Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Tetris Retirement

This comes off the back of talking to Vincent yesterday in #tetrisconcept and also for the ending of the TC Carnival of Death. It's been a while since I posted anything particularly heartfelt into this blog, if I ever have, so I've decided to make a bit more of an emo post.

There was a long time where I'd say that the Tetris community and the TGM series was a fairly massive part of my life. I worked fairly hard to get good at it, and I enjoyed it. I didn't spend all my free time playing Tetris, but I probably clocked up quite a lot of hours, and I certainly made an effort to play a bit every day or two. I'd say I got pretty damn good at it too. I was one of the best 4-player Tetris DS players in the world, one of the best western TGM players (for the series at least, not TGM1 - I always hated that), and there was a brief period when Edo gave it up for a bit that I was the best TGM player in the UK, before he returned and kicked my ass anyway. Even a year or so later, my Sudden Ti record is still 3rd on the TC leaderboard.

I can't put a date on it, and I didn't make a post for it or anything on TC, but I'd say I've retired from the hardcore Tetris scene. I still enjoy the community, and I don't think I'll ever leave it, but I'm finished trying to be one of the best players out there. It's a bit of a weird thing to come to terms with, especially when I spent so long trying to get there, and succeeded to an extent. I can't imagine how it must be when professional sportsmen retire from stuff, because even this was a fairly odd and slightly unsettling thing to come to terms with.

I can't really put a finger on one specific reason why I've stopped. I think a fair bit of it comes down to the fact that I just don't quite have the time now I'm at University. I have these ten week periods of work and distractions and social stuff, and it's really difficult during those periods for me to motivate myself to play. Then term ends and I've lost so much momentum and practice of those ten weeks that I find it difficult to get going again. The Carnival of Death this year outlined it for me. I got 20 M grades last year, this year I got 8. I felt near the end of the week I was getting back to where I was before I stopped, but the fact still was that I had other things to do and I didn't play enough to get anything like 20 M grades.

The main reason is probably lack of motivation. Beating your own records feels awesome, but there's nothing other than that feeling to really push me on. It's OK to start with because new records come fairly frequently. Once you start hitting the major grades though, progress gets so fucking slow and tiresome. You can put hundreds of hours in and get basically no tangible improvement. And for me I have nothing really to motivate me and keep me going. I don't have a direct rival, except for maybe Kevin, but he seems to have so much extra time to lay into it than I do that I don't really feel I can try and compete with him without just losing and getting even more frustrated. I don't have a real Ti/TAP version to play on (that'd definitely fucking help) and I don't have anyone I see in person in a regular basis to play with and keep me going.

I know there's a ton of people on TC who won't really understand it, either because they're not that far in the rankings yet to understand just how ball-breakingly frustrating things like the M grade in TAP Master are to get, or they have Ti machines or people around them, or they just don't play for the same reasons I did. I'm hyper-competitive in everything I do. I can't just play something for the fun of it without getting bored or frustrated. I play to win, and I play to be the best, and I do that regardless of what I'm doing. "It's the taking part that counts" means nothing to me because I don't get anywhere near as much enjoyment if I take part and don't take it seriously, even if I lose I enjoy the competition more when I care. I tend not to be a sore loser (unless I felt I was cheated out of a win by other people) or a sore winner, I just take my enjoyment out of the competition rather than out of the game. It doesn't matter whether it's tetris, mahjong, rowing, Counter-Strike, Monopoly, whatever. I want to fucking win, and it's all I care about. There's no point playing otherwise.

I know Vincent, and possibly Kevin will understand what I mean, and I know Vincent especially knows how frustrating and difficult it is when you're completely focused on beating everyone, when that is what drives you forward, and when you realise that you're life is preventing you from ever being able to do that.

It's quite possible someday I'll pick TGM back up seriously, and play more often than the couple of hours a month I maybe put in nowadays. If someone gets onto my level without blasting straight past me, or I find someone IRL to spur me on (who isn't massively better than me - Nicola would spur me on to play shmups more if she didn't utterly annihilate my scores), if I finally find the money to get TAP or Ti (or it gets cracked and I can play it on my laptop). Right now TGM just frustrates me, and it's difficult for me to put the time in because I have other things I want to do, and other things I enjoy more, and frankly it'd be retarded to not do things I enjoy just so I can frustrate myself failing to be better at TGM.

I still have things I still want to achieve, namely Death Gm, Master M and Shirase 1300, but I don't reckon I've got the time or motivation to get them in the foreseeable future. I'm still happy with what I've achieved, how good I was back in the Tetris DS days, my current records on TC, the fact that I'm the second most active member of TC behind colour thief, probably in time as well as posts. The various TC meets were fun too, in London last July and with muf in September (even though we spent more time getting drunk and stoned than playing Tetris :P). I'll stick around and be content with my position as one of the old guard of TC (still fucking weird to think I've been there nearly four years), and that I was at least for a period one of the best TGM players outside of Japan.

Here's to hope that I'll have a Schumacher-esque return in a couple of years. Except hopefully it'll be a bit more successful, because Schumi seems to be doing a bit shit right now.

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