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How to Evaluate your Play to Improve: Avoiding the Dunning-Kruger Effect in League of Legends

Our team loved the idea suggested by one of our blog readers, Ronyk, to explore the Dunning-Kruger in League of Legends. It’s been a while since our last article on mentality so we took the topic and ran with it. By the end of this article, we believe that you’ll be able to understand the Dunning-Kruger effect, properly evaluate your play, and ultimately of course, how to improve.

What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

In 1999, two psychologists, David-Dunning and Justin Kruger, conducted a study which identified a cognitive bias in which inexperienced or unskilled people often tend to overrate their abilities above their actual level.

The reason for this is that their lack of skill and knowledge creates what they describe as, “Pockets of Incompetence”, meaning that they lack the ability to truly see their faults.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are also people that are actually experts who can understand their level of competence so they realize how much that they don’t know, making them feel like they aren’t experts because there is so much more to learn (known as the “Imposter Syndrome”).

Check out this video below for a quick lesson by Dunning himself about this psychological phenomenon:

Does it happen in gaming? Science tells us it does

In 2012, professors from University College London and University of York conducted a multi-experiment study which explored challenge and its role in affecting a good experience for the player. The participants played different games ranging from a tower defense game to Bejeweled and Tetris.

Here’s an excerpt from their conclusion:Dunning-Kruger in gamingTL:DR – they found that the Dunning-Kruger effect occurred in their participants. Players that were more skilled were able to see the limits of the challenges while less skilled players were simply enjoying the game because well, they weren’t able to detect any of the nuances. Now that we’ve gotten the technical stuff out of the way, let’s get to the stuff you’re used to seeing…

The Blame Game: Dunning-Kruger in Motion

It’s a common mentality in League of Legends for competitive players to blame others for their losses or inability to climb. Simply go to anywhere that people discuss LoL and you’ll find them blaming their teammates, cursing “bad luck”, and just about everything else instead of thinking of how they personally did poorly or what they can improve in. Take a close look at the following examples:
Exhibit A – Plays perfect, team always sucks:How to deal with bad teammates
Exhibit B – Bad luck “every single game”:My teammates suckExhibit C – Yup even in other games, here’s Overwatch:
Overwatch example

In all three of these cases, the posters are blaming outside factors instead of considering their own. Their perceptions of reality make them feel like they are consistently superior than their teammates and all the bad things that happen to them are because of them.

Sure, you may get less than favorable teammates every once in a while (hey, everyone has bad games), but to believe you get teammates worse than you EVERY game is completely false.

If this were the case, wouldn’t there be just many bad players on both teams? And if that was true and both teams had bad players on it, wouldn’t that be even more motivation to improve yourself so you can rise above all the bad players to dominate?

This mentality also leads players to feel frustrated, and increasingly more tilted and toxic. Instead of thinking of possible holes in their game that can be worked on, they blame all of their losses on their teammates. With this line of thought, it’s incredibly hard to improve because your state of mind is in a bad place.

If you’re tilted your decision-making will be clouded and your consistency will be affected.

Don’t get us wrong, by no means do we want you to blame yourself when you lose or play without the confidence of thinking you’re one of the best people in your match. Ultimately we want you to be able to recognize when things are in your control and when they aren’t.

Are you capable of really understanding the full context of a situation? How can you play perfectly if you don’t know what that would even look like?

If you’re below Masters (or perhaps even still), stick around! By the end of this read, we guarantee you’ll pick up some new tricks to help you become more competent in self-evaluation and improvement.

How to truly evaluate your own play and improve

In the following sections, we’ll be giving a few tips and techniques to help you improve in the context of being aware of Dunning-Kruger.

Use the GPI

One of the original reasons why we created the GPI was to help contextualize game stats for players of all levels. Sure, the wily veteran can look at their numbers and realize what they need to work on but many players may not be able to understand where they should have been at.

It can often be hard to realize the full story. Some players may get help from their friends, but if a friend isn’t an experienced coach or isn’t competent enough themselves, their advice may be harmful to their growth (for example someone being too harsh and expecting unrealistic standards or someone who sugar coats your mistakes).
Use MobalyticsA strength of our GPI is that it removes any sort of emotional bias…the numbers don’t lie! Sure, a few scores like Damage Taken will require some context to your champ pool (compare tanks vs ADCs in terms of if they want to take Damage), but for the most part, the numbers and graph will tell the story.Detrimental DeathsTo start off, find the gaps in your play. Our Challenger Coach, Morïarty, recommends focusing on the scores that are based on your individual play and choices.

For example, it’s easier to focus on improving your Vision or Toughness because you are able to control your contribution to warding/clearing or being able to focus on staying alive by avoiding detrimental deaths (Discernment score) or by being out of position (Forward Deaths score).

In comparison, scores like Battle Participation (Toughness skill) or Picks (Fighting skill) are more involved with what your team does.

Once you have the individual scores covered, try to find solutions to improving the team based ones. For example, if a Skirmish (Fighting skill) looks like it’s going to go poorly, you may want to improve your ping communication to prevent unnecssary losses.

Seek and Absorb Knowledge

It’s a common phrase and we’ve probably said it before – knowledge is power, especially in League. It’s a game of inches – every second and hit point matters, matches can be decided by the smallest of details.

For example, did you know that Blitzcrank’s signature grab has a 20-second cooldown at level one? A well-versed player will abuse this window for near the full duration and look to gain an advantage.

The player who hasn’t face Blitz before and hasn’t done their research may think that his CD is much shorter and thus, may give Blitz an extra few crucial seconds of time to do as he pleases.Blitz WTLThere are many resources out there to help your knowledge. If you’re about to head into a game right now, make sure to boot up our Pre Game. It will often include crucial details about your matchup and what you should look to do in order to gain a lead or play safely. If you want to go into research mode, our team likes going to the League of Legends wiki.

Find out what works for you, if you need to take notes do it. If you need to keep flashcards on common matchups that you run into do it. The more you know and remember, the better equipped you’ll be in understanding your limits.

Understand your champion pool and your limits

In order to evaluate yourself to a good degree, make sure to have a consistent core of champions that you stick to for both your main role and secondary. Be at a confident comfort level with them and keep a close eye on the champ’s win rate.

If you’re playing well with a win rate of 50% with a good number of games, keep going!

If however, you have a 35% win rate over 20 games with your Yasuo, you may want to consider that your mechanics may not be strong enough to handle a champ with such a high learning curve.

As a Mid laner, you may be better served playing someone like Malzahar. Although Malz isn’t as flashy as Yasuo, wins mean the same regardless of how complex your champion is. Take a visit to our tier list if you’re looking to establish or bolster your pool.Tier List headerEach patch, our experts lay out the strongest picks for each patch with options for each role ranging from Severe to Easy in terms of Learning Curve Difficulty. If you’re still a new or lower level player, this can be incredibly helpful if you haven’t developed the skills to read the meta on your own (keep an eye out in the near future!).

Look up to better players and compare yourself to them

Once you have a champion pool that you stick to, you can combat the Dunning-Kruger effect by observing players that play the same role/champions as you at advanced tiers.

Doing so will help you stay grounded and have a basis in the reality that is higher level play. What’s the difference between you and them? Are they warding more? Do they die less? What are their items and build orders like?

Take the time to watch high-level VODs for your role. As a Jungler for example, you may want to keep an eye on how a higher level Jungler chooses their pathing route and how they time their ganks.

A Top laner on the other hand, could observe how to make effective trades and when to use that crucial Teleport.Agilio v AphromooOnce you find players of your role to look up to, take the next step in finding players that play the same champs. If you’re a Silver Bard, take a look at the stats and profiles of Bards Gold through Challenger. How do they differ between the tiers? Are there things that they do that you can start doing now? Take it step by step and aim to be more like these pseudo-mentors and someday, you’ll be in their shoes.

Compare yourself to yourself

This aspect may be the one that is most susceptible to the Dunning-Kruger effect – it will require strict honesty and consistency with yourself. You’ll need to come up with your own system that works for you, but in a nutshell, you want to be able to keep track of if you are truly improving over time.

If you’re doing well, keep at it! If you’re struggling, consider and isolate the different factors that may be contributing to that. How did your win rate change per week? Did you have a rough week at school and it affected your play? Keep note of that.

Set achievable goals and stick to them. Are you dying 6 times a game on average? Watch your replays to see what went wrong and then try to get it down to 4 or 5. Come up with a gameplan for how you’ll stay alive and stick to it (good time to check in to see what your pseudo-mentors are doing).

A useful feature within Mobalytics is the ability to sort your analysis between different amounts of games. Ideally, your GPI should fill out over time, how does it look over your past 50 games? Your last 20?

As it shifts and reforms, keep an eye on what you’ve been doing better and watch for things that may be slipping.Compare yourself GPIFor those of you that aren’t huge data/number heads, you may want to consider something more text-based. These would be methods such as using a notebook, spreadsheets, or even a whiteboard next to your desk. Here’s a peek at our Discord mod, P!CKLEPANTS’s spreadsheet:Picklepants spreadsheetPickle is a Diamond level Support, and this is just an example of an extra step that his peers Bronze through Plat likely are not taking. He keeps track of things like the champ he played, what champ he played against, his stats, and even some key takeaways for that match. Something like this can be incredibly valuable because you can isolate if you’re having trouble with a certain matchup and if you repeat the same mistakes in your notes.

Keep a healthy mentality

Consistent improvement is a path of ups and downs…you must have a strong desire to accept that you will be continually running into players better than you. When you get better, you will begin to beat people that you couldn’t before.

Then, you will inevitably face people that are much better than you. Either way, be humble enough to accept the good times without getting too egotistical and be hungry enough to not get discouraged by a tough loss.

Achieving this balanced and intentional emotional state will help you focus gameplay instead of having to improve your mental state.

Thanks for reading. If you want to discuss this Dunning-Kruger article or want a place for honest, constructive feedback, head to our Discord community