Welcome to our journey down the Sodium River that is David Sirlin’s Playing to Win. I highly suggest you go and read it for yourself, as I don’t cover everything and there’s plenty to take away from what I don’t.

For Playing to Win, I will be skipping the introduction and “beginners” portion of the book. Very few people here I would consider to be part of this category.

Mashing two chapters together again this week, as the cheating chapter is very short. This is the final section of the intermediate guide. I will be skipping the advanced/elite guides.


I’ve seen a few counter arguments thrown around regarding the playing to win philosophy in the realm of cheating, aka lag switching, DDoS, etc. Lucky for the extremists, Sirlin has a response to this:


One of the great things about playing to win is that it’s a path of self-improvement that can be measured. …[Sirlin] think[s] it’s only useful to consider winning and losing in the context of formal competition such as tournaments. [Cheating] is outside the scope of the game, and is not legal in any reasonable tournament. …[Cheating], though technically useful to those trying to win, are outside the path of continuous self-improvement that [Sirlin is] talking about since [cheating] is outside of the rules of tournaments.

Let’s approach the issue from cheating from two different angles: Trials and Sweats.


The common cheats here in Trials are both lag switching and the pseudo-DDoS where someone, or all players, get kicked from the game. In terms of winning, yes, these would get the job done. However, in the context of the philosophy of playing to win, they are not making you a better player by any means.
Truthfully, it’s very upsetting when cheating legitimately happens, especially when you are trying your best to make that coveted Lighthouse run. Don’t, though, confuse regular latency issues (see: red bar) with actual cheating. Sometimes networks go fubar. I’ve received a handful of messages from people apologizing because they went full on Godmode at some point during a round. Instead of whining, I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt and move on with my life.

Bungie does not take it lightly and there are punishments for being caught. My opinion? Getting a single 310 gun from a golden chest and a shiny emblem isn’t worth getting a timeout from playing the game you enjoy.


The community of sweaty players is a close, tight knit one. It isn’t explicitly supported by Bungie, though they have stated they appreciate the lengths players are going to match up with other veteran players to better enjoy their game.

As above, cheating in sweats accomplishes nothing. And unlike Bungie, there is such a thing among tight knit communities as blacklists. Since the competitive community is the majority grassroots, if/when tournament play does take off, you won’t be able to participate if you’re a known cheater. Obviously this will vary tourney to tourney based on organizer until Bungie officially hosts something.

From me, I appeal and encourage you to cultivate a positive spirit of competition in sweats, tournaments, and beyond. Destiny is going to be around for a while and it has a competitive PvP community that I love. Let’s keep it that way.


Let’s segue from cheating into something a little more subtle but no less nefarious: sportsmanship. More specifically, the infamous teabag and/or emote usage.


Some would interpret [Sirlin’s] attitude of winning by any means necessary to imply that I have no appreciation of sportsmanship. Quite the contrary, I have observed that the very best players are likely to be excellent sports.

Before diving in, I want to highlight something here. “Best players are likely to be excellent sports”. Likely. As in, I’m sure some of you want to bring up some great players in this community that behave like spoiled manchildren. News flash: they are spoiled manchildren. I would tend to agree with Sirlin’s assessment that great players are generally good sports. We, as humans, just tend to remember the negative much easier than the positive. I’m not sure about you, but I have a better recollection of most of the people who put me down than encouraged me.

That said, there are a plethora of players in this community of exemplify the ideals of good sportsmanship. Please be like them.


Playing to win involves viewing a loss as an opportunity to learn and improve. Getting hot-headed and yelling at an opponent or muttering under your breath that you lost to a “no-skilled scrub” does not accomplish that.

Losses suck. You remember them much more clearly than wins. I can clearly recall that time I royally screwed up a clutch 1v1 4/4 Trials round by walking into a sticky grenade trap pushing a choke point on Burning Shrine.

I’ll be the first to say I hate sticky grenades. With a fiery passion. But instead of raging out, slamming a crappy message through PSN and hitting send, I tearfully sent two simple letters: GG.

Raging out only benefits you, and it is completely temporary. You get an ego boost through ruining someone else’s time and once that initial emotional high leaves, you’re left with an empty, one-sided insult.


Other players, perhaps potential sparring partners, team members, or keepers of secret information about the game are likely to be more open to a good sport than a raving lunatic or an idiot.

Who knows, that GG you send to your opponent might lead to future games playing with them as opposed to against. A collaboration of knowledge and tactics where you share tech to push each other to the next level.

Isn’t that what we all want, in the end? To get to that next level?

I once had the humbling pleasure of befriending a Destiny designer during my early days in Skirmish many months ago. We played several games against and with each other and he later sent me a friend request. We chatted for several hours about the current state of the Crucible, my thoughts on the upcoming weapons patch, and generally how I felt about the game. He shared with me some ideas, though made it clear that it was “nothing official”, about game types and modes to consider within the Crucible. He even told me he had read my AoW articles, shared them around the office, and appreciated them. Had I, at any moment, sent a salty message, teabagged, or did anything generally considered bad sportsmanship, I am sure I would not have had that experience.

That one conversation set off my love for this community. It humanized a team of designers and developers who put their blood, sweat, and tears into making a game they would be proud of. It made me want to stay here and call you my peers.

Ok, back to your normal curmudgeonly Koala. Let’s address the elephant in the room: psychological warfare (aka this is the best excuse people can come up with to justify the shitty behavior that is teabagging).



If your aim is to intimidate the opponent, then I am all for that. But there are polite, sportsman-like ways of doing this. The best way by far is to win tournaments.

Teabagging and emote usage for the purpose of intimidation or “getting in their head” does nothing to further your chances of winning any more than actually winning will. What do I mean by this? Those players who are likely to have their performance affected by this tactic are just as likely to be affected by you beating them outright over and over again. At its core, this tactic is ineffective against good players, immature, and a non-zero amount of effort better placed into actually accomplishing what you should be setting out to do when you’re playing to win: WIN.

Some of you are going to argue that you do it “to get in the head of other players”. That somehow what you’re doing is some advanced psychological warfare. You’re not next leveling your opponents. You’re just being a douchebag. From those of us on the receiving end, we get it. You finally killed us after we domed you round after round after round because you hold sprint down sniper lanes. You had a sick quickscope on our Stormtrance. Whatever. A good player will just shrug it off, give you a congratulatory pat on the back, and learn from their mistake. When it works, it’s because you got in the head of another bad player, who is just as susceptible to tilting when he reads that you killed him with a perfectly rolled Herbal Essence or Matador (olé!). I’m sure the ego boost you gave yourself felt real good, but it didn’t help you get better at the game, shore up your weaknesses, or play to win.

You want to shut up people bitching about your Thorn? Beat them without it. You want to show that teabagging pre-nerf Hammer of Sol that his neutral game is complete trash and if it wasn’t for an iWin button he’d be nothing more than a skidmark on the highway of life? Crush him next round. Don’t think that just because “they did it first” it gives you the right to propagate the stereotype that the FPS (and more generally the video game) community is just a bunch of sweaty manchildren too concerned for their l33t sk1llz than building a positive, inclusive community.

You know what is great psychological warfare? Winning. A lot. Winning so much you become a source of fear and intimidation within the community. You know the feeling: you’re flying in to your next Trials round or Skirmish match and staring across from you is a top 10 Trials player, the entire BSK dream team, a prominent streamer or two. Hell, maybe it’s just some guy you saw make a montage that front paged. Someone within the Pantheon of Destiny greats. That’s what you should be aiming for. Not being toxic.

I don’t like teabagging. After nearly a year in the trenches of the Crucible, I know it doesn’t do anything positive and the “laughs” it might garner just aren’t worth it in the long run. Crush the competition into dust, do it again, and shake their hand at the end. Create partners and rivalries, not enemies and vitriol.


Once you develop your fear aura through excellent play and winning, you will laugh at the relatively ineffective notion of intimidating opponents with offensive verbal comments.