Warning, wall of text incoming! There is a TLDR at the bottom
Following an interesting discussion on OGS on beginning to play Go and the problems that people have starting out, I wanted to share some thoughts on some of the psychological aspects of starting out.
I often state that our current Western mentality does not go well with learning Go. Go is not an easy game to learn, especially not when you want to win. Perhaps it’s not exactly Western mentality, more ‘kids nowadays’ but still. I also cannot say anything meaningful about Asian culture to compare.
What I’m trying to say is that really wanting to win, does not fit well with playing Go. You learn this game primarily by losing and that’s very different from what ‘we’ are used to. We have all these video games which guide you gently and help you get better, often by winning by small amounts. Online there is no such thing for Go, apart from getting proper teaching games right from the start.
So when you go play, you will lose and you will lose a lot. If you want to win; if ‘winning’ is the fun aspect of games for you, this will certainly hold you back. And in some cases make you quit playing Go. I had this same issue when I first played go (when HnG aired). The steep learning curve and many losses, just didn’t work for me (coming from said culture of video games). This is a problem primarily for younger people wanting to learn Go, but I guess applies to anyone. People think losing is a sign that they are just not intelligent enough, that they are not smart enough to pick this game up.
The solution, I think, is some education. The fact that losing games is almost the only way to get better at Go, should be clear from the start. Everyone started that way, even the professionals. Make sure that new players know this, before actually playing humans so they will not hit this brick wall (or not as hard). With my first attempt at Go, no one told me this and I failed to get through that.
The continue the comparison with video games, I’d like to share a link on ranking and anxiety: http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft2/Dealing_with_anxiety
This too comes from my own experience, when I wanted to learn playing StarCaft 2. This game, is also very hard to pick up playing online. You will get slaughtered in ways unimaginable, thinking you will never learn. That you are just too stupid to be able to. Unlike team based games like League of Legends, where you can hide behind the failure of your team, there is only one possible reason for losing: your own performance. So when you are losing games, and you rank will start to drop, you will think that you are just not fit for this game. This applies to Go as well, completely.
The above link provides some tips on how to deal with the feeling of losing games, in relation to that ranking. Because when you go on a losing streak - and you will - you will probably be afraid to press that ‘Create challenge’ button. Or to keep that ‘Ranked’ checkbox checked, because you care too much about your rank. Eventually, you will start to lose interest because you are even caring about losses in practise games. And then comes the point of just quitting the game altogether.
Well, this was quite a bit longer than I had expected. I hope there is some clear story in this, but it’s just something I felt I had to share. Other people will know this already, but I just went through it. Thank you for reading!
We have to educate newer players in the fact that losing is good and ranks are unimportant. That they will learn primarily from losing and that their rank will have ups and downs. But also, that everyone started out that way and no one mastered this game without playing a metric ton of games.