Frantic’s Antics: Fun and… Competition?

Whenever I’m playing games of any type, I tend to forget a fundamental feature of them: fun and winning aren’t mutually exclusive. While this isn’t a stunning revelation to many of you, I feel the mixture of both seem nigh impossible.

If you’re a dedicated follower of Frantic Talks then you’re probably aware I play a lot of Magic and Destiny (with a good amount of Rocket League sprinkled in). These games all have some common features, namely the ability to play against other people (Magic requires it), and this can lead to a few different type of interactions of which I have an example for each.

Let’s start with the example everyone could relate to: the salty loser. One of my very first MTG tournaments I went to was a local FNM (Friday Night Magic) where I had this $50 black deck that was just vampires and kill spells (utilizing Blade of the Bloodchief to its full extent). I felt the deck would perform well, but as to how well I wasn’t sure. I ended up winning my first two rounds which put me up against the “regulars” of the store who net-deck the best decks in the format. If you aren’t familiar with net-decking, it is basically taking the best performing decklists from the latest grand prix/pro tours and buying the pieces. I personally don’t have a problem with this but prefer not to do it.

Anyways I get paired against a gentleman who’s deck was not equipped for the mass removal I was running, and some cheap cards he’d never heard of ultimately cost him the game. While this was great for me, his expensive deck lost to some “jank” and he did the equivalent of verbally abusing me. I think at one point he mentioned he could “be up the road playing against real decks instead of this crap.” He then left the store out of rage. Not a moment after he left the room did another player come up to me and apologize for his behavior and said “he doesn’t represent us.” I could go into a discussion on how this is a great example of a community weeding out the bad eggs, but that isn’t the purpose of this post.

Next let’s cover the most common story: the GG kids. This is prevalent in all 3 of the games I play, and to say I have an isolated example would be lying. The simplest example here is the people who, no matter the outcome, say GG or, even better, don’t shit talk. This is the most common because I’ve played with thousands of people in these games and very rarely gotten hate mail. I have gotten a good amount of GG messages after games (and it is a simple button command in Rocket League), so while lacking empirical data for this I think I can safely say this is the attitude of a large and significant portion of gaming communities (if you’re not playing CoD, that is).

Finally, the last category is the people who you have a ton of fun with regardless of the outcome of what you’re doing. This may sound similar to my last example, but the difference is that these people aren’t playing to win, per se, and are there to just have a good time. This isn’t too often found in PVP but recently Freakshow and I came across a random matchmaker in Destiny’s Heroic Strike playlist who saw us pulling shenanigans in the Blighted Chalice strike and decided to join in. Freakshow and I were in tears watching this unfold in the beginning of the strike and it is such a memorable moment that it “renewed my faith in humanity”, for lack of a better phrase. On the surface this may just seem like a guy taking his dear sweet time to progress the strike, but that’s where the differentiation occurs: instead of trying to just press through yet another strike for the end-goal of loot, this player saw an opportunity to entertain both himself and us at the cost of just a few moments longer in a strike we’ve probably all done a hundred times at this point.

I bring these stories up because I’m guilty of all three categories, albeit not really as much in the shit talking category as of recent. Now I’m not here to confess my sins, but to explain how this affects my gaming time because I have felt that it is more negative than positive due to my mindset of wanting to win and not having fun when losing. And, to be fair, I don’t think many people would have fun losing regardless.

When playing PVP Destiny this past week we found ourselves on the losing team a lot more often than we were used to. We aren’t flawless Trials players by any means, but we’re also not terrible either. I’d argue we’re above average, but I’ll be honest it felt like we were below the curve nearly every game. The games we did win weren’t cakewalks either and all of this was taking away from the fun I was having. I could take the easy way out and blame it on Destiny’s lack of ranked vs social playlists, but the same story was told in Rocket League. I just have to be honest with myself and blame it on my desire to win overtaking the fun aspect.

What is interesting is I’ve been trying to think of how to describe this idea of fun and competition for the past few weeks, and the week I took off from work to have a week of gaming had this idea manifest itself in the form of making me lose more than I won. Oddly enough it didn’t help me define it any better than I previously had tried, so I’m left here rambling to you about how I wish I could have fun in the midst of competition and in the midst of losing.

Maybe it is a maturity thing? I’m not sure. But I know that fun and competition, at least when I’m mixing them in gaming, have an inverse relationship and that is something I’m not happy about and hope to change moving forward. This isn’t to say I haven’t had great times while being on the losing end of something, though. Countless nights playing Magic with friends where games go on for 3 hours with everyone getting their fair share of blows and politics are some of the best memories I have, along with playing President and Secret Service in Skirmish with Freakshow and Grunt or attempting to be Solid Snake in Hardcore Search and Destroy back during my Modern Warfare days. I’ll never forget those moments, I just wish I was able to stay in the mindset of the person who played like that because more often than not I fall right back into “what’s the best weapon to use?” instead of “what weapon do I like to use?”

I suppose that’s where I end this. I do hope you agree that the idea of fun and competition are not mutually exclusive. There have been times where I’ve had fun regardless of the outcome, and I cherish those moments because they are my fondest memories. Don’t let the satisfaction of winning outweigh your satisfaction of having fun or I imagine you’ll land yourself in a rut where playing games is a chore and not a hobby.

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