PokéPrep #9 How To Prevent/Overcome Burnout In VGC

Hello Reddit, I’m Primitive and today I am here to present you with the next article of the PokéPrep series! This will (hopefully) be a weekly series of articles focused on providing simple, actionable tips that can be applied to improve your VGC gameplay but don’t involve actual in-game tips! Today we will be covering my experience with severe burnout, how to prevent it for yourself, and how I overcame it to hopefully help anyone else suffering from burning out.

Burnout sucks, no better way for me to put it. Not only does it make you have a negative mindset towards playing, but it also prevents you from getting better at the game and in most cases makes you worse since you miss the weekly evolution of the metagame. 

I just got over a 6 week burnout period myself where I played little to no VGC the entire time and now heading into the Players Cup 3 I’m left feeling miles behind despite all the work I putting prior to the burnout.

Today I want to give some tips/talk about what I learned during burnout, how to prevent it, and how I came back after this period.

Now before I get into the tips I would like to explain my story on how I became so burned out for such a long period of time after spending the last year so passionately studying and loving the game. (If you just want the tips on preventing burnout feel free to just scroll past this!)

From 2016-2019 I was a full time sponsored Hearthstone player which had me playing the game for long hours 6+ days a week to have a shot at competing at the highest level of competition. When I transitioned away from Hearthstone I looked to fill that gap that was my life for those years, I tried other card games like Magic, and Legends of Runeterra but found my passion again for VGC like I had in previous years (VGC ‘12-’15). 

When I came back to VGC I dived in head first and was fully submerged and replicated the hours I previously spent playing Hearthstone in VGC meaning I was playing/watching/studying VGC for 8+ hours a day 6-7 days a week during the quarantine. And I had a really powerful moment where I set myself the goal to become the 2020 VGC world champion which at the time was a very vivid and real goal that I knew I could accomplish if I set myself to it and followed through. I was a consistent and decent player in past metagames and I felt confident I grew as a competitor during my years of competing in Hearthstone and could convert into greater results in VGC. However, I also knew I would need to put in a lot of time and work to make this goal a reality. We know now that the world championships didn’t happen but in early 2020 I was hopeful and kept that hope alive by learning as much as I could about VGC and how to improve as a player.

After prepping hard for the Players Cup 1 and performing terribly I had the harsh reality that I was nowhere as good at VGC as I was in previous years and really had a lot of work ahead of me to be able to be on track to accomplish my massive goal. I immediately got to work playing in 2+ tours a week, watching streams whenever I could, spending close to 100% of my free time playing VGC, and even doing things such as daily mantra meditation/affirmations about becoming a great player, studied the diets and habits of top chess players, and read many books about mental competition.

I did this consistently almost every day for months leading up to the Players Cup 2. However I ended the Players Cup 2 with an abysmal 2-2 record which made me step back and analyze how I could have done so terribly after spending so much time working towards becoming better and more knowledgeable at the game. At the time I couldn’t put my finger on it all I knew was that after this terrible performance I needed a break as I was beginning to feel the onset of burnout and didn’t feel the insane level of work I was putting in was giving me any noticeable benefits. What I didn’t know was this would be the hardest burnout I have ever felt in my 15+ years of competitive play. All of this grinding had really taken a mental toll and I soon began to despise VGC to a degree and didn’t even want to touch the game.

However, now with the Players Cup 3 coming up I began practicing again and the burnout began to dissipate and now I can clearly see what I did wrong while on this pursuit to become the best player I could and saw how it actually made me a worse player by overworking myself and not allowing true progress to happen. Today I would like to share what I learned to help other players prevent this in hopes they never feel how I felt about this game I love.

Preventing Burnout

Schedule Time Away:

This was my biggest issue that caused me to burnout. I never took time away from VGC or the thoughts of VGC. Even when I would talk or play other games with friends there was still a conversation of VGC involved. This is a great sign that you are loving and enjoying playing the game but over long periods of time it can be mentally draining.

With my new practice schedule I have at least 1 full day where I don’t allow myself to play VGC. This is my “day off” if you will where I just chill and enjoy myself away from VGC, and social media. Competition no matter the game I’m focusing on is the only area of my life that I haven’t given myself a scheduled break from for the most of my life. I know the benefits its had for me for my work, studies, working out and other hobbies and knew I had to incorporate this into my training schedule to help prevent future burnout. Taking scheduled time off is incredibly refreshing as it keeps me excited about working on my game by giving me time to fully digest the information I gained that week of grinding, and clear my mind so I come back to it ready to do the work necessary to grow.

Although many VGC players play daily if just for a couple hours I believe it’s highly beneficial to competitive players to have 1-2 entire days off from VGC where you focus on other tasks/activities. This is a weekend like many have for work and school but instead this is a weekend away from competition.

Focus On One Thing At A Time:

One of my biggest mistakes I made was working on too much at once. For example I was trying to learn the stats of every viable Pokémon, make a tournament winning level team, play in multiple tournaments, create written and video content, flowchart matchups, and working towards laddering to #1, many of these usually on the same day. 

All of those are great for making you a better player but when you don’t allow yourself time to focus in on one task and fully indulge in it you won’t be able to fully digest and retain all the information you just took in. I would work on one thing and then have to do it again in the coming days because while I was working on one task I would be thinking about the other things I needed to do and that would cause me to not be present in the moment and therefore not get all I could out of my time.

Going forward I think the best strategy is to break up the time you have to play each week into chunks equal to their importance. So maybe 2-3 days are fully committed to practicing and applying what you learned in other areas, another day is dedicated to studying matchups, cores, stats, watching content etc, and then another 1-2 days dedicated to playing in tournaments. This way you can just fully indulge into that activity and get the most out of your time.

Have Pokémon Related Activities That Are More For Fun

Playing Pokémon shouldn’t always be a serious competition, although that’s what many of us are here for, only being in the competitive mindset without any way to enjoy the game outside of that spectrum will quickly make the game more of a job/chore than a hobby.

This could include singles, doubles OU, little cup, draft leagues, nuzlockes of you favorite game, laddering with friends using obscure Pokémon or even playing older formats to name a few.

Know When To Take A Break

When playing this game emotions can run high due to the element of random effects, and the chance to miss moves. Whenever you catch yourself feeling tilted, or angry it’s almost certainly time to walk away. I completely understand revenge tilt, where you want to play to regain the ranks you lost while laddering, or to fix the holes you find in your team, however, there is time for that in the future and you will be able to more effectively accomplish those tasks with a clear mind.

Although I have gotten control over my emotions over the years of competing I definitely have had some emotions cloud my thought process from time to time and whenever I continue playing in tilt I 100% of the time later regret continuing playing and wished I just walked away. Playing angry or tilted will almost always do more harm than good by slowly turning your mindset towards the game a negative one, and also making you go into your next play session already tilted. Remember this is a game and it’s meant to be fun, if you aren’t having fun and consistently angry at the game then you likely have slipped into the feeling I mentioned before of it becoming a job/chore for you and should consider taking an extended break.

How I Defeated Burnout

From what I can tell there is no perfect way to overcome burnout that anyone can implement and see immediate results but I will share my thought process and how I regained my burning passion for VGC.

Something I didn’t mention earlier is that I have been actively competing in some sort of card game or esport since 2006. So the competitive nature and the habit to grow as a competitor is deeply ingrained within me. Taking a break for multiple weeks without any sort of tournaments or grinding caused me to start missing that feeling especially after how much I was playing the past few years. 

Step 1 of overcoming burnout started off with the break, I took a 6 week break where the only VGC I played were my matches for the draft league I was in. However, at about the 3 week period I started to miss the habit of grinding for competition and having that hobby to progress in. This feeling lingered but I still wasn’t ready to come back to VGC so I looked at coming back to either Hearthstone or Legends of Runeterra. After playing a couple games of each I didn’t really have the drive to play a card game so I just moved on and went back to just focusing on work and school. However, by week 5 of my break I was having dreams about winning tournaments, traveling to events, and even grinding pokemonshowdown. I knew that I wanted to get back on the grind but still wasn’t super enthusiastic about playing series 7. I knew that I would regret not working hard at progressing as a player when the live circuit came back so I started to actively combat burnout which leads me to step 2. I reviewed some notes from my daily journal that I took early in the year when my drive to become a world champion was at its peak. I read all the things I wrote and my plans of action to make them happen, this really kicked me in the butt and this is where I began to feel the spark to grind again first start to come back. After getting that spark back I watched some video’s that give me motivation to grow as a player such as the world championship finals, Wolfe’s videos reviewing worlds finals, and even some vlogs of VGC/TCG players at events in the past such as regionals, nationals, and worlds. This really got me in the mindset of playing Pokémon and got me online practicing almost immediately.

That’s when series 8 was announced and originally I was super disappointed and wasn’t happy that I was going to be forced to play another legend format. However, I have always been in the mindset in any game that I play that I can’t change the format I play and if I want to compete at a high level I will just need to learn the format and work with what I’m given. To my surprise as soon as I started to play the format I felt that spark turn into a fierce flame, I knew there was going to be a lot of room for improvement in this format and the new style of teambuilding with only 1 restricted was something that would have lots of room for creativity and I would be able to implement my teambuilding knowledge as well as knowledge of previous restricted formats. This caused me to go back into full “VGC brain” (a term I have had in my life since 2006 where I think about VGC consistently with a very happy attitude) and was ready to get into the grind for Players Cup 3.

Now we’re in the present, and I am fully back and loving VGC. I wrote this article in just one day after a long break of not making VGC content because I once again want to work on sharing my knowledge I have gained through 15 years of competition to help others grow. Burnout is not something that you will feel often, or maybe at all, but being able to implement these strategies to prevent burnout will most definitely help you in your quest to becoming a Pokémon master.

To recap on how I came back from VGC

  1. Take an extended break fully away from the game, social media included.
  2. Take time to review you purpose for playing, rediscover why you want to grow as a player. That could be to become the very best like my drive, to just have fun and compete, or to just keep up for when live competition comes back.
  3. Watch/read content that motivates you to play
  4. Slowly comeback into playing until you feel ready to dive back in fully.

Video version of this article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6GUEKPU3-Y

Thank you for reading today’s article! If you enjoyed please give this post a share, or consider checking out my social media for more VGC improvement content. You can find my Twitter here, YouTube here and my Twitch channel here. If you have any topic suggestions for future PokéPrep articles please feel free to DM on twitter!  I hope you enjoyed and I wish you a fantastic day!

Published by Primitive

My name is Michael, but if you know my from competitive gaming you probably know me as Primitive. I'm a life long competitor in various card games, and turn based games who still has the burn to compete and work to be my best. I have been on a health and fitness journey since February 2018 and it is now one of my burning passions, making one of my new major goals to become a personal trainer to help others see the benefits exercise and nutrition can bring!

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