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Learning to play Valorant put me through the five stages of grief

Learning to play Valorant put me through the five stages of grief

My main game for the last ten years has been League of Legends. So when Riot Games finally stayed true to their diversity, I gave Valorant a shot.

Since the FPS title is free – and perhaps much more fun and intense than a league game – many of my friends picked it up and moved over. We enjoyed team play and started learning a new game together.

Except… everyone has played CS:GO before, but I hadn’t.


I decided to learn Valorant, a new game in a new genre, which led me to experience the five stages of grief

Denial

Most of the hours I’ve put into any FPS is Overwatch, sprinkled with a bit of Team Fortress 2 at the time because the first person perspective tends to make me sick. If I play Overwatch for too long, a headache will start hammering me from the inside.

I’m also a support person, so helping teammates, healing them, and peeling for them are things that come naturally. Having some FPS experience, I tried to psych myself up, hoping to transfer what I learned from Overwatch to Valorant since Sage exists.

Credit: Riot Games

As it turns out, knowing how to skate on walls, steady a healing beam from the air, and hit the spacebar non-stop until it comes loose are completely worthless skills in Valorant.

Anger

The habit of jumping and shooting was hard to get rid of. In Overwatch, the impulse reaction to incoming fire is to jump and constantly reposition. It also didn’t help that a significant portion of those hours were spent playing Lucio.

Everything was new in Valorant. I had no idea how to navigate the terrain, no idea where the enemies came from, no idea where A, B or C was, couldn’t find my way around the minimap, fumbled when switching weapons, didn’t know which button to press tap or where to plant the bomb or how to defuse one, felt scared to use zip lines and begged not to get Split, couldn’t judge how much money I needed, couldn’t tell the difference between the weapons, couldn’t hear footsteps , couldn’t judge when to run and when to walk, hated that my ultimate was on X, and got completely confused every time we switched sides.

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Credit: Riot Games

Once on the Ascent, I was standing on the shelf outside B main accidentally holding a knife. Surrounded by three enemies, I jumped down and stabbed one to kill.

“What happened now?” my friends and I exclaimed.

I wanted to Tom Clancy Splinter Cell my way through Valorant by sneaking up on enemies with a knife, but I quickly found out that wasn’t going to happen.

Dying first in a round was one thing. Each death was a learning process. It was only when I started to gain more knowledge and knew what was going on – that’s when the anger rose.

“How the hell did they shoot me? How did it hit? How did I not hit? I aimed for the head! It’s cheating. That person is hacking, I will report him. Wow, that was totally unfair,” I said.



Negotiation

After it was clear that my group of friends were much better placed in Valorant, and I knew enough to know how bad I was, I started to feel like a burden.

If I bothered to learn Overwatch properly and learn how to shoot then I’d probably be better at Valorant, I told myself. Or maybe if I upgraded my monitor to the recommended 144hz or 240hz (mine is currently 60hz) my hit rate would improve.

Things went downhill from there. I got the feeling that some friends would rather play with other experienced CS:GO players than me struggling on their team. I really wish there was an opportunity to compete with and against fresh players so the gap wouldn’t be so big, but there wasn’t.

Depression

Within the first week of trying Valorant, I wanted to quit. This match was too difficult. Everyone else playing CS:GO had a clear advantage over me, and it hurt.

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Valorant wasn’t just a brand new game for me, it was a new genre, filled with new mechanics, perspectives and terminology.

I had to learn what frag, peek, tag and wall banging meant among the long list of terms. Even then, there are different kinds of peeks and swings, which I’m still not quite sure I know how to do.

Credit: Riot Games

Coming from a MOBA background, I also found no joy in playing the same map over and over again with the same agent. The concept of rebuilding and navigating the exact same area round after round was strange.

Although I desperately wanted to get better by spending a lot of time reading guides and watching YouTube videos, I knew I also needed to take a break to soothe my ego by going back to League of Legends for a while.

It was hard to absorb a good match.

Approval

The turning point came when I was playing with my editor and his group of highly experienced FPS buddies who have thrashed opponents in Apex Legends, Overwatch and Call of Duty to name a few. They didn’t judge me and knew how hard I was trying to improve. They witnessed my progress and were there to help and carry. Hard bearing.

I noticed that my frustrations shifted from external to internal. I was mad at myself for making bad decisions and crucial mistakes, rather than what my opponents did.

I stopped playing Sage and started smoking. There were times when I would go into a custom game for hours, only to run off the page, throw a Viper Snakebite or Brimstone Molly, and then run back in to check where it landed. While it’s gratifying to achieve these lineups, I’ve never actually used one in a real game.

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One of the most memorable Achievement Unlocked moments was when I started walking into smoke. For several months I didn’t dare. I felt afraid to move blindly into the unknown, but as I better understood its functionality and became more familiar with the map, my courage grew.

Fracture breaks out for attackers from A Main
Screenshot by Nigel Zalamea

Love the aesthetics (you won’t know how much I’ve spent on skins in LoL), I even bought skins for my favorite weapons in addition to the battle pass. I also bought a new mouse to improve control. Since 2017, I’ve been using the Razer Atheris solely for its small size. On the recommendation of my editor, I bought the Razer Viper Mini and it changed my life. When the package first arrived, I was surprised at how light it was, and even more surprised when I held the mouse in my hand.

From using a mouse that holds the weight of two AA batteries to one that weighed just 61 grams, I clearly didn’t know how much I was missing out on.

Equipped with a solid upgrade, I made it a point to practice more in training mode. Shooting robots, controlling the spray and increasing reaction time are some of the things I have been actively working on. Of course I’m still bronze, but at least I know I’m capable of improving.

Although I like Valorant, it’s more fun when I play with a group of friends. I definitely wish I had more hours in a day so I could play Riot’s Valorant, League of Legends, and Wild Rift more often.


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