The Illusion of Statistics

Many times in games and in life, emphasis is placed heavily on statistics, but not necessarily on the conditions of those statistics.  You see them everywhere in society from 4 out of 5 Dentists recommend this toothpaste to how much horsepower this new car boasts.  Numbers and standards are always thrown around, but less focus is on how those numbers actually translate into real life.  Not only do the statistics matter, but the related facts and information are also very valid.

Let’s look at the second example I stated, how much horsepower a vehicle has.  Horsepower is a recognized standard with a set formula.  It is a long held standard and many people know how to gauge it.  But when looking at horsepower and translating it into your vehicle’s speed and power, there are other factors to account for.  These factors are important things such as weight, gear ratios, towing capacity and drivetrain efficiency.  Putting 200 horsepower into a pickup truck, mid-sized sedan, lawnmower, tank or motorcycle produces effects that are dramatically different.

The 200 Horsepower Lawnmower

So, let’s take a look at League of Legends.  The first example we’ll see is with the new Vladimir changes.  Mathematically, the new patch doesn’t change Vladimir’s late game effective life.  While mathematically and statistically, at values below ~500 AP, your life is improved, it doesn’t take into account real situations.  If you’re playing Vladimir, you will typically use Hemoplague into Transfuse immediately, negating all of the life lost, and then troll pool away.  With the old passive, you would be at full health anyway after casting your ultimate and Transfusing.  This means that while statistically correct, realistically the changes have more factors to them than one parameter.

The second example I will use is Skarner and Shyvana at IEM Kiev.  Both Skarner and Shyvana made 8 appearances.  The record for the appearances on Skarner was 1/7 (12.5% win rate) while Shyvana was 6/2 (75% win rate).  Mulling over these, could one could deduce that Shyvana is a stronger pick than Skarner? While nobody would take how strong a character is based on 8 outings, this effect is seen scaled up over the course of many tournaments and ladder games to have an impact on people’s perception of that character.  What is left out is that Diamondez’ Shyvana was crowned MVP and M5 (his team) completely swept the tournament, while their opponents often ran Skarner.

Beast Mode: Version Kiev

These examples are a prelude to the meat of this article, and that is:  statistics aren’t a direct representation of reality.  When you’re looking at the most prized statistic of all, kill:death:assist, realize that sometimes a 1/3/5 person impacted the game more than a 7/3/1 person.  Don’t look at the end game screen and see a low ratio and automatically assume that person was the reason you lost, just like you shouldn’t assume that the fed person is the reason your won.

When you are evaluating the game, look more at the impact that person had rather than the raw data from how well they did.  Did this person initiate good fights for your team and happen to die?  Did they push and take towers while your team wasn’t doing much?  Did your fed squishy just get the last hit on secured kills and then leave your team to die?  Don’t be mislead by numbers for your performance or other’s.                        

I may have gone negative, but a well placed ultimate made sure my team cleaned them up and took 2 towers.

In the media, we are bombarded by statistics.  Advertising is chock full of statistics that skew their product to look great.  Cell phone companies boast the fastest speed without telling you that speed is only available in 2 cities in the US.  This battery lasts longer than another battery in some specific application they don’t tell you.  Numbers, standards and little asterisks filling in those caveats that make their stats nothing but misinformation.

There are always expected values, just like horsepower, but they are not the end all be all.  A person who went 1/10/0 is clearly negative to the game just like a mid-sized sedan with 400 horsepower is fast. However, don’t be so quick to believe loose facts based on statistics and don’t be fooled by numbers alone.  Find out what gravity those numbers have in both games and real life and base your judgment on that.  Until next time…



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