Tank Philosophy Primer
There are a lot of strategies you can use to get better at driving tanks and doing damage to others, but to me they are all aspects of the same basic premise: In order to improve you first need to understand the process you are trying to improve.
Now, being the curious type who is always asking uncomfortable questions about stuff people take for granted, things aren’t that simple for me. I’ve always found that when basic assumptions are made clear, discussion and comprehension both go much easier.
For this reason, I will here present some basic schools of thought that are prevailent in the “Blitz Universe”, as Martindogger likes to call it. I will also endeavour to explain how holding certain beliefs and making certain assumptions (like “we are going to lose” ) will impact your tank driving over time.
You will note, perhaps with some amusement, that I am very firmly rooted in my own beliefs, and I will make no attempt to conceal this fact. On the contrary, I will attempt to explain exactly why I feel they are the most warranted.
The Solipsist View
Solipsism is the belief that no other minds exist outside the self, meaning other people aren’t real. This is very often what it feel like when you are new to the game; you don’t really feel like you are playing against other people – you feel like you are playing against faceless pixels.
As you progress, the Solipsist view is very hard to get rid of, especially since it lies very close to one of the basic principles of Tank Philosophy; namely the idea that you always have to look to yourself first when you review a battle.
So if you want to disregard the fact there are other people inside those tanks, where’s the problem? It’s not so much Solipsims itself as the consequences of Solipsist thinking that are harmful to your progress.
The Solpisist player will not cooperate with the Green team, because they are all in his or her head anyway. Even if this doesn’t amount to actual Yoloing, the player who goes off with total distregard for team tactics will not achieve long-term success. The Solipsist player will also struggle to learn things about other players and use them against them later, for the same reason.
Any change or event in the game is perceived to be aimed at the player personally: They have been nerfed or cursed or Matchmaking and RNG has been fixed against them personally, et cetera. The fact this is akin to actual paranoia aside, in all my years as a tank driver, I have never seen anything strange happen that couldn’t happen to any of us, at any given time.
This refusal to view the self as part of a collective is the basic problem of Solipsism, and it is what hinders progress and evolution. Solipsists are concerned only with themselves, and so they fail to take into account the fact that everyone struggles the same, and this can be used against them.
By the same token, Solipsist players will rage and spew obscenities at others, totally oblivious to the fact that it’s only a game and peoples’ feelings get hurt.
Sadly, the Solipsist will never achieve true understanding of tank philosophy: only technical proficiency is available to them. Also loneliness, despair, depression, and ultimately, Tetris.
The Stoic view
I will admit to having had the most clashes with Stoic players over the years. The Stoic view means to accept the facts, things and processes around you as they are, and realising your own inability to change them. For this reason, one should seek solace in acceptance, and not go off like Münchhaussen and try to fight tier X windmills.
The Stoic view is championed by some excellent players, much better than I am, and so it is perhaps hard for me to criticize it. Another reason for this is I find many aspects of the Stoic mindset appealing – yeah, I agree some teams cannot be carried, some armour cannot be penetrated, and sometimes there just isn’t anything else to be done; you will have to settle for top damage on a loss.
You will also be excused for thinking I have made Stoic arguments in the past: I do think there are premises and facts that are the same for everyone, and so could be considered unchangeable, but the fact is these “facts” change all the time. Vehicles and maps are adjusted, added and removed allt he times; physics and functions are changed all the time. The “physical” pixel-world is constantly changing, as are players themselves with every battle they enter.
So the true Solipsist view holds that nothing ever really changes, and that what you need to learn isn’t what you can imagine yourself doing, but what your limits are. As long as you keep within the boundaries of your own limitations and the limitations of the world around you, you’ll be fine.
And a lot of it makes sense. Some of my best friends are Stoics. That said, some of my best friends are Solipsists as well, so… Either way, I don’t agree with the basic assumption of Stoicism; namely that our constraints are constant. I think they are in flux, and I think that makes a huge difference.
We come at last to my own view: the Constructivist as I like to call it. Social Contructivism, where these ideas come from, holds that the world around us is not accessible to us except through the filter of our own perception and understanding, as expressed through language.
If you thought “constructivism” had something to do with being constructive, I think it does. The realisation that both the self, other selves and our environment are constantly changing, means we can employ strategies to give this change direction.
This sounds complicated, I am sure, but it really is quite simple. If you drive tanks a lot, you will get better at driving tanks. Everyone knows that. So if you decide to drive a lot of Baby Panther, you will git gud at Baby Panther. You have then given your change direction.
The environment around us is harder to change, and it takes longer, but it it still possible. If you drive enough bad games in your Löwe, it will get buffed, I seen it happen.
So with the basic premise that change is possible, and being at least somewhat the master of ones’ own fate, not only can you git gud, you can actually work towards gitting gud in very specific ways.
For me, looking to yourself first is constructive, as long as you look to others as well. Accepting there are certain constraints is likewise constructive, as long as you don’t let them limit your imagination.
To the extent tank philosophy gets a bad rep, and I don’t think it does generally, it’s because of the many words and because it’s Elitist.
Now, Sometimes you have to use a lot of words to explain something really simple, because this simple thing needs to be seen in relation to other things in order to be understood correctly. Like “carry harder”. That’s a simple concept. It’s usually extrapolated to mean “get hit less and do more damage”. That also sounds simple.
But if you are grinding your tier VIII Medium with stock everything and getting circled constantly by laughing Heavy tanks, that may seem near-impossible; the very idea that you should be trying even harder than you already are seems ludicrous. Clearly someone who says “carry harder” is jibing you?
Not everyone who says “carry harder” is a tank philosopher, but when a tank philosopher says it, it doesn’t mean “do even more of what you are doing”, it means “do something different”. There is always something you can do, and that something doesn’t always have to be dominating the battle completely and stealing all the damage. Sometimes “carrying” means doing other things, like tracking, spotting, or taking one for the team; keeping people busy or distracting them.
The way you change from bad to better is by doing things differently. If you try to do the same thing over and over again, you’ll likely get the same result, only faster.
The charge of Elitism, I am afraid is true. I cannot argue against it. But to me, Elitism isn’t such a bad thing, because to me Elitism means Synergy, and all my friends pretty much are in Synergy.
Making decisions about ones world view can take a whole lifetime, and I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone what to think. With my stats, I shouldn’t even be telling people how to drive.
I would, however, make the suggestion that before you enter your next battle, take a moment to think about what kind of tank driver you are. And no matter what you decide, the very fact you are clarifying your basic assumptions will help give your progress some direction.
And if it doesn’t, it’s because Wargaming has nerfed you again.
Nothing to be done about that.
Suffer through it. Think happy thoughts.
Further notes on Stoicism:
Poker is an excellent example of where I agree with the stoic viewpoint, because a lot of people think it’s about luck and not skill. I the same manner, people think Blitz is about MM and vehicle statistics, when in fact it is also about skill.
Also the Stoic view is helpful when you are facing insurmountable odds; here again we are in agreement.
A nice counter-manoeuvre is making the fact of change a constant. I can’t argue with that, although I think separating the two is slightly more useful, methodologically. Still, good show.
Notes on the classic stoic quote “Don’t let potatoes drag you down”:
This is where it gets interesting, because the Stoic mindset I think is what makes a lot of Stoics such good players, or perhaps it’s what makes good players Stoics? Either way I think that’s exactly right – your expectations are invariably going to fail to materialise, which is a huge source of disappointment, rage, and other negative feelings.
When I say I don’t agree with the basic premise of Stoicism, that may be slightly pointed of me. Basically, we want the same thing: to reach a state of blissful existence in which we can drive tanks without any kind of hindrances or negativity. As the Blitz universe is random and chaotic, as well as influenced by the whims of thousands upon thousands of human agents (and Wargaming RNG voodoo), serenity must always come from inside yourself.
For me, accepting that some things are inevitable is a good start, but it isn’t enough for me, because it doesn’t tell the whole story. I think the realisation of potential through change is more important, and perhaps more basic than the constraints that surround it? This can of course be a question of disposition, and I suppose everyone has to find their own way to – and interpretation of – success.
So this has perhaps been less Basic tank philosophy and more basic tank Philosophy. To me the sight of Russian tanks is always a reminder of Stoicism:
I wonder which Russian tank is the most Stoic? I had a thought it might be the KV-5.
[This is an early attempt at formulating what is meant by “tank philosophy” and how one might relate actual philosophical thought to pixel tank driving.]