(Competitive Gaming) Caring Too Much Or Not Enough

When we think of competitive people we might imagine someone taking a game way too seriously. Maybe even to a point where they can’t win with grace or lose with dignity. I’ve seen comments from people that either consider a competitive streak as being a way to make others feel bad or from people that are trying to curb it. I can be a slightly competitive person myself, although I’m able to keep it at bay depending on who I’m with. If I’m around somebody that seems to want to make a big deal out of every victory then it’ll bring the competitive side out of me. I think most of us at some point have been tested in keeping our cool with an inevitable loss.

I find it difficult to play games with people when their moods seem to swing. They’ll either get really grumpy and sullen, argumentative or even act aggressively. Such instances put me in a dilemma; Do I hold back even though it’ll lessen my chances of winning and strategically makes no sense, or play as usual at the risk of unleashing the dragon. The former isn’t fun and could even be taken as an insult if they found out, but the latter can also ruin a gaming session. (Although I imagine in some cases your opponent is trying to get you to hold back.) It’s a no win situation because if I lose I’ll have to deal with it being rubbed in my face, but if I win I’ll find myself in the company of somebody in a very bad mood.

On the reverse side of being too competitive is not caring at all. Some people do this intentionally to protect themselves from the pain of defeat or to take satisfaction away from your own feeling of victory. We may even hear the dreaded words ‘it’s just a game.’ To be competitive isn’t entirely bad. It can push us to get better. The thrill of competition can be enjoyable; The feeling of mastery and fulfilment when we succeed is incredibly worthwhile. This doesn’t mean we can’t accept loss, but the joy comes from testing our skills against others (artificial intelligence can only do so much afterall.) Some people only play to hang out and socialize, and the result of the game doesn’t matter so long as they feel like they had a good time. It can be incredibly unsatisfying to play with a person that doesn’t put any effort in if you’re into games for the strategic side of them. I know some people that like to put videos or music on during a game, whereas I choose to play a game because I actually enjoy the game in and of itself and want to focus on it. While I can adjust how I approach play depending on the company, nothing frustrates me more than a person that messes about and throws the game, ruining it for everybody else.

As with most things in life, it’s all about balance. Theres nothing wrong with investing in a game and trying your best to win, so long as you don’t let it ruin your day if it doesn’t go your way. Most of us have probably had our moments where the frustration showed through, but I try my best to shrug it off by telling myself the following:

  • There’s no permanent record: In the long run most games are forgotten by the time we start a new session. We don’t have a record that will be held against us at the end of our lives with every game we ever lost on it. We’ve probably also had our fair share of successes too.
  • Friends are more important than victories: I’d rather not push my friends away by getting too upset every time we play a game together. It could eventually drive everybody away and then I’ll have no one to play with.
  • Others hate to lose too: In most games somebody has to lose, and obviously we’d all prefer not to be the one. If it makes our friends happy to win, then I’m happy for them to.
  • I’ll draw more attention to my loss if I act up: If I act calmly people will realize that I can’t have my buttons pushed so easily. They’ll lose interest and forget about my loss sooner. I may even gain respect for being so easy going.
  • People will hold back: If I moan every time I lose people may hold back to appease me. A victory is worth less this way and I can never improve if I’m not tested to my limits; It would then be a shock if I were to try playing with another group.
  • We learn through failure: I get better at the game, even if I lose. Next time I’ll nail it.
  • I still had minor victories: So I didn’t win overall, but I might still have had some minor victories I can celebrate. For example, I dealt a lot of damage to the other player at one point; I didn’t make the victory easy for them.
  • The tables can turn: We may want to throw in the towel early when things don’t immediately go our way, but humans are fallible and many games also involve luck. The outcome could still surprise you, but you’ll never know if you give up too soon. It’s also dishonourable to quit out early and you’ll earn more respect by seeing it through to the end.
  • How we present ourselves is a tactic: There are times when it’s beneficial to keep quiet and hope nobody notices what you have planned. People are more likely to target the person that is drawing attention to themselves.
  • I still had fun: So long as everyone still enjoyed the process of playing, then it’s a win for all.
  • I got unlucky: It’s not always our fault and we did the best we could with what we were dealt with. We can be happy so long as we know we tried our best.
  • Just because you lost it doesn’t mean you played badly: Perhaps your opponent is one of the best players at this game and you’re all performing on a higher than average level. Just standing against them for so long is no mean feat.
  • Life is harder: As badly as a game can go for me, the fact is there are even greater challenges in real life. Handling the game well is a way to learn how to overcome challenges in a positive way.

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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

2 responses to “(Competitive Gaming) Caring Too Much Or Not Enough”

  1. Particlebit says :

    I noticed this as a big problem in competitive Warhammer (the tabletop version). If one person is winning, the other will get mad, and people can get super stingy about rules. Really saps the fun out of playing.

    • wallcat says :

      I know the feeling all too well. Nobody likes losing, but it can be so bad that no matter what you do – win or lose – it’s not going to be very fun. In the past it’s completely put me off from playing certain games or with certain people. I prefer co-op for this reason, but even then there have still been arguments over rules.

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