Phrase Alert: L’Esports D’Escalier


Sometimes you see a phrase and it’s like you don’t know how your vocabulary has functioned without it for so long. Today Chris Hecker’s blog (you know – him off Spy Party) introduced me to to the term “l’esports d’escalier“.

It came into his life via a tweet by a chap called Matthew R.F. Balousek and he’s taken it to mean that moment when you realise the perfect play you should have made in a competitive online game well after the window for making said play has passed.

Obvs it’s based on the French phrase “l’esprit d’escalier” which describes the moment when you think of the perfect retort too late to use it. I frequently encounter l’esprit d’escalier and wonder how different my life would be if I’d just said the witty thing instead of “Yeah but… so’s… it’s not… well that’s… SHUT UP.”

Same with competitive gaming and the regret which comes with knowing what you should have done well after committing a garbled disaster of a play:

“If I’d only reloaded and emptied that clip into his smug, leaping face instead of blundering into a crate while out of ammo!”

“If I’d had a BKB I could have survived that fight long enough for us to make a comeback and if I’d had a force staff – WELL, I could have led everyone a merry dance round that jungle long enough that Phantom Assassin could have…”

“No, Brendan, it is *I* who will vote *you* to die in City of Horror rather than trusting you like a blithering buffoon!”

So thanks Matthew and Chris. And now, RPS readers, tell me of your own l’esports d’escalier moments. I would like to feel better about my disasters.


  1. Steven Hutton says:

    Any time I don’t Dragon Punch…


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    phuzz says:

    I can’t think of a specific, but usually I regret it when I’ve rushed in, guns blazing, when I should have hung back, and maybe chucked a grenade or something.
    It doesn’t matter if the game in question doesn’t have guns or grenades, it’s still usually me, in a crumpled heap on the ground, while all my mates say “why did you just charge in there?”.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Using an IRL example. It’s the things that rush through your head seconds after leaving a job interview that you realise you should have said.

    • Vin_Howard says:

      see: “I immediately regret this decision”

    • El_Emmental says:

      Growing up on Day of Defeat and its deadly grenades (a real shame DoD:S nerfed them and added a big smoke trial :/), I suffer from the opposite syndrome: I’m always throwing grenades/explosives, even when I *know* the enemy will be coming around the corner. Since most games have rather weak grenades, it frequently interferes with my performance.

  3. Horg says:

    Planetside 2, I had a chance to kill the current number 2 on the global scoreboard, a notoriously effective air farmer by the name of ‘LazyTR’. We literally ran through each other during a base capture attempt when I was coming down from a roof, pretty much the only time I have ever seen this guy on the ground. He got the drop on me because just before I took the corner, I thought ‘there wont be anyone in here, better reload now’. So for the sake of 2 shells in a 12 mag shotgun, I let the guy get the drop on me. I got my shield up while finishing the reload animation, but the head start was too much, he got away with a sliver of life left. Casual reloading costs lives.

    • satan says:

      Ah compulsive reloading, years of CS mostly cured me of it, just because it’s often the person who saves that one bullet (at the end of a close range shootout when both people are reloading), who gets to line up the leisurely headshot and win.

  4. Exitalterego says:

    Pretty much every round in World of Tanks, where I get far to carried away with the charging and the cannons firing and usually end up running into a group of 4-5 heavies :P

  5. Cochise779 says:

    This definitely applies to single player games as well – particularly action games and strategy games on ironman.

    Take the Arkham franchise, where combat is about flow, and after the battle you realize that one thing you should have done to have taken down twenty bad guys without missing a beat and getting some ridiculous x100 combo.

    Or XCOM, when you trigger a wave with your last action of the turn and watch your squad crumble.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Civ is basically a constant exercise in this sort of thinking.
      “Should have done………….” is something that goes through the mind all the damn time with that game.

    • Rizlar says:

      Yeah, my initial thought was EU4. Halfway through a awful war: ‘oh, I could have just declared war on this ally instead and fought two countries instead of four’. Or struggling to keep everything from falling apart, knee deep in rebels, and realising that lowering local autonomy on recently annexed provinces is really, really not worth the 0.02 extra ducats per month.

  6. BooleanBob says:

    There are ways in which this can be a boon, rather than a bane. My job is pretty boring and monotonous, and running through a particularly galling defeat in my head and trying to work out where it all went wrong can provide literally singles of minutes of diversion.

  7. Geebs says:

    I have been known to get invaded repeatedly by the same ludicrously overpowered warp-behind-and-one-hit-backstab-kill guy in Dark Souls 2. I was reduced to just putting to controller down and going to make a cup of coffee whenever he appeared. It’s a sad day when the only way you can fight back is to make it too easy for the other guy.

  8. scratchmonkey says:

    I had this in a sealed MtG round-robin tourney match at work yesterday: realized that I had an enchantment that would have allowed me to block two attacks with one blocker, kill them both, then swing for the win next turn. So not restricted to video games.

    • hewhosayszonk says:

      Oh my lord, MTG is chronic for this sort of pain. At the Fate Reforged prerelease, I had out the enchantment which lets you manifest a card for 3W, I was in a bad position and thought I could use extra blockers, so in the opponent’s end step I dumped mana into it, the first card I manifested was Mob Rule (take control of all opponent’s creatures over / under 4 power until end of turn) – if I’d just drawn the card instead of manifesting it, I would have won in that turn.

      • Therax says:

        I don’t think this is quite the same thing. The concept is where you had all the information you needed but made a wrong (or just different) decision, and in hindsight you can see that a different (valid) decision could have led to a better outcome. Unless I’m misunderstanding the MtG “manifesting” mechanic you’re referring to, you had no idea at the time you made the decision to manifest what the top card of your deck was, so it wouldn’t have been a rational decision at the time to just wait for the draw.

  9. grom.5 says:

    I’m playing quite a lot of Monster Hunter this days and it’s one of the perfect game for that.
    *Launch mission* Let’s fight ! *get hurt* Time to heal…*Find that you forget all your healing items*…Shit…

    You have also a notion of sharpness. If your weapon is not sharp enough you just bounce back on the monster skin which leave you wide open.
    And when you don’t take your 5sec to sharpen your sword because you know your opponent is healing, and you lost because a bad bounce allow the Boss to kill you… Well, you have your “effet d’escalier”

  10. Discord-Lexia says:

    No, Dissy, Those aren’t coins, those are projectiles!

    Comeon! I’m so close to the checkpoint! Those are spikes! Avoid them! *leaps into spikes* FUUUUUUU

    STUPID KEYBOARD! *bang bang bang* NUUU! My Enter key!

    Need I go on?