In Episode 7 of .hack//SIGN, Mimiru, one of the main characters of the show, decides to take a break from the ongoing plot and head on her own personal journey to find out the reason as to why she plays the MMORPG, The World. Her mind is cluttered with anger and confusion, having trying to connect with the anomaly known as Tsubasa for weeks but with little results. Tired of having to deal with a player she shouldn’t feel any obligation to, she logs into another server, only to find a completely new player waiting at the gate, asking her to complete one of the hardest dungeons in the game with her.
Mimiru stares for a bit at this newbie, and then laughs. “You want to complete that dungeon?” The expression may seem strange, but to me, it’s anything but unfamiliar. Her reaction is something I’ve seen way too often, in the game called League of Legends.
I first started League of Legends back in December of 2013, as a way of replacing the somber fact that my Macbook Pro was completely incapable of playing any high-tech games whatsoever. Many anibloggers convinced me that League was a worthwhile investment and curious, I decided to give it a try. Having never experienced a MOBA game before however, my first reaction to the game was…..disappointing. Frustrating, even. I had no clue what to do, no understanding of the mechanics, and as far as I knew, this was unlike any button-smashing game I had grown accustomed to playing over the past ten years of my life.
Fortunately, I had mentors to guide me through my struggle. What began with”This game is boring, I can’t learn it, there’s no real point!” turned into a slow and arduous process to understand the game and how to play it. Many anibloggers would dedicate their patience and time to showing me the ropes and pushing me so that I could fall and pick myself up. Game after game after game – I died countless times, lost numerous games, and felt like I had learned nothing. There was so much to learn, and so much to do! My patience and confidence would often run out; I was so used to thinking that games just had mere objectives and checkpoints that a vast and complex game like League of Legends threw me off balance. I would thus often respond with a desire to ragequit and delete the game itself. But every time I almost turned away, a friend brought me back, testing patience and kindness so I could eventually progress the game at my own pace. It finally worked: after a month and a half, I was hooked. A year later, I had come to the stage of finding myself in the place of my own teachers, encouraging new players to try out the game and teach them what my friends taught me. It was here that I suddenly realized the true struggle of mentorship in League: the difficulties of having to encourage others and create a healthy environment which didn’t pressure players to give up while trying to enjoy the game yourself at the same time.
Mimiru shares the same grief. In Reason, she attempts to teach newbie player A-20 how to fight monsters in one of most difficult dungeons of the game. A-20 simply desires to “complete” The World and show off her talent to her classmates in the real world, but the problem is that she’s only been playing for one week and hasn’t even read a proper guide. As a result, she’s not helpful during the boss battles, and Mimiru often finds herself having to protect A-20, yelling at her to use her items, incredulous at the lack of help. At a certain point, Mimiru’s patience cracks, and she takes out her anger on A-20, calling her a liar and a useless waste of time before quitting out and returning to her usual activities. After all, A-20 just wants to play The World to level up and finish dungeons so she can display her talent to her friends, so why not do it the proper way? Why bother helping in the first place? She’s not a girl Mimiru knows, and if she just wants to finish the game in a week, why doesn’t she just quit?
But later in the episode, after various conversations with friends, it hits her, and hits me too. Wouldn’t it hurt to abandon someone who expresses basic interest in the game, no matter how seemingly ridiculous that interest is? Just as I expressed my own frustrations at League of Legends and yet had someone to pull me back into the game, I too, should be patient and do my best to help others play as comfortably as they can and guide them to a point where they can pursue the game at their own pace. After all, why pressure new players when they’re already overwhelmed with the game and face toxic comments? I’ve only played League of Legends for little more than a year, but I see this kind of reaction all the time. Players yell at others, telling them to “play better” or “stop going on tilt” or “know all the roles of the game before even playing ranked” before calling them noobs/losers/[insert derogatory word of your choice here]. People ragequit and frequently troll. We could argue that by just getting rid of these players – players, perhaps, just like Mimiru – would be effective, but in the long run, it wouldn’t work. As mentors, you cannot get rid of toxic behavior from other players. You can however, focus on your own actions. We have to target something more inherent and more basic as teachers: that we need to inspire the good in others, just as others inspire the good in us.
Mimiru realizes this as well as the fact that she’s been pushing her own expectations of herself onto A-20, using her as a convenient device to make herself feel better and capable. Disappointed with herself but also concerned for her new friend, she rushes back to the dungeon to find A-20 still there, lying on the ground with one health potion left, still trying her best. From then on, they work together, and Mimiru does her best to offer constructive criticism. She teaches A-20 about her unique class abilities and when to distract or hit the opponent. A-20 also helps out Mimiru, allowing her to voice her anger about Tsukasa and her desire to become friends with him. The two become a team, and while it’s no easy work, they both finally finish the dungeon. Satisfied, Mimiru gives her the rare prize before heading off and offering a piece of advice: why not spend a little longer in The World, finding your own comfortable way of playing it, at your own time and pace? Don’t rush in, but find something you like, and start from there.
It’s advice I now try to give new friends every day, as I log into a smurf account and lose 3 games in a row. My role here isn’t to win a game or to pressure others, but to help out in the best way I can and make every experience worthwhile and enjoyable. And who knows? Maybe I will learn something new about the game myself along the way. There’s always room for improvement.
League of Legends recently opened an April Fool’s version of their game called “Rapid Ultra Fire” where basically every champion is in god tier mode and objectives don’t matter. Last hitting doesn’t matter. Jungling, positioning, countering – none of these things apply, and it’s a good way to just release your frustrations and have a good time. While it’s only intended to last till April 7th, part of me wishes that this was something that lasted as a permanent type of play alongside with the PvP group battles (called ARAM) so the game becomes something less of just “finish objectives” and more of a way to enjoy oneself with friends while learning more about champions and maneuvering. There’s so much more to playing a game than just beating it, and why not create an environment where fun sometimes takes precedence over competition?