Mitch Albom, without a doubt, has been one of my favorite writers since I first flipped through the leaves of Tuesdays with Morrie. It also happens that he covered one of the most revered and controversial collegiate basketball teams of all time: The Fab Five. His work has always inspired me to take lessons from each unique experience in my life, extracting value from even the most dire situations. His novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, inspires this article. Even though we spend so much of our time in solo queue focused on ourselves and our own development, we should take time to recognize that some of our most lasting lessons are given by the most unexpected wanderers.
The Silent Carry
Sometimes a smurf, sometimes just a mystical enigma, this encounter leaves you dumbfounded at what you just witnessed. Rarely does such an animal cross your path, but when it does, you simply accept the talent that is dominating the game, hoping to perhaps send a friend request after the game, but a little too embarrassed and modest to do so. This character rarely speaks throughout the game, if at all, but you’re more than thankful for that; after all, egotism can easily overshadow merit.
From this, you learn the importance of performance in League of Legends. It’s not about how good you are at convincing other people that you made an amazing play; your actions will speak for themselves. Also, in marveling at this player’s modesty, you begin to truly believe in this virtue.
The Passive Aggressor
In stark contrast to the previous player, it seems this fellow has everything to say, all the time. As you are ganked for the the 14th time, your friendly Master Yi calls out,
“Really? Geez I wish I had a real top laner.”
You become increasingly frustrated with his lack of help, in combination with his consistent blaming and shaming. It’s as if he doesn’t understand the ramifications of his words – that they will only make his teammates feel worse, while doing absolutely nothing for his own performance. What a cruel display of non-constructive critique.
But in this encounter, you begin to understand how every single thing you do, whether it would be a perceptible action or simply speaking to your team, can direly affect everyone’s welfare. There are no random inconsequential acts; everyone and every single action is interconnected to the next, so we must carefully weight the outcome of each.
The Classical Rager
You’ve met the sibling of the passive aggressor now, and it has definitely not left you disappointed. Each misplay results in a completely one-sided shouting match, and each outplay… well he’s still yelling at your ass. He has the ability to instill fear into his teammates before anyone has even left the fountain. The same cannot be said for his enemies, who are simply laughing at his constant tirade.
In addition to learning 4 new ways to spit vulgarities, you pick up one of the most important lessons here. Talking louder does not equal being heard better. You begin to consider the implications of strong communication, and start to calculate your own words. This serves as the foundation for building your character, charisma, and compassion for other people.
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The Team Captain
But among the turmoil, one shining star illuminates itself through the muck. Regardless of this traveler’s scoreline, a sense of optimism always accompanies him. When things are going awry, this teammate is looking for a solution. Even when one cannot be clearly found, support and cheer is constantly given to his colleagues, if only to give everyone a more enjoyable experience. His amicability and joviality are backed by a sense of rationality. This hope is not founded upon air, but upon the potential of each individual player coming together to be exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” In the unholy depths of solo queue, you continuously find ways to temper your mind again, drawing from the well of hope in order to sustain your efforts. Sure, that only despair can arise from having hope, but without hope, humanity fails to exist.
League of Legends is a team game, where you interact with the players around you. The odd chance sometimes arises where you make a lasting relationship through a single game. You meet someone who seems to be just as awkward as you, but not quite as neurotic as some others – a perfect balance of pizza and beer. This person opens up a whole new face of the game to you, connecting you with their network, and making you feel at home in a place that is almost completely subject to mindless killing.
You remember a lesson from your childhood days; make friends. If nothing else, you should leave the game a better place than when you left it. It might be worth taking the time to really connect with someone. We are no longer in a world confined by physical tangibility, but instead the online constructs that were once held with societal disdain have become a new frontier of relationship making. Remember that it is not Thresh’s complete champion kit or Sona’s fantastic physique that created this game and its community – it all comes down to the people, the same five people that you meet in solo queue.