> “But it’s better for us not to know the kinds of sacrifices the professional-grade athlete has made to get so very good at one particular thing…the actual facts of the sacrifices repel us when we see them: basketball geniuses who cannot read, sprinters who dope themselves, defensive tackles who shoot up with bovine hormones until they collapse or explode. We prefer not to consider closely the shockingly vapid and primitive comments uttered by athletes in postcontest interviews or to consider what impoverishments in one’s mental life would allow people actually to think the way great athletes seem to think. Note the way”up close and personal" profiles of professional athletes strain so hard to find evidence of a rounded human life — outside interests and activities, values beyond the sport. We ignore what’s obvious, that most of this straining is farce. It’s farce because the realities of top-level athletics today require an early and total commitment to one area of excellence. An ascetic focus. A subsumption of almost all other features of human life to one chosen talent and pursuit. A consent to live in a world that, like a child’s world, is very small…[Tennis player Michael] Joyce is, in other words, a complete man, though in a grotesquely limited way…Already, for Joyce, at twenty-two, it’s too late for anything else; he’s invested too much, is in too deep. I think he’s both lucky and unlucky. He will say he is happy and mean it. Wish him well."
(A quote I come back to on occasion, thinking about my essay http://www.gwern.net/The%20Melancholy%20of%20Subculture%20So... )
What's that supposed to mean? He will say he is happy and mean it, but really he isn't?
DFW committed suicide, I don't hold him as a great authority on what kinds of happiness are 'valid'.
I don't think the way DFW meant to end that sentence is "but he really isn't". That paragraph, that entire piece really, is about the audience's predatory relationship with athletes. That last paragraph is addressed at people who watch, not people who participate. Michael Joyce is happy; we should just be wary of the kind of happiness.
The person is happy only because they're so oblivious to the things that they're missing out on, and their very nature prevents them from gaining this knowledge.
Were they able to know what they were missing then they might not be so happy with their limited existence.
Attaching any weight to what you're missing out is a guaranteed way to make you unhappy and has nothing to do with what you do in life. Even with unlimited resources you'll miss out on most things that require huge time commitment, like being a pro athlete.
But seeing what you're missing out on sucks. Being unhappy because you have a limited existence sucks as an experience.
And it's not like you have an unlimited existence if you aren't a world class sports person, is it? You have different limits, but they aren't better or worse objectively. You can't trade tens of millions of adoring fans against a deep appreciation of city street planning and architecture and say one is undoubtedly better and the other certainly worse.
More to the point, the time spent being great at CS doesn't seem to have limited this guy's future ability to do things like work at a startup. While I'm sure it was an unbalanced life during the period of dedication, suggesting that it's the dedication itself which reduces athletes to "shockingly vapid and primitive comments" goes a little far.
DFW is a good example, actually. As far as I know from reading his nonfiction, in tennis he never got beyond 'very promising youth' but dropped out at some point when he realized he would never be truly great; in philosophy, he published an interesting thesis which was well-regarded - but that's not a career in philosophy, much less world-class philosophizing, and then he dropped out of that; and I'm not sure what, if anything, original he ever did in mathematics. What he is remembered for is being a writer (with interest in tennis, philosophy, and math), and being a writer is what he spent most of his short life doing.
Fact is, we don't expect world-class people to have many real interests or sidelines besides dabbling; look at the recent post on Heddy Lamar. 'My god, an actress with a brain for non-acting things, who invented frequency-hopping?' You could hear brain going 'foom' in the distance.
I agree it has not limited his ability to learn new things, but of course it has limited his ability to work at a startup. Just think of all the things he could be better at, from social interaction to programming, if he had spent less time playing CS.
I'm not saying he should regret it, I just think that we should all face the fact that we all make sacrifices. You can't have it all.
As of this posting there are ~52000 players currently playing CS according to Steam, with a peak in the past 24 hours at ~65000. For CS:S, the numbers are 38000 and 50000 respectively.
There are probably 20-100 times as many people playing Warcraft over time same time frame. It's about at the level of EVE online which is a vary nitch MMO. Distributed Systems Architect Jacky Mallett explained that “we hit a new peak of online usage, 63,170 users online concurrently” on January 23 http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/03/02/eve-online-has-over-360000...
PS: Considering the player base and ongoing subscription costs I would not be surprised if wow peak's at 2,000,000 - 3,000,000 players at the same time.
Take for example a Formula 1 driver, or a violin player, or a guitar player. All they need to do is practice, and practice, and practice a little more.
In fact, right now, I wish I wasted less time in my teens and twenties trying to be 'normal' and meeting girls and going to parties and all that stuff, I should have invested more time doing weird hacking stuff and learning vector algebra and physics.
Normality is very overrated. That's what I'm going to teach my children.
I now see video games as pure downtime in the same way as watching a movie or something, I used to be very competitive and my scores in public servers and clan matches deeply mattered, despite all of this I really wish I had spent more of my CS time learning programming or taking up a completely different hobby (e.g real sport or music). I sometimes wonder where I would be now if I had spent that time doing something else.
The problem with video games is that you are spending your time perfecting something that is useful only in a very specific virtual world which can be radically changed or even destroyed at any time.
A very small minority of people may become "professional gamers" but for the most part it feels like almost completely wasted time in hindsight.
Will it make you money? No
Will it get you laid? No
Will it help you express yourself? No
Will it make you healthy and fit? No
Will it better mankind in some manner? No
I'm not hating on video games, just if you are going to spend that amount of time becoming awesome at something it does seem like a very poor choice.
I knew I was building skills that I would use again someday. It wasn't about trying to be the best at shooting a gun in a virtual world. It was about outthinking and outmaneuvering my opponent. Analyzing details and figuring out the best strategy.
It was never about my score, it was about how well my team did. CS taught me a lot about working with other people. Managing and recruiting talent, motivating people, and keeping everybody happy.
It's a lesson I'm glad I've learned, and now I can use online games as a way to practice.
And, when the zombie apocalypse comes, at least you know how to clear a room better than the next guy, I'll wager!
Not only that but you have to manage a geographically dispersed set of people over the Internet who have their own schedules and priorities. Some of the politics got very heated and of course you would always get somebody who was an incredible played but would always drop out of playing matches at the last minute or would find some minutiae to throw their toys out of the pram over.
Still an excellent lesson in management though, as well as having to plan tactics and be able to change these on the fly as the other team adapted to them and trying to close the gap when your team is losing and you cannot afford the weapon setup that you have based your strategy around. Very satisfying getting 3 frags in 1 clip with the USP and winning the round for your team :)
I do remember the public servers being utter every man for himself bedlam though, not to mention being accused of cheating when you are 30 kills to 1 death.
I don't mean it in a bad way, just seriously wondering what are worthwhile things to pursue. Should we discard any and all recreational activities and concentrate every waking hour on researching cancer cures? Even music and art seem very questionable, at least it is not clear why they should be more worthy than playing games.
Not everything in life needs to fulfill one of the questions you ask of a hobby - there are lots of things that people devote time and money to that won't make them money, get them laid, etc., and I don't think they're any more a waste of time than being a competitive gamer.
I don't think CS is the worst offender here though, It's worse when WOW gets patched and people complain about the patch making their character worse because they invested so much time in that character which can be so arbitrarily rendered worthless.
I think being good at sports or music is much more likely to get you laid and more likely to be a hobby that people will respect and you will be able to carry on throughout your life. There is also way more chance of making money and of course there are fitness benefits to sport.
I'm not ridiculing people who enjoy video games I just sort of look back and think "wow, why did I take that so seriously" and I know my other CS playing friends now think the same.
If I never get published, my hobby of writing fiction is just as big a waste, if not more. At least playing CS or WoW gives me the chance of meeting someone to be friends with. With writing I'm generally disconnected and isolated, rather than connected and isolated.
Hobby's are entered into in full knowledge that you're wasting time. I don't see the point in replaying games (I worked as a movie/game reviewer, so I got into a healthy habit of seeing it as disposable entertainment), save for a few special ones like Grim Fandango.
> I think being good at sports or music is much more likely to get you laid and more likely to be a hobby that people will respect and you will be able to carry on throughout your life.
I don't think being good at sports is going to get you laid, I think being in excellent physical condition will get you laid. I think being good at sports means you're likely to have less free time to get laid, especially when you start avoiding drinking alcohol to perform better for saturday and sunday morning games.
Similarly I think being able to play guitar well might get you laid, I don't think spending your Saturdays in someones garage is going to help.
Sorry but you can't claim one hobby is superior to another, when by a hobby is a non-productive activity.
I'm sure many professional athletes have said "wow, why did I take that so seriously" when they're burnt out at 30, or took a bad tackle or fall and can never get back to performance level. I mean fuck, watch a series of Intervention and you'll see like 5 Olympic or Olympic qualifying athletes.
And when not training they are talking about hockey, watching hockey-games on tv or playing nhl on xbox.
Successful men usually have wifes who support them in their hobbies/jobs/whatever, and vice-versa.
This is for me the meaning of 'Behind every great man there's a great woman'.
Our personal choice for a significant other should take this into account.
Although as an aside, you do forget one significant downside to playing sports - injuries. This is especially the case if you play at all competitively. Also, are sports really a valid "long-term hobby"? You can probably only play most sports for so long... (barring golf/tennis/etc).
My point was more that being masterful at a sport (e.g playing professional or semi-pro football) or being a successful musician playing large gigs to cheering fans will get you more social status than being a counterstrike champion (although maybe korea is a counter example here).
I'm not suggesting that you should choose your hobbies based on this though! I try to choose hobbies based on a deeper sense of fulfillment which may be creative , exhilarating or just make me physically fitter.
Whilst I still enjoy playing video games I never got any of these feelings of "real" achievement from it in the same way I would from writing a good program or running a marathon for example, so they are now in the "fun" category for me now rather than a serious hobby.
Of course there is a social aspect to many hobbies too and this is probably one of the things I enjoyed most about gaming (especially since it is easy to play with people all over the world and learn about different cultures).
I just feel if I had the chance to go back again I might have been more fulfilled learning to really shred on a guitar since this is a skill which would be more likely to stay relevant over time. When I play modern video games I can really only call on a very limited amount of my counterstrike skillz.
It's like looking at the starcraft players in korea complaining about starcraft2 making their well honed skills less useful simply because of a software update. The same thing happens with programming a little but I can still apply most of my Visual Basic and PHP techniques now to writing python or something.
Personally, I think putting time into music and sports are about as useful/useless as putting time into video games. For the most part, adults aren't going to be able to sink much time into their hobbies (certainly not enough to become world class) - most of my friends who did sink time into learning to shred on a guitar (and the like) don't really use those skills now. I spend most of my personal time playing sports, but other than the side effect of being rather fit, I don't think they are intrinsically any more fulfilling than spending a similar amount of time becoming just as good at competitive gaming.
Re: SC -> SC2 - not really a great analogy, considering how well professional SC players have adapted to SC2. They might complain about it, but there's actually a pretty high correlation between being good at SC and transferring that skill to SC2. (Not to mention that the few SC players that have switched to SC2 so far haven't been top-tier. I can't imagine how well the top-tier SC players would do at SC2 in comparison.) I don't think it's much different from pro athletes dealing with rules changes; NFL players might vociferously complain about it, but in the end, they're the best at what they do for a reason.
Would you say that about someone who enjoys sports as a hobby? You say "may as well keep playing and become the best" as if video games somehow involve less skill or practice to become the best at than other hobbies.
Contrast this with learning the guitar for example, first you have to buy $100+ of stuff that is only useful for that hobby. Then you will try and play some songs but most likely your going to have 10+ hours of practice under your belt doing boring stuff like learning chords and getting callouses on your fingers before you can reliably play even very basic rock songs at full speed.
The learning curve then becomes very steep, especially if you want to learn complicated solos and techniques but once you have mastered it then it is a skill that is kept for life. It is very unlikely that a new instrument will come out which renders your guitar obsolete.
All of the people that I used to play counterstrike with no longer play it at all or only play very occasionally. Contrast this with the people I know who started playing guitar instead (investing a similar number of hours) at a similar age. Almost all of them are still playing and are now very proficient. They are playing gigs and writing/releasing their own music. A few have even made careers from it.
That being said, I still fail to see how this is any different from playing sports, or any other hobby. You try something new, discover you like it, do it some more, get decent at it, and then decide to take it to the next level. I've never been that addicted to video games, but one could easily argue that my current hobbies have (obviously) been more addictive for me, since I've stuck with them to such an extent.
It is true that video games do age quickly, but it's not the case that your skills suddenly become obsolete. When the electric guitar came out, did that suddenly render classic guitar skills useless? It's the same with video games - many of the skills transfer over within the same game archetype. It's why you see the same people winning at different 2D fighting games over the years. Despite playing a completely new game, the bulk of your skills are still intact. Sure, the specialization is gone, but that's part of the appeal.
Yes, but how many of those CS players actually invested time into _meaningful practice_ at CS? No offense, but just being in a clan is kind of like being a club sports player. Pretty damn good compared to the average player, but not the same at all as putting in the work to become world class.
This was the nail in the gaming coffin for me. Imagining all those hours spent to be completely worthless once the servers are shut down- and then imagining that all that time had been spent playing guitar and writing code. I still like to play games occasionally for fun, but not with the drive to be the best.
The amount of focus, time, and sheer mental fortitude required showed me what it took to truly master something. When I could drop 35 kills in a half in a tournament, or kill 10 people in a round in a pub, I understood my level of commitment had led to that success.
I spent the past few years at a telecom/networking company doing sales as an engineer. Multi-million dollar deals, complex designs and high-stress situations. Learning to communicate only what was relevant and necessary, eliminating all extraneous information, was essential to success. My co-workers looked to me to quickly prioritize targets, shift strategy, and keep morale high as we focused on the end goal of closing.
Counter-strike taught me that. No other "group project" or random nonsense in college prepared me to work with the most highly regarded and ardent professionals in the world. My team would put egos aside, drop all sense of the individual, and focus on beating an enemy that was composed of the very same caliber.
It taught me the value of "ideal scenarios" or "how it's supposed to work". The immaculate plans leading up to a meeting, that required innumerable changes during practical execution. Without the ability to communicate as fluidly as possible between individuals any slight shift in the plan would create utter confusion and chaos, quickly exploited by a foe just begging for you to make a mistake.
I'd like to grab a beer with JonMumm. There's just something about the high-level Counter-Strike people that has reassured me that there are others out there can place so much of themselves into something that it doesn't become second nature, it becomes you.
This is why you find "geniuses" in a particular field, like math, or music, and they're usually not-so-genius in most other fields. "Genius" is attainable in my book, it's a matter of being focused and "putting your mind to it" as the article states, and this focus and "putting your mind to it" require being and doing abnormal things.
This doesn't really jive with conventional worldviews, and I feel like I should be ashamed for "giving up", but honestly it seems like a destructive behavior/goal.
>5000 hours of counterstrike is pretty common game-time that students living there spend and you would easily find >25000 kids of age 15-16 such types. Millions of students go there each year. Competition is so tough that hardly top 2% get admissions into IITs.
As a result, >90% do not study.
You see them playing they are experts! Most of them don't even know how to log into a server. The cybercafe would set up the LAN for them. All they do is play, all the time. As per rule the shops are supposed to close after 11 pm. But these shops have eating/smoking and toilet arrangements inside. They pull down the shutter, as if the shop is closed from 11 to 6. Students stay 'voluntarily trapped' inside for a LAN party at a discounted rate of 1-2$ for the whole night. Once the course is over, the gig is too. they go back to their hometowns, never playing again.
I work in Delhi and I see clans participating and even winning international competitions like WCG. But even the gameplay of the best, is only at par average as per Kota standards.
All this time spent for happiness, curing boredom. Rajasthan would be the biggest consumer of CS, DoTA, Tekken, AoE if pirated stuff is counted for.
Oh, and can you tell me where in Delhi do these tournaments happen? I don't play much CS but earlier on in school, all I could think about was being a pro-gamer!
If you used any of the programs I wrote or know anyone who did, I guess I owe you an apology. One of the programs, Half-Life Sound Selector (HLSS), annoyed countless people by allowing players to blast WAV files over the voice comm system. Really, really annoying. Another program, HLirc, interfaced with HL and mIRC, letting you chat in IRC using the game's console, until VAC started detecting it (incorrectly) as a cheat and banned you that is. The other program was a Winamp plugin called HLamp. It let you control Winamp from inside the game and even tell others what song you were listening to. My favorite feature: automatically turning the volume up/down when you died/respawned. Of course the VAC eventually detected HLamp as a cheat too.
Anyway, sorry if I got your WON/Steam account banned!
Good memories :)
Seeing the success of Counter-Strike, and the mod-mania of that era, got me interested in modding, where I was first exposed to the complexities (and math!) that "real" software entailed.
From there I went on to write some standalone, small games, then went deeper down the C++ rabbit hole which helped me get my first software internship. The rest is, as they say, history.
Are there still active modscenes for newer games? Minecraft is the only one that really comes to mind.
I suspect there's another problem with mods today: asset production. In Half-Life's day even I could hack out a semi-passable player model in a day or two. Nowadays, producing assets for games has been made dramatically more complex. In short, you really can't find a lot of people willing to produce that quality and complexity of art for free. The size of teams required to put anything together, as a result of this, has also put a lot of things beyond a mod team's modest reaches.
I think that's why a lot of the indie excitement is around casual and "low-fi" games like Minecraft. Assets have always been a major blocker, and when you embrace the fact that you're not AAA, you have a better experience with it.
I haven't really checked moddb.com since Unreal Tournament 2004 was the big online game, but it seems to be going strong.
I know I've wasted a big part of my life playing this game, but I don't regret because of that competition feeling, that stress, that happiness when you win a tournament, that solidarity between players of the same team, the nights spend training and practicing...
I got to compete, set up a clan which trained other people, and held tournaments, and taught me how to take responsibility for my team.
Like someone else mentioned, I learnt how to maintain morale, how to take on the jobs no one liked and to excel at them. Having people have faith in your strategy, making people follow your plan, knowing how important it is to even have one, no matter how bad, I learnt that from gaming.
But above all, like the OP, i learnt what it means to be the best at something. I look back at that time and am glad I did it. It helped me start building myself back up and taught me the basics of team work which I use everyday.
I then wondered why he didn't pick up another game or hobby. Turns out, he did. "Earlier this year I stumbled my way in to the world of tech startups."
Jon's a great guy. Good read. Very surprised I saw something like this on HN. Small world, eh?
He probably knows how to do scripting from IRC... maybe he's written a bot or knows how a bot works from IRC. I remember lots of bots that work in different way and what you can learn from watching it run.
At 16 I remember seeing my very first bot and being amazed by it. The problem was that I was on a Windows box and everyone around me was on Linux. Then the problem was which language did I pick. Then the problem was that the most popular language was a bitch to install... then there was the problem I had no idea what the error was and if it was something I had done.
Oh the list goes on.
What I'm trying to say is, not everything is a waste. Knowing when something is valuable enough to spend time of is a skill in its self.
+1 procrastination proclaimer
same for designers as well lol
It's a great feeling, being the 'best' or better than the majority. I've also experienced the void created after deciding to move on. I still feel as though I'm on an endless search to find something that I can be as passionate about.
Thanks for the great read!
Luckily, due to Steam's awful user account tools via the client and the website, I am unable to recover my Steam password. The only way to recover it is to deface the CD box by writing the support ticket number on it, taking a photograph of that defacement and the product key and then sending that photo to their support email address. Then they will reset your password.
You know what, I'm really not that bothered!
Ahh the memories..
Some interesting comments: like whether playing CS, or any other game, is "worth it." I agree with kejadlen, "does it make you happy?" Though heroin, at some point in time, makes addicts "happy." One thing is for certain though, the feeling of mastery gets harder and harder to find later in life, at least with regards to professions or wealth.
Wow. You are not a normal writer. More writing needs to come from the heart like this. I don't even care about video games and loved this article.
But seriously, as a former Cal-I vet myself, I know exactly what he's talking about. And I can relate to how it feels like that in the world of start-ups.
In my opinion, a lot of it has to do with the book "FLOW". We should all go read it.
Not exactly groundbreaking insight, and I disagree entirely with the assertion that such dedication makes one "weird". Any sane person would be jealous of someone who's so passionate about their career that they gladly dedicate signifant effort to mastering it. The fact that he chose to spend 10,000+ hours mastering Counter Strike is the "weird" part, although I'd personally love to see gaming become more accepted here as a professional sport.
And, in the end, it's the feeling you get when you've attained that level of mastery, and the hollowness you feel when you give it up to focus on a more balanced life.
Many people would be jealous of someone with such skill, but few would envy the work and the exclusionary lifestyle required to get there.
They don't want to be in a good conversation, they want to have an average conversation where everyone agrees on some average opinion or every now and then someone will be 'edgy' to give it a bit of flair.
They don't want to understand good art they simply want to say that one of their kids once went to an art gallery and that they saw know that Picasso has weird/funny looking paintings.
This sounds elitist yet it's not. From school age and possibly even before the majority latches onto the dumb notion that if a kid studies well he's a teacher's pet and weird or some other term and they never let go of this idea. Ever. At university one of the subjects was systems analysis and design which came with a huge textbook. I read some of it each week that aligned with that week's lecture/tutorial content and people said that's weird.
.. but all this is like endlessly driving on a roundabout because what it means to be weird and normal differs though does have a common understanding. A common understanding is that 'normal' is not being the best or putting in the best effort. They should just start saying average instead of normal. For me, all those people they call weird are the normals ones as they're doing it right.
The ones who exercise are normal and the ones who sit around are weird. The ones who do the homework are normal and the ones who don't are ridiculously weird. It's like they want to ignore cause and effect and modify the universe to suit their quick whims for instant desires. What a bunch of weirdos.