I have come to the realisation lately, that I am probably one of the least successful Div1 players of all time. I’m using ‘Div1 player’ in the literal sense, to cover the times that I have played in Division 1 of whatever the premier 4on4 event has been (typically EQL or NQR, before then Smackdown and Villains which didn’t use divisions but were regarded as reasonably ‘elite’). I don’t know how many seasons I played in div1, but it would be pretty much every season until summer 2006, and then from January 2010 onwards. So, other players have undoubtedly played more seasons in div1 than I have. But have any been as spectacularly unsuccessful as I have? In all those years, I have never reached a semifinal that I can remember, never mind a final or god forbid, actually winning anything. There was some random Clanbase tourney I think Hyphen might have reached the semi, not sure, but it wasn’t the same calibre of competition as EQL/NQR. I did win every map we played in 4on4 at the only Swedish LAN I’ve been to (Reunion, back in 2003), but there were no elite clans in attendance. So the best finish I ever managed in a proper tournament was last season where TKS ranked 6th in EQL12.
So who has played as long as me, in div1, with less success? Well, anyone who has played in one of the top clans like SR, TVS, CMF, fOm, LA, DS, HF, FS, SD, KOFF etc for any length of time will have experienced a semifinal. Clans like ToT played div1 a long time and weren’t all that successful, but they are long gone. I did wonder about the Soviets, people like XN perhaps, but then I recalled that during my 3 year hiatus from clan play, 3B reached at least one semi or final. Most of the oldschool players still left playing are either in top clans, or in the lower divisions.
Bearing all this in mind, you’d think that div1 isn’t the place for me. If I was good enough to compete, surely I’d either drag my clan up to the required level, or I’d have been recruited by a top clan. Many of my former clanmates have gone on to be successful, especially at Slackers (Zero, Murdoc, Insane, Mja, Dragon, en_karl) and Firing Squad (Crit, Blixem, Spoink, Blitz, Keyser). Maybe part of the problem is that I that I end up in clans with ‘rising stars’ where I can see potential but of course they end up rising above my level and move on to better things.
So the inference is that I should be playing in div2. In fact on my return to QW in 2009 I did play one season in div2, with Boefje, where we reached the final (that for some reason never got played). So I seem destined to be stuck with “div1.5” clans – trash, hyphen, insanity, boefje, 3tk, tks… teams that are not good enough to compete with the best clans but instead float around the bottom of div1 or maybe top of div2.
So how does this make me feel? Well, the reality is that I have now resigned myself to the fact that I’m actually not a bona fide div1 player any more (if I ever was). Some of my current clanmates have been playing QW for a relatively short amount of time (in QW terms), so they have the potential to develop, but I seem destined to be stuck at this plateaued level. My item timing has definitely improved over the past year, I feel like I’m more effective on e1m2 that I used to be, but the ‘raw skills’ of quake are much the same as they have been for years. The rest of the scene has moved on while I have remained fairly static. There was a time (5+ years ago) when I played a lot of mix and was actually fairly competitive. Bottom-fragging wasn’t on the agenda. Players wanting to switch the teams would say “hey, this ain’t fair, you’ve got XYZ and HangTime!” – now they say “**** it, I’m not playing with these teams /quit” if I’m lining up alongside them
. I would sometimes get invited to play standin for decent clans like SR, FS, fOm etc; that never happens anymore! So in a funny sort of way I think I was actually a better player in the early noughties than I realised. Maybe if I’d made the right move clanwise and kept playing I could have developed into a proper div1 player – not an elite player, but you know, just a standard div1 player being carried by elite players to a bit of success. Maybe if we’d made better use of timers and voice comms back in the day my clans would have been more successful.
I remember reading a forum post from blaze once about what he looks for in a player, and basically it wasn’t any one particular thing specifically, or even a combination of things – he said he looked for players who excelled at something, but it didn’t really matter what that was (pov, 2on2 or whatever). And I guess that’s been my problem – over the years I’ve had a reasonably well-rounded game but never managed to take one particular facet of my game to the elite level. One of the things I felt I was good at, reading and interpreting the game based on deathmsgs, teammsgs, player actions etc has faded in importance now thanks to mm3. So I’m destined to a career of mediocrity….
I’d like to pretend that I don’t care what other players think of me, but the truth is everyone has an ego to one level or another. I used to feel like I was respected by at least some div1 players (going back to the standin/mix point), they would be happy playing with me. Now I just get 20 lines of mm2 whine from somebody scratching around in div5 a few years ago. I played an EQL game on e1m2 a few weeks back and made 15 frags against SR2. I literally don’t ever remember getting 15 frags on e1m2 in my life against any clan with any teammates in the history of QW – and I’ve played against pretty much every elite clan from the past 10 years. That’s embarrassing and I should be thick skinned enough not to care now, I’ve lost more games of quake in my life than most players have played, yet I still find myself getting annoyed that I can’t put up a better showing. When I returned to playing in 2009 I think based on what they said some people (in particular some of those in Fusion at the time that had known me from years before) expected more from me – again, not to be an elite player, but certainly to be one of the better players in my clans.
Still, every now and then I wonder if the ‘plateau’ is really there. Maybe I could improve. Maybe if I grind out 100 mix rounds a month I could start to cut down on the mistakes, fine-tune my decision making, hone the aim a little bit. Maybe a more methodical approach would work – actively looking at what I’m doing, what works, what doesn’t work. When do I tend to die, is it when I attack certain areas, is it when I am too static, is it when I’m late for powerups, am I standing in the wrong places? That’s something I’ve never really done, I’ve always “just played” and based my choices around what I see other players doing right, rather than learning from what I’m doing wrong.
Ultimately, it is pretty obvious by now that I play QW because it’s a great game, not because I crave success at it – otherwise I’d have quit long ago. Rising to the top is not the be-all and end-all of gaming. But I know in my early years I had this feeling that, y’know, I was steadily improving, that I was building a reputation, that sooner or later I’d hit the big time. It had happened in the UK (back when there were still regional scenes), then in Western Europe, and it felt like only a matter of time before I would be a force in European quakeworld. I guess most players that put a lot of time into competitive gaming feel the same, at least while they are still improving.