Understanding Gaming: What is ELO and How does it Work?
The original video game was Pong. Two straight lines acting as paddles as a square ball darted between them. At the time of its creation, this was groundbreaking tech. Nowadays, as we all know, games are far more advanced. Capable of generating entire universes. Simulating living cities. Allows players to live out their wildest fantasies.
But one aspect of gaming that stayed consistent from the Pong days is the idea of competitive gaming. Pong was a one-on-one battle. And games have never lost that underlying idea of being just that. A game. Of course, we have many cooperative games as well. Left 4 Dead is designed to be played as a fully cooperative adventure. Yet even that has a multiplayer PvP mode.
The Competitive Drive
Humans are competitive by nature. It is hard-wired into most animals. The need to fight to survive. To compete and show strength to remaining dominant. But we have advanced far beyond our primal need for fighting. Now we are a cultured species we use competition as a way to entertain, drive us, and motivate us. And video games are no different.
But video games have one advantage that more traditional sports do not. Video games can use the gift of the internet to connect players from all over the globe. Two people who have never met, and may never meet, can face it off in a deadly battle of sword and shields. But, as with any sport, not all players are equal in skill and ability. So how does the system decide who to match you up against?
ELO is not a new concept. It was created in 1939, long before competitive online gaming. Originally it was designed for games such as chess. Games that use ELO are considered a Zero-Sum game. This is any game where, as one player does well, another player does not.
Think of it like this. In League of Legends, you get gold for killing other players. If you kill five players and they all kill no one, you have gained a significant advantage, while they have technically lost out. As your stats rise, theirs does not. You can increase your ELO by continually winning or using one of the safer elo boost companies to get you to your target ELO rank.
So any competitive game that puts players on an even playing field at the start of a round can be considered a Zero-Sum game. This includes games like Call of Duty. Despite the varying loadouts, no player has a direct power advantage over another at the start.
How Does it Work
The ELO system itself is fairly simple. Every player in a game is given a ranking shown as a number value. So unlike a rank class such as bronze or silver, your ELO would most likely be shown as a value like 1500. The main principle of ELO is that you will be matched against people with similar ELO ratings as your own. So if your rating is 1500 you will face players in the 1400-1600 range. The idea being they will be in a similar skill zone to yourself.
Whenever you win a game, you take ELO from the opposing players. Your value goes up, theirs goes down. Similar to the Zero-Sum idea. This is where the competitive nature comes into play. When you face off against another player, there is more at stake than just your honor. You risk falling into a lower skill band.
Problem with ELO
In a game such as Chess ELO is a fantastically balanced tool. Since chess is always two-player, you only have yourself to rely on. But in multiplayer games, such as League of Legends, you are faced with the prospect of ELO hell.
ELO hell is when your ELO score is so low, you are only matched with and against players of terrible skill. This makes it difficult to win a game because, despite your opponents being unskilled, so is your team. ELO that relies on team play is disproportionately unbalanced by many external factors.