The Opportunity Cost of Smite

Welcome to the second edition of my column entitled Hells to the Noes in which I discuss things whose absence from my life causes me no loss of sleep. Google tells me that opportunity cost is defined as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” I just uninstalled Smite for the second time and I need to let off some steam while pondering the last three months I’ve spent playing this fine MOBA.

That’s not sarcastic at all, by the way. Smite is an excellent game. It has elements of MMOs, FPSs, and even Street Fighter wrapped up into a neat little package. It receives regular updates, balance patches, new Gods, skins galore, rewards – pretty much everything anyone who likes Shiny Stuff and a level playing field would ever want.

I’ve come to a point, however, where I’m thinking that it might not be the game for me. Central to this statement is the notion of opportunity cost and why doing other things with my time may very well prove to be more productive and satisfying. Forthwith, a brief review of the pros and cons of my time with Smite:


  • You jump in and fight other people without prerequisites.
  • There is a large god pool (currently 76) to choose from. All play styles are accommodated.
  • It is fun, fast-paced, and skillshot based.
  • It costs nothing if you don’t want it to. All purchases are optional. The Ultimate God Pack offers maximum bang for your buck.
  • There are lots and lots of shinies to collect.


  • It is primarily the domain of young men in their teens and twenties. I am none of those things.
  • It is Serious Business competitive. This has inspired unparalleled toxicity on my part.
  • While playing this game, time elapses at triple its normal rate.
  • A large time investment is required (150+ hours) to achieve quality matches.
  • Competitive matches are 25-50 minutes long. Penalties for leaving are substantial.

The last match I played before uninstalling for the second time was a blowout and not in our favor. I was playing a god I did not like in the hunter (ADC) role. The warrior rotated from the solo lane. Three enemy gods were in our lane. I landed a kill with a long-range ability and the warrior stopped playing long enough to type in the chat box to tell me not to ks (kill steal).

I went ballistic.

I’ll spare you the details of my rage. Suffice it to say that I was not a nice person. The warrior ending up leaving the 30-minute match early. Every surrender vote failed because I voted no so that I could get the maximum amount of worshipers out of the loss. That would mean getting to Rank 1 on that god as quickly as possible so that I would never have to play him again. I would only need to have him available for ranked play in order to hold him for another player before the enemy team had a chance to ban that god from that match.

In other words, I wasn’t playing that god because it was fun. I was playing it as a prerequisite for ranked play.

One hundred hours invested and I’ve mastered half of the god pool. If you really want to be a player in ranked, you need to have 100% of them mastered and therefore available for play. I’m at account level 30 and I have far more than 18 gods mastered – the minimum requirements for participating in ranked play – so why not just jump right into ranked?

Oh, hey, look, it’s that cognitive dissonance thing Jeromai was talking about. I want to be maximally effective and prepared – no, I must be maximally effective and prepared – before I start playing at a competitive level. At the same time, I’m not having fun. I’m generating large amounts of drama in-game. I’m encountering things that make my pulse race (good) and my blood pressure rise (bad). I want to have a nicely made bed with freshly laundered sheets while shitting in said bed.

Conflicting goals, conflicting desires.

What to do? There are other activities that offer rewards without the emotional roller coaster: writing, Secret Worlding (very low key), WvW in GW2. I joined a WvW guild and we run around getting points and fighting and defending. Time flows at its normal rate; it’s a positive social experience with what you would call a more “mature” crowd. Why not pursue that avenue for a while and shoo off the drama llamas?

It’s stubbornness in the face of those final two options for resolving cognitive dissonance. The solution I’ve proffered above is 2a) Changing the Belief or Actions. In this case, actions: I stop playing Smite. But there’s that 2b) Integration lingering there, looking me over and saying “You could be a more moderate person. You could play 1-2 games of Smite a day until you’ve mastered all the gods and then go play your favorites in ranked like you said you wanted to. Right? Your temper flares up, but you’re better than that. Just learn to control it.”

I don’t know. I only know binary solutions for these things. The house needs to be cleaned and there are weeds growing out on the front lawn. There are keeps to defend and siege, messed up stories to be found in the dark corners of Tokyo. All kinds of stuff that could be done with the time I would otherwise spend on improving my reflexes, mechanics, situational awareness, composure, shotcalling – the types of things that transfer positively to other games. Leadership characteristics. I feel like a bit of a failure for not persevering.

I’ll have to think on it.



7 thoughts on “The Opportunity Cost of Smite

  1. I was nodding my head while reading your post, and alternately laughing (all internal – am in public right now :p). This is my exact experience with BF4 of all games. No other gaming experience gets me as wound up as some good pvp. The rage comes when I find myself on a dieing streak, or mainly dealing with an obvious game imbalance and the players that ONLY play to take advantage of this. Uninstalling I believe is the right decision because rationality no longer exists when games can provoke such extremes of emotion. I’ve done it with BF games in the past – it’s just sometimes cold turkey is the best option!

    I think you have a great writing style btw.


    1. That was the focal point of my deliberation – would it have been a better use of my time to be playing games that don’t fuel the fires of unchecked rage? What experiences would I have been missing out on had I chosen to play a game that didn’t offer the thrill of close-quarters, infuriating fisticuffs?

      Over the past week I’ve seen several Smite Pro League (top tier) players openly express their frustration and burnout with ranked play. No synchronicity or voodoo implied, just a nod of the head and a thought cloud bubbling up: “Is it worth it?”

      Thank you for your kind words. I’ll stick a pin in my ear to deflate my head a little to keep myself grounded.


  2. Opportunity cost is such utter nonsense. Being alive IS opportunity cost. Look, here I am, typing this when I could be hang-gliding off Everest. What an opportunity missed! Or I could be down in the kitchen, drinking a coffee and reading my book. But, sadly I have to operate in space-time not some infinite world of imagination and choices have to be made.

    Never think about what you *could* be doing with your time. Only think about what you *are* doing and what you *want* to be doing. Align those two. Check periodically that the answers haven’t changed. Re-align as appropriate. If this was paid employment or social responsibility there would be an argument for spending time doing things you don’t, immediately, want to do but for entertaining yourself in your own free time there can be none.

    The Cognitive Dissonance issue is harder in that it predicates a situation where you are already conflicted over what you want to do and how you want to spend your time. That article Jeromai links in his piece is very good, I think. The optimum response, Integration, which the writer describes as “the most complex and … the most effort” appears to me to be, rather, the simplest and most obvious. That’s how I would naturally resolve internal conflicts like this. The other options all look harder and less likely to be effective anyway but that’s a personality/psychology thing.

    I guess the hardest part is actually understanding what it is that we *do* want. And to accept that it changes.


    1. Well, maybe I’m better at writing about some infinite world of imagination than I am about reality. I don’t normally like to quantify my fun by using garish economic terms and other references to the hard sciences but it was the first thing that came to mind and I thought it had some relevance. I suppose if I were more adept at the art of pragmatism I wouldn’t be chronically agonizing over the best use of my leisure time.


  3. Ah, cognitive dissonance. It sucks. 😦

    One possibility to consider is reducing frequency, rather than quantity. Set aside 1-2 Smite Nights a week, and dedicate the other days to other things.

    Or investing the effort to find a community that will help you increase quality (albeit, this is very much up to good luck, after some effort invested joining groups.)

    Just stealing from my own see-saw experience with GW2 raids, my present raid group has settled nicely into a twice a week schedule. We play hardcore for about 2-3 hours, give or take 1-2h, depending on how much we suck that week or if we managed to assemble a supergroup. That’s usually enough these days to get my full raid clear of two wings, satisfying the min-max efficiency I-want-to-do-what-those-other-people-can part of me.

    The rest of the week is free time for me to do whatever it is I want, be it slumming it with the hoi polloi *ahem running around really happily and really casually mining nodes and joining zergs in HoT in tune with the casual carebear part of me* or yep, playing Minecraft in full on hermit mode so that the introvert side of me doesn’t freak out from all the grouping.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a very sensible approach and it’s one that I had actually been using without consciously applying it when I wanted to take a break from Smite. I’d have, like you suggested, 1-2 nights a week for Smite and then I’d do other things on the other days. That just might work.

      I have been solo-queueing 100% of the time which most likely has something to do with the quality of my experience. I just don’t have the motivation to find good people and keep them on my friends list (the aggressively insulated part of me tends to do that).

      I’m going to take what you said and give it another go. Third time’s the charm.


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