Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Grind

This is something that's been on my mind for a while now and after going to the Maryland MSS yesterday (June 10) I just wanted to get it off my chest. I really can't be bothered to make this nice and organized and sunshine and rainbows so you're about to get a dose of Jake's Unfiltered Stream of Consciousness™.

Before you pull out your pitchforks and your banners with "git gud scrub" so eloquently painted on them let me just say this isn't meant to be a sob story or a "boo hoo look at me I'm a victim" pity party. I freely admit that some of the things I'm about to talk about are completely on me. However, some of this stuff is so wildly out of my control that I swear to each and every one of the 330 million Hindu gods if anyone takes the chance to invalidate my frustrations because you think "it really wasn't that bad" I will block you before you can say "I have no capacity for empathy."

I'm so damn tired of going to tournaments coming away with nothing. I've legitimately never left a tournament larger than a PC happy with how it ended and it's getting so draining. Most of the time I wish I hadn't even gone, even when it's a bigger tournament like Nationals where the social aspect is just as important. I've sunk so much time and money into this game for so little return. At some point I have to accept that it becomes too much and scale it back.

Actually since I mentioned it I'll just touch on "the community" since everyone seems to talk about how amazing it is and how it's the only reason people stick around. While I do like the majority of the people I've met and I definitely enjoy hanging out with people when events roll around, the community is absolutely not the reason I keep playing. Sorry guys, you're not that important. It might not show from my otherwise passive and laid back personality but I absolutely love to compete. Competition lights a fire in me that nothing else can, and I keep coming back to tournaments because it's a feeling I can't get from just sitting on my room and clicking buttons on Pokemon Showdown. It's why I react so emotionally whenever something goes right or wrong during games at tournaments. I don't think I've ever actually been truly angry with anything or anyone except for when I don't perform in a way of which I know I'm capable, and then the anger is only directed at myself. This is true for tennis too. If you weren't aware I was and still (sort of) am a pretty good tennis player and I played a ton of tournaments in juniors and also my first couple years of college. I have way too many broken rackets than I care to admit. Self-confidence is just not something I possess in any measurable quantity and I really let it show.

Now that I've aired out my character flaws I suppose I'll get back to why I actually decided to write this out. For the last year and a half or so I've had a string of bad tournaments. It's honestly probably even longer than that but one tournament specifically sticks out as the one where basically everything started going wrong and only wrong: Madison 2016. Just for backstory I'll run through a couple tournaments before and everything since so you can get a picture of just how tired I am.

2015 Missouri Regionals - Finally have my breakout performance at a big event and go 9-0 in Swiss with a team I still consider to be the best and most influential I've ever built. Promptly get brutally lucked out of game 1 in Top 16, take game 2, then lose game 3 at team preview. I was happy to have done well but I felt like I deserved more than Top 16 at that event, especially since my team also got to Top 4 and Finals.

2015 US Nationals - I was in a pretty good spot for a Worlds invite this year, and it was projected that I'd need Top 64 at Nationals to clinch it. I started 6-1 so I was feeling pretty good, but then I choked hard against Blake on stream round 8 and got swaggered to hell and back games 2 and 3 of round 9 after quite frankly winning game 1 pretty easily. Snuck into 40th place anyway and got the worlds invite I was hoping for so not a terrible ending but I definitely think I could have made a deeper run.

2016 Madison Regionals - I don't really remember much between Nationals and Madison other than a disappointing Worlds finish but it was my first Worlds and I didn't play totally up to par so whatever. I went to Madison because I found super cheap flights and if I got Top 16 at a Regional I'd have my Worlds invite. I started 3-0, went to lunch break, then came back lethargic and tired so I played super lazily and lost round 4. Obviously that's my fault. Round 5 I played Jon Hu and I'm 100% sure you can all guess what happened (hint: there were 3 instances where my kyogre could have origin pulsed his groudon but hit itself in confusion instead). I pulled myself up and won my last 2 rounds to finish 5-2 which I thought would be good enough for top 16, but I ended up getting 17th on 0.1% opponent's opponent's resistance. Not even the first tiebreaker. A tenth of a percent on the second tiebreaker.

2016 Kansas City Regionals - I was pretty mad I had to go to Kansas because I wanted my invite before Nationals and would have skipped Kansas if I had got top 16 in Madison. I managed to meet my goal in Kansas and clinched my worlds invite by going undefeated in swiss, but in top cut I lost game 1 to Collin after thoroughly outplaying him in swiss the day before and in the first couple turns of top 8 because he got perfect moody boosts and I just spiraled out of control from there. He then played circles around me game 2 because I let the end of game 1 get to me a little too much. Losing to Collin isn't exactly embarrassing since he's obviously a fantastic player but the way it happened after beating him the day before really sucked.

2016 US Nationals - I really wanted to redeem myself after 2015 Nats and since I already had my invite my only motivation was succeeding at that tournament on that day. I wasn't really in the running for worlds day 2 unless I had gotten top 8 or something so my only focus was making the second day of nationals. I lost early on to masakado and his confuse ray bronzong and dropped round 6 (i think?) but pulled it back to 6-2. Round 9 I lost to kamaal in 3 games after getting what I remember to be pretty unlucky rolls on sleep turns on both ends. What made it sting even more was when a certain judge about whom I have already publicly expressed disapproval was outwardly happy and delayed giving me back my cartridge (we were at one of the TV tables) to congratulate kamaal and tell him how happy he was. I came back to my hotel room and threw my backpack across the room, accidentally disconnecting most of the cords from Andrew's N64 while they were playing it. Again I put my and my friends' property in danger because I couldn't handle my emotions well, but this time I'm pretty sure I didn't break anything (unless I did and Andrew just didn't tell me).

2016 Worlds - I really have nothing to say about this tournament other than I played like a dodo bird that had its already small brain removed and dropped at 1-3. Again, I was really disappointed because this time I thought the team me and some others had come up with was really good against the meta and I was pretty confident that I could have done a lot better than that.

2016 Arizona Regionals - Decided to go to Arizona because Tommy and Jen were and I had a team I had been loving. I won my first 6 rounds out of 8, leaving me and Salamenace as the only undefeated players left. I lost a really close set to Patrick that came to the last turn then dropped round 8 to not understanding how to play against a somewhat poor matchup. With my resistance luck I was pretty sure I wouldn't cut but I figured I was safe for top 16. Funny how when you think you're safe you never are. I got 17th again and bubbled not only more CP, but prize money this time. I was pretty ruined, I missed out on $250 and the chance to play for even more just because 4 of my 8 opponents dropped with negative records. I really fail to understand why that's ok and I'd love to point this example out to anyone who opposes x-2 cuts. This was about when the worst 3 months of my life started. I sank into a pretty deep depression and spent most of my time in my room with the lights off, missing classes and social gatherings and I'm sure some other opportunities. Not that this event was the sole cause as there were multiple identifiable causes that were more influential than some stupid regional, but it absolutely didn't help. (I'm ok now though don't worry)

2017 Dallas Pre-Regionals MSS - As you can imagine I barely played between Arizona and Dallas, I think just attending one PC in Dallas because I came home for my parents anniversary and it happened to be when they were busy. When Dallas was announced to be 2017 format I got a little more excited again and built a team I was really happy with. When I picked up everyone staying at my house from the airport we basically had to go straight to the MSS venue. I started feeling pretty sick during the tournament, and right before I played for cut in the last round of swiss I had to run to the bathroom and throw up. I'll spare the gory details but it wasn't pretty, and they ended up kicking me out of the venue for the safety of their customers. I completely respected that decision and knew they had to make it, but funnily enough I still cut the tournament at x-2. So LITERALLY the only time i've cut an event at x-2 on resistance I can't play in top cut. Great.

2017 Dallas Regionals - I started well again, winning my first 4 rounds I think. I lost a tight set to Alberto, got unlucky against Enosh after he crit my +2/2 Muk with an earthquake (he'll tell you it didn't matter I disagree), and then the fiasco that was round 9 happened. I'm not going to reopen those wounds because I was partially in the wrong, but I still felt pretty slighted since had I won my last round I definitely would have had good enough resistance to cut.

2017 Leipzig Regionals - After Dallas I once again didn't really have the desire to play again, but since I had just gotten to Europe for my semester abroad I just went for the hell of it since it would be fun to see my European friends. I don't remember specifics of the day but it seemed like it was a competition to see who could crit me or damage the most in one round and I finished a pretty poor 4-3. The logistics of getting to this tournament really really sucked too so it quickly became not worth the investment. This tournament was the most I had ever regretted traveling to a tournament like I mentioned earlier.

2017 Sheffield Regionals - I didn't care enough about Pokemon or a worlds invite at this point to grind out PCs or MSSes in England so I didn't do anything VGC related until a week before Sheffield when my knight in shining armor Lee Provost passed me a team and offered to let me stay with him. I feel like all of stories are running together honestly. I started the regional 5-0, then my ~6 hours total sleep over the previous 2 nights caught up to me and I dropped two rounds to suboptimal and lazy play. I refused to let myself go 5-0 to 5-3 and won round 8 for a top 16 finish but I once again managed to waste a good start and get nothing out of it.

Some PC in Bristol in April - I had a random itch to play in a tournament one weekend and I found out there was a PC an easy hour long train ride away from where I was in England. I turned up and we ended up only having 6 people so it didn't get sanctioned. We played it out for fun and for a small prize anyway but no CP, and I somehow managed to not get first even though I went 3-0. Even when I don't lose I get screwed by resistance, TOM always finds a way I suppose. The guy who got "first" offered to play a pseudo finals set since the unsanctioned tournament technically ended after swiss with no cut, and he was nice enough to give me the prize when I won so that was really cool of him. I went back to the train station to catch my train back to Reading but all the trains between Bristol and Reading had been stopped because of a signaling failure. No more trains were going to run for the rest of the day, so I was stranded. I ended up having to buy a 50 pound bus ticket home and the bus dropped me off in some remote parking lot outside of town so I had to pay for a taxi back to where I was staying too. I still haven't gotten my refund for my cancelled train ticket by the way, thanks for nothing great western railway.

This leaves us at the present: Sunday, June 11, 2017. This last week I realized that even though I only have 255 CP, there are enough events in June that I could put myself in a place where I only needed a mediocre finish at US Internats instead of something like Top 8 or top 4 for a worlds invite. I had been saying since Dallas that I didn't care about an invite this year, and I really didn't. Worlds once again has managed to be the weekend right before I started classes, and I've made it work the last 2 years but it's so damn inconvenient because it means I have to move into where I'm living at school early then be traveling back either the day before or day of classes beginning and start the week off tired and unfocused. I really wouldn't have minded an excuse to skip worlds this year, since it really doesn't make sense for me to justify the money and time lost if I don't have an invite. However, seeing all these events coming up in my area (Maryland MSS, Origins, two NY MSS) reignited that spark for competition and I spent most of my free time after work preparing for this Maryland MSS. I got there I honestly think I was playing very well for the first four rounds. I handily beat a friend I picked up for the tournament after we unfortunately got paired round 1, dropped a really tight mirror match against kamikaze, but then won another mirror against skurchak pretty quickly the next round after learning how to play it against kamikaze. Got my revenge from 2016 nats against masakado round 4 and felt pretty good about my chances heading into round 5 against brian youm, but lost in 3 games after I won game 1 in 3 turns and promptly shut off all decision making centers in brain and just clicked random buttons in games 2 and 3. I was beyond furious with myself and it's a wonder I managed to stick around and be socially active for a little while because all I wanted to do was finding the nearest bridge to throw myself from. I had hyped myself up for this month of pokemon and grinding for an invite because I had once again felt the fire of competition that I had been missing. Then I just went and not only threw away my chance at CP from this tournament since only top 8 got any, but completely extinguished the passion the had been reinvigorated. I basically lost any desire to continue throw my money and time at the game when I completely implode at any sign of success. I think money is the biggest hangup for me right now, I technically "have the money" to go to more tournaments this summer since my internship pays pretty well and I have a pretty big check coming at the end of the month, but I really don't know if my shattered psyche (holy shit i'm so funny) can handle another weekend spent way too long driving to pay way too much money to get literally nothing in return.

I don't really know what my goal in writing this, maybe just catharsis. I'm about as solid as jello in my decision making so who knows if I'll still go up to Origins or New York for those tournaments. I already booked nationals so I can't back out but I never would have anyway, I decided a while ago that nationals this year would be my last big event for a while. I have one more year until I'm finally done with my undergraduate degree and I need to focus on my senior project and grad school/job applications and getting my real life started. Knowing me I'll probably find a way to break this promise and play somewhere, but for now putting even more of my resources into this game is such a low priority that the idea of it just sounds outright stupid. The current goal is to make nationals as fun of an experience as possible, since it may be the last time I see a lot of you guys for a long time, if not ever.

I don't need your sympathy, I don't need you to feel bad for me, I just need you to understand that I'm frustrated. I'm disappointed. I'm sad. And I'm done with it.


ps if anyone wants to be my sugar daddy/mama/gender neutral pimp and sponsor me for origins or something hit your boy up, i'll wear a tshirt with your face on it

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