|Posted on October 12, 2011 at 3:45 AM|
"It's no fun playing with you. You always win."
Have you heard this before?
By definition, any activity with measurable achievement will have some people who are excellent at it, and some people who just absolutely suck. Let's call these sports – whether they're physical sports or "e-sports," the basic aim doesn't change. You typically want to reach the finish line first, checkmate your opponent or rack up the highest kill count (whichever is tested in the activity), so that you win more. Improving your game is part of what engaging in a competition is about. The point of a sport is to prove your superiority at it over others.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have games, where you do something silly like running around or mashing buttons in order to have fun. Now, the meaning of "fun" is a hotly debated issue. Some people feel that doing something flashy and cool, like landing a 600 hit combo or driving faster than the speed of sound, is fun. Others just like the laughs and company you get from a good eight-player rumble. In any case, fun is the entire point of gaming.
The problem arises when a sport is also a game.
Sports have been confused with games since basically the beginning of time. What the Olympic Games really test is sports prowess, and professional gamers are really competitors in an electronic sport. The reason that single-player Call of Duty is so different from multiplayer Call of Duty is that SP COD is a pure game, an interactive movie, while MP COD adds an element of sport to the play. But how are you supposed to play multiplayer Call of Duty then? Are you trying to have fun? Or are you trying to win?
Many activities, such as DoTA, Street Fighter or Magic: the Gathering, are both sports and games – and it shows. The people who play to have fun are the people who go for the flashy special moves, the Protoss Mothership "rushes" and the awesome but impractical plays. When they get spawn-camped 7 times in a row, or they get demolished by a Meepo spamming Poof, they cry "cheap!" On the other hand, the people who play to win see nothing wrong with taking the most unfair strategy, whether it's running a playset of Jace, the Mind Sculptors or picking Old Sagat every time, since nothing other than defeating your opponent matters. To them, those who play for fun are noobish "scrubs."
The important thing to grasp here is that there's nothing wrong with either mindset. Playing for the experience is a perfectly noble goal, but so is playing to be the best – if something can be both a game and a sport, it's natural to lean to one or the other. But the problem is when the world of fun and the world of skill collide.
In all my days of gaming, there is nothing worse than seeing two players who don't see eye to eye on the very definition of what they're doing, and don't realize that fact. It is a mistake to play your shitty Jellyfish theme deck against someone who's looking for an actual fight. At the same time, you shouldn't sit down to a casual table, take out your gold-plated deckbox and combo off for infinite damage on the first turn.
Do not do this
As for those who try to achieve a middle ground – sorry to burst your bubble, but you're wasting your time. The different attitudes towards sports-games are just so disparate that they may well be impossible to reconcile. By necessity, playing for fun means giving others a sporting chance, and playing to win means taking the best possible option regardless of how people feel about it. While it's definitely possible to both try to win and have fun – a good example would be a very close match between two players of equal skill – but such occurrences are few and far between, and most of the time trying to strike a balance between two goals means achieving neither.
So what can a gamer do? The best option is to shrug, accept the fact, and accomodate it. Even knowing the difference makes it less stressful when you're beaten by a "cheap" tactic or ranted at by a new player; after all, they just don't have the same mindset you have. It's more enjoyable to play when you learn to either embrace or throw away the restrictions you're imposing on yourself. You can oscillate between play styles depending on which goal you feel like pursuing. Most of all, you learn to ask–
"Are you playing to have fun? Or playing to win?"