How I Learned to Have Fun Again: RNG Edition

I recently had a long conversation with some friends about Hearthstone’s random nature and how much they loathe it. I haven’t played much Hearthstone, but I’ve seen how soul-crushing the RNG can be, such as this clip at the recent BlizzCon 2016 Hearthstone World Championship. It’s hard to take Hearthstone seriously as an eSport with so many random factors, and I’m not alone with this thought. Hafu, a famous Hearthstone streamer, tweeted her thoughts after Pavel’s game:

RNG sucks when it makes me lose

I remember a time when World of Warcraft was a booming eSport next to games like Quake and Counter Strike. It was during a phase when competitive balance in WoW was young, and players had to live with mechanics like low% random stuns and dodge chance.

One of the most popular Rogue talent specs in TBC was HARP: Hemorrhage, Adrenaline Rush, Preparation. Assuming the Rogue had cooldowns ready, they could hammer a single button to do insane damage and randomly stun the target for 3 seconds. I still have my old Logitech G15 gaming keyboard with a caved-in space bar—the result of an arena game that went sour because of RNG.

Kill all RNG

Frustrated with RNG in WoW, the arena community looked for other games to compete in. Luckily, a replacement was already in the works: Bloodline Champions. It was popular among WoW arena enthusiasts because of its no-nonsense approach to competitive play. There was no levelling, no gearing up, and most importantly, no RNG.

Playing BLC was an experience that shaped my gaming tastes over the next couple of years. I adored it, and wholly recommended it to my friends whether they played WoW or not. If there was randomness in a game, I avoided it with all my willpower. BLC was a successful game, but didn’t replace WoW like all the doomsayers predicted. There is however, an updated version called Battlerite that’s playable today. Round two maybe?

Okay maybe not all RNG

Sadly, games without any randomness at all can get boring. Sure, skill should affect the outcome of a match, I’m not going to argue against that, but there has to be at least something random to keep it interesting.

When I couldn’t scrape together the money for a 60-day time card for WoW, I played another Blizzard title: Diablo 2. Dungeons changed each time I loaded the game, no piece of loot was the same, and strong monsters would have a bunch of random effects. It was the polar opposite of what I considered to be a good game at the time (such as BLC) but for some reason I just couldn’t stop playing it.

RNG is magical. It can lose me matches of Shadowverse because my opponent top-decks a board clear, but it can also perform a miracle and lead me to an impossible win with a series of lucky card draws. It can roll me the worst possible stats on a piece of gear in Diablo, but it can also grant me a best-in-slot item that I’ll never replace. You can’t tame the divine being that is RNG, but you can guarantee that for as many bad situations you get into, you’ll get equal amounts of good fortune to balance it out.

Embracing RNG made me truly enjoy video games once again. I was once a salty teenager that scoffed at the idea of a coin flip ruining my fun, but now I welcome the possibility of my best laid plans going to hell. Instead of crying about it and breaking a perfectly good keyboard again, I’ll bellow a hearty laugh and share my stories of misfortune to lighten up someone’s day.

Unless I’m at a tournament with $250,000 on the line.

Then I’ll break a keyboard.

Maybe two.

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