The charming naiveté of absolute scrubs

When someone discovers an activity or community, they may be misguided and aim for things that we know are impossible. What if we helped them with their naive goal instead of tearing the goal down from the start?

Last update: 2020-10-19

It all started with yet another new kid on the French Melee Discord server, telling us they would become the best Roy in the world. A wave of them, really, over a few months, for some reason - the Ultimate kids really have a special place in their hearts for Roy. I respect the idea. I also warn them that if they want to be good at the game and win tournaments, then they probably want to steer clear from such an unviable character.

And then, my friend Willy reached out to me with an interesting video that made me think.

I encourage you to watch the entire video, which is about speedrunning. Here's what we took from it in the Melee community. Many kids arrived into the community asking if it was possible to win tournaments with Roy. As more experienced players, we know that the answer is no. And we tell them, and we get irritated if they insist. It's not a dumb question, but it's an ignorant and repetitive one, so we tend to be overly harsh when it happens.

But that's not what we should do, at all! We need to encourage this naiveté, this innocent enthusiasm that gets someone to love the game and do their best. Yes, this person is probably wrong. So what? Let the newbies believe that everything is possible. The worst that can happen is that they try and fail. Is it really that bad? There is no scenario where preventing them from trying and turning them away from the game as soon as they show interest will make anyone's experience better. And the best that could happen? This person could give everything they have to improve. They can fail, but find passion on the way, and maybe switch characters after a while and get really good with a more serious character. They can also become the first Roy to win a major tournament. We think it's impossible, and it most likely is. But maybe the one low-tier player who could have won the tournament was discouraged from it on their first week.

It's okay if a beginner plays a trash character and does counter-productive things. They're discovering a game, and they're having fun, and they're seeing it as something that can evolve. And we can help them have fun and get to their goal - or at least part of their goal. Being nice to naive beginners will not make the community worse.

Since then, I've changed my tune. I tried moving from "Don't play Roy, you're never going to get good with him" to "Play Roy if you want, but do know that it will make everything harder for you". We can be honest while still being encouraging.

And this applies to so many communities and activities, too! If someone wants to begin a new activity with a sizeable self-inflicted handicap, then it's not our problem to solve. We need to warn them and help them change if they want to, but the exciting part is that they believe they have a part to play in the future of that community or activity. We need to protect and encourage that.

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