How Playing Minesweeper on the Toilet Helped me Manage Tilt and Top DBS Regionals
Any of you remember that old computer your parents old grandparents had that ran Windows 95 and you were relegated to playing games like Pinball and Minesweeper? Remember using those to entertain yourself while your parents had to make a phone call and force you to sign off your dial-up AOL internet that was probably being covered by one of those free 90 day trial discs?
My venture into Minesweeper started about 4 years ago when I needed something to do at a part time job but couldn’t leave from behind the counter. I remembered playing Minesweeper, but not necessarily how, and used it as an opportunity to pass the time. Eventually, I ended up finding one of many Minesweeper apps, and now periodically will open the app when I have 3-5 minutes and nothing better to do. I try to play quickly, but am no where near competent enough to play it at a competitive level.
However, I do think that drawing parallels between Minesweeper and DBS has not only helped me articulate the ways I view gaming, but has ultimately helped me develop my mental game and improved my overall performance. After sharing these ideas with a few peers (and getting disowned by Erik Goodwin in the process), I was encouraged to write this article in hopes that sharing the lessons I learned from Minesweeper will help you accelerate your success. While I make every effort in this article to not focus on the game Minesweeper in and of itself except to better articulate my ideas, it may be easier to understand if you know the basics of the game. Check out the video here if you are unfamilar with the game. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93oSIfWN0HU
Lesson 1.) The key to winning at DBS (and Minesweeper) is to find your truths through finding the proper balance of logic and probability to inform your decision-making theories and choices. When we look at a game with the intent of winning and separate any player versus player or player versus self interaction that game may demand, most answers can be deducted to probability. When I activate the effect of Saiyan Teamwork Cabba with 36 cards between my Life and Deck that may contain one of the 6 of 8 Caulifas unaccounted for, I understand that 88.1% of the time, my Cabba will successfully fetch a target, given the knowledge I have. At the same time, I can look at my opponents hand of 13 cards and use the number of cards they have seen over the course of the game, number of copies already played, and information from previous games (probability) to deduct how likely they are to have a particular out (logic). In both deck building and execution, probability is an essential consideration to success. Minesweeper demands a similar balance of probability and math.
Let's use this particular late-game puzzle as an example. We know 5 of the 11 squares
contain mines. At at 45% fail rate, picking at random will let us win more than lose, but let us see if we can find a truth that let’s us win more often. As indicated by the symbols on the uncovered blocks, we can use context clues to deduct 3 situations that are 50/50 options (lightning bolts, hearts, and smiley faces). Following that logic, it would be better to pick at random. That’s not a theory, a truth, to play by. The suns however, can tell a different story. At a quick glance, we see that the two 2’s indicate that the row of four suns create two 50/50 options - again, not ideal. However, when we consider the greater context of where three of the five bombs are confined to, we learn that choosing one of the stars actually reduces our chances of hitting a mine to 40%, and becomes the optimal choice, as much as I understand about this game. A theory-based approach to the game, backed by statistical probability. That is how any game should be approached when your goal is to win, DBS included. My truth may be incorrect - and I will test, theorycraft, and research until I find one more suitable to my needs. As should you.
So, I followed my logical, statistically probably path that I believed would lead me to the greatest chance of winning. What do you think was the outcome of this end game?
Lesson 2.) You are never entitled to winning. I had a 60% of winning the game - those are statistics (albeit arbitrary) that we throw around constantly. "I have a 60-40 matchup against 5 Colored Chilled". Objectively, this means that out of 6 games I should expect to win out of 10. In my experience, though people use math like this to say things like "As long as I draw well I should always win." or "They need to go first AND get lucky to have a chance". Having a theory on how to win a match-up or a set is encouraged, but don't believe for a second that a favorable matchup means you are entitled to winning. It's easy for me to say "I should have won because I made the best decision" and many, many players are criminal for this - but they impede their ability to develop if they do. Ultimately, you cannot control what you draw, or what they draw. You can control what you play, and you can try to influence what your opponent plays. Making those correct decisions depending on your understanding can help create the conditions that
allow you attempt to win, by any card game between two players with the goal to win by whatever legal options available will be close enough to competitive that variance can affect who wins. RNG is a nasty SOB that will stop you from earning invites, making it to Finals of an event, or making it to top cut, and to a certain extent,
there's nothing you can do about it - because we play a game of chance. It's really easy for me to say "I should have won that game because I made the decision that made me most likely able to win. You are never entitled to winning. Your goal is to make the decisions you can that will most likely allow you to win while secondarily mitigating variance that will allow otherwise. Lesson 3.) View variance as a mirror, not a wall. Compared to sports and games like chess that lack randomness, many people blame RNG when they lose, but they acknowledge their skills when they win. Variance is a part of card games that is here to stay - that's why card games (especially games like Poker) are so profitable. I can be the worst person in town at Texas Hold'em, but I can still sit down with 8 guys on a Friday night and walk away with $200. In Minesweeper, I can boil a correct decision down to a 1 in 3 chance of being a mine. Most of the time I'll pick right and win, but sometimes I'll just lose because that's the type of game I want to play. It's important for one's development to reflect upon every game they play. What decisions could they have made differently? How could they improve their card economy and efficiency? In what ways did variance play a role in our game, and what could I have done to mitigate it? Sometimes you will win games that you "don't deserve to win" because, despite making worse decisions or playing an unfavorable matchup, you draw the stones. By identifying those moments, you improve your humility (and thus your ability to continue learning), can more accurately determine growth, and can further understand what aspects of your game you can keep improving on. Did you just lose a game that you were confident was in the bag? First, acknowledge the existence in order to point your frustrating at something more productive then your opponent or the game. Use the opportunity to evaluate if there was anything you could have to mitigate variance or improve on your play. If you cannot find any ways you could have improved, acknowledging variance may have been the sole factor in your loss as a compliment that you did everything you could to win, and turn your efforts into finding a way to not let your salt affect the rest of the event. I remember one regional top cut I was in. I took a loss very, very hard in top 4 based on one
of the most statistically unlikely situations possible (drawing 0 combo power out of 21 cards in a 24 card deck with a Scientist Fu). It was terrible, and it beat me up for days. I spent so much time processing the different decisions I could have made to find a way to increase my win percentage - I found nothing. What ended up consoling my feelings about the event? I won game 2 of the round before only because I drew into 3 consecutive negates in a deck that ran 7 - and realizing the variance was almost equally strong the other way around. Lesson 4.) By frequently acknowledging the affects of variance in your gaming, you will be able to better perform in tournaments. It's damn hard to swallow, and if you made it this far into the article, you've probably reflected upon your experiences and agree. However, with repeated acknowledgement and reflection as to both when you win games because of favorable variance AND when you lose games due to unfavorable variance, you begin to normalize that feeling. Through that process of normalizing, developing coping mechanisms, and moving past those struggles, you improve your mental endurance and ability to succeed. Minesweeper is how I learned how to do that. The game is crazy - I can literally click two squares and lose 40-60% of the time depending on luck. Luckily, Dragon Ball Super doesn't have that much variance, but it's really easy to get upset when it happens 4 times in 10 seconds. The reason Minesweeper has let me process through tilt is because the reaction is automatic. In a game of Dragon Ball Super, it may take 30-40 minutes to decide a game. I may struggle to remember where the RNG took place if it wasn't in the last turn or two of the game(or something defining like Chain Attack + Zen-Oh resolving.
If I didn't record the game, it may be impossible to fully evaluate my decision-making and be able to answer the question "Honestly, did I play optimally?" it can take hours to be exposed to multiple high-variance interactions in a game of DBS. Minesweeper? Not so much. I can lose 7 games in 15 plays and have to process through those frustrations in less time then it takes me to finish that good poop. But every time it happens, I go through the same process. I take a breath, I consciously look at the board to see if I made a mistake, identify that variance is a core aspect of this game if my reasoning was sound and rational, and move on to the next game forgetting the last. It has taken time, but slowly and surely, I am carrying those skills into Dragon Ball Super with increasing success. When I lost top 4 of Gencon because of variance high enough the judge beside me almost laughed, it mentally savaged me to where I couldn't compete in my 3rd/4th game afterwards. If I was in that same situation now, I am confident because of my mindfulness to variance that I could have still performed - I went 0-2 in a mirror match that I was 16-3 at within regional level events in the format that followed. Ironically, it was against the same Erik Goodwin that laughed at me when I told him I was writing this article because I think this is the kind of document we both could have benefited from - he was as defeated after his loss as I was. Fortunately, I have seen huge strides in my tilt management and performance in the events I have played since then - I attribute a lot of it to things like my now-intentional training when I play Minesweeper. JUST DO IT Try to find a similar game that works for you - Doesn't have to be Minesweeper. Three simple criteria: 1.) Game has RNG but isn't defined by it. 2.) Game is skill intensive to the point where it generally allows you to win (ideally versus yourself) in less than 2 minutes. 3.) Pick a game that seamlessly allows you to take breaks between rounds so you can reflect. 4.) Bonus: Pick a game that has a leaderboard or score to measure success. In your spare time, when you're bored, or when you want to practice Dragon Ball Super but don't have cards in front of you. Play your game, win a lot, lose a lot, and reflect upon if your loses were due to technique or variance. If it's technique or theory related, do research on the game and watch the Youtube videos and articles that will teach you how to be a pro. If it is variance related, take a second to reflect upon your emotions, find a way to turn your frustration into a platform to actknowledge why the game being luck-based is fun and exciting, and try to play the next game with the same amount of level-headedness. Try to keep track on how you improve and be mindful in your best games on if RNG played a role in your success. If you can find that system to succeed in your silly app game, you can use that same system to excel in DBS.