Better living through Netrunner

Some time ago, Brian Holland wrote a fantastic article about overcoming tilt in Netrunner. It’s here. If you haven’t read it, please do – it’s well worth the five minutes out of your day.

Back? Great. I realised something when that article came out, but was too ashamed to admit it until now. See, there’s an anecdote in there about a player who went on tilt so hard they stood up, swore a bunch, and left the room. I’ve never checked, but…99% sure that was me. I remember it well actually. It was against a newer player so I was disgustingly overconfident, ate a combination of terrible variance and terrible plays on my part and got swept. I remember standing up very quickly, going outside…and nearly blacking out from a panic attack.

It must have looked unusual to people going past to see a guy leaning up against a wall on Little Lonsdale Street for twenty minutes, head in hands and struggling not to lose it. It took every bit of self control I had to walk back in and apologise instead of bolting to my bike and bailing on the scene forever.

As many people in the Netrunner community know, anxiety and depression are serious business. I’ve struggled with it for years, sometimes managing to push it back but never coming out from under the shadow, not really. Surely while everything else in my life was collapsing, I could win at a damn card game, right? Right?

For whatever reason, the final straw for me was getting Scorched in a game of Netrunner that I thought I deserved to win. On the way home I had to pull over three times because I kept coming close to blacking out again. Somehow, this was the one thing that pushed me over the edge. It became – quite literally – do or die.

Luckily, this was when I started to turn things around. See, I have a perfectionist streak that could be charitably described as “crippling” – I had to be creative and win with something new, dammit! But I don’t have that particular skill. This was just the latest in a string of tournaments, business dealings, job applications and collapsing relationships with seemingly everyone around me where I knew – knew! – that things could be better if I could just stop worrying for one damn second what others thought. I started to realise – hey, maybe I don’t need to be a special, uniquely inspired snowflake who needs to be better than literally everyone at literally everything to feel validated. Maybe I don’t have to feel crushing panic at the knowledge that one time someone punched harder than me, or did better on a maths test, or Scorched me. Maybe I can just identify my strengths and maximise those instead.

Losing at cards started me on the path to becoming a better person and digging myself out of the hole. I’m eating better, weightlifting again, and my personal life is going great. And yes, now I can play NEH and Kate without feeling bad about it. Maybe it’s a stretch to credit playing bad decks with learning to identify and change bad habits in life, but somehow that’s what got me there. I mean, Netrunner’s just such a great game, isn’t it? For all the tilt and salt, for every time somebody gets pissed off at fast advance, or Clot, or Siphon, or Caprice, there’s someone sweeping their first tournament with one core and two datapacks and feeling on top of the world. And for me, Netrunner’s legitimately – yes, without  hyperbole – changed my life.

Oh, and today’s Netrunner advice is – don’t give up, play to your outs. Watch the Worlds finals to see what I mean!

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