losing to a certain strategy, it’s not that the strategy is too good and that it should be banned. It’s because you are incapable of figuring out when that strategy hits you and understand the process of it, thus you are unable to exploit the weaknesses of that particular strategy. Remember that nothing is perfect.

Lastly, Day9 recommended to us this book titled Playing to Win by David Sirlin. You can read the book online for free but if you want a paperback copy, you can buy it from Amazon. I have not read the reviews for this book yet, but since Day9 said it was good, I will read it, because Day9 is more than just a professional gamer.


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