Playing video games is supposed to be fun. After a long day, games help us relax and unwind for a couple hours before starting over again. However, for competitive players, this is not always the case. The concept of “ranked anxiety”, is something that can hamper our enjoyment of the games we love and ruin the experience.
Ranked anxiety is a fear or discomfort surrounding the idea of playing your chosen game competitively. The severity of this anxiety can vary from player to player. For some, it can prevent them from playing altogether.
If you’ve ever felt stress when it comes to booting up ranked matches in League of Legends, Valorant or any fighting game: you have experienced ranked anxiety. It’s an incredibly common thing and more often than not, affects beginner and mid level players.
Video games should be fun, even if you’re playing competitively. Don’t let the fear of failure shake you off the path to improvement. The goal of this article is to offer a few tips and tricks to help you get over your fear of playing ranked, and improve your online experience overall. To do this, I’m going to outline a few common types of ranked anxiety and provide a couple tips to help calm those fears.
Ultimately, the best cure to ranked anxiety is simply: exposure. Playing more games and acclimating yourself to the competitive environment will naturally make you more comfortable.
Anxiety is not a quick fix. It's going to take time, and the cause can be unique to everybody. Hopefully some of the points below will help guide you in the right direction.
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For some, the stem of their ranked anxiety comes from a fear of the social interaction inherent in some competitive games.
It’s no secret that competitive gaming can foster a toxic environment. This is especially prevalent in popular genres like MOBA’s or FPS games where communication is an essential element of teamwork.
Games like League of Legends and Valorant are infamous for being toxic. Naturally, this can lead to a fear of being flamed, or insulted, in game by a random player on an ego trip. This is especially relevant for beginner players who are prone to making mistakes.
Thankfully, a lot of these games have a “mute” feature that will silence any toxic players. For those who get really anxious, I’d recommend just “muting all” as soon as the match starts. It’s not a requirement to talk in a competitive game, and for beginners it's not necessary to win.
That being said, if your goal is to improve and climb in rank, eventually you’ll need to start communicating with your team. That being said, it's ok to ease yourself into it. Start by muting all, then progress to leaving the comms open but not talking, then try talking a little, and so on. Eventually communicating in-game will become second nature.
Keep in mind that some genres, like fighting games, require no communication to play at the highest level. If that’s more your style, give them a shot.
You can always mute individual toxic players in game so use that feature liberally.
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The fear of deranking may be the most common form of ranked anxiety, and it can be incredibly challenging to overcome. Rank can be given but it can also be taken away, and losing is a lot easier than winning. It can feel like all the hard work you put in to achieve a rank can be washed away by a few bad games.
The untold truth about rank is that it really doesn't mean anything. A rank is almost never a 100% accurate measurement of player skill, but competitive communities often use it as the sole criteria for judging ability.
Problems can arise when we achieve a rank, like moving from silver to gold in Valorant, and then stop playing out of fear of losing that gold status. This problem often affects mid-level players and can be a roadblock in your improvement.
Put it into perspective and we realize that there isn't that much skill difference between a gold ranked and a silver ranked Valorant player. As long as you’re actively trying to improve, it just comes down to the quantity of matches played.
The best way to overcome this kind of anxiety is by setting goals for yourself in-game. If you're a silver ranked Valorant player, and you want to achieve diamond or immortal rank, then reaching gold doesn't mean anything. It’s simply a short stop along the way. The same goes for reaching gold then falling back to silver, it doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things.
Now that you have a goal, your focus can be directed onto the study, practice and execution of the skills required to reach that goal. After you start doing that, it's all about the quantity and quality of matches played.
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To some extent we all experience a fear of failure. When it comes to competitive gaming, this form of ranked anxiety comes around when we feel like we aren’t living up to our idea of ourselves as a player. It can be tough to reconcile the fact that maybe, you aren't as good as you think you are. This particular form of anxiety often affects people who have played the game for a long time, but are failing to break through to the highest level.
When we care about, and play something competitively for a long time it can be easy to associate yourself with that thing, making it part of your identity. The important thing is to not tie your ability as a player to your sense of self worth. This is because when you lose, or you have your ego shattered by better players, it can be incredibly crushing and foster a toxic mentality.
Winning and losing is all part of the game, no matter the genre. There will always be players better than you. Understand that the goal of competitive gaming is not in the wins and loses, but the process of improvement. Then, you can begin to separate yourself from this toxic mentality and enjoy the game again.
It’s very difficult to untangle yourself from this trap. It’s ok to fail, and have a bad day, as long as you try again next time. Another important tip is to find fulfillment outside of the game. Especially for mid to high level players, it can really help put the wins and loses in perspective.
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Ranked anxiety is a complicated subject. Hopefully, outlining a few of the causes will help us better understand the cause. Ultimately, the purpose of competitive gaming is to improve and have fun as a community. Fostering a healthy environment is an essential step in that process, and something we can all actively work on together.
By: Simon Mancuso