The Case for Competition, part 2

When I first was introduced to competitive gaming on a scale larger than just my brother and myself, I found so much I didn’t even realize was there, and I know that gradually as eSports continues to grow as well, people will find competitive gaming to be far larger and more significant than they ever thought possible.

With games being the largest media industry in the world revenue-wise (besides books of course, but they got a serious headstart), anything that affects it greatly must be a big deal. There’s something unique about competitive gaming above competition in other disciplines such as musical competition, and that’s the fact that just about everyone who plays a competitive video game can be considered a competitor, as that’s commonly the basis for play in the game.

Just because you play a musical instrument, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a “competitor,” and that’s regardless of skill level. In my opinion, music at it’s core isn’t really meant for competition. Sure, I’ve won awards in Scottish fiddle competitions, won awards in marching band competitions in high school, whatnot, but I have never considered music to be an objectively competitive realm beyond people’s egos. Music is not athleticism, it’s clearly an artform and extremely subjective – and I think I will always be of that opinion.

On the other hand, even from early video games such as Space Invaders, the scoring aspect has naturally brought out the competitive nature and depth of the games. I mean that even in regards to Pong as well, and Computer Space.

Video games even in their earliest days were competitive by nature. Even if it was just two people standing there at the machine out of the whole world, that’s still competitive. Still, if Ralph Baer (engineer for the “Brown Box” and Magnavox Odyssey, among other iconic things) expected to see people paid to play video games as their full-time job, I would be very surprised.

Video games (or things like Chess, which can be transformed into video games) are objective, much moreso than most things. There’s something beautiful about really deep yet objective things that are practically impossible to become perfect in… and still, games can be so simple and still achieve this. That’s really significant.

At some point, competitive gaming becomes a sort of “figuring out” of people’s inward thinking, as it soon becomes less about the game and more about the individuals themselves once the play becomes higher level.

When it comes to individuals… I like to say that nice guys finish 1st. Obviously it’s not always true, but it can often get to a point where there’s some sort of integrity almost in winning a game. Yea, I know that’s really esoteric and woo-woo, but I have felt that way for a long time. Let me tell you a story to finish off this post and show you what I mean…

There was this dude in high school, (we’ll call him Snake, because I don’t even remember his name) that was friends with one of my close friends, Tony. I used to play games with Tony a lot, and we’d always talk about games when at school or whatever. Snake had a visible ego when it came to his playing ability in video games, and if anyone knows me really well they know I can’t stand people that show extreme ego (admittedly, it’s much because I wish I could seriously think even half that highly of myself, but also because I hate being made aware of their great opinion of themselves all the time).

One day Snake said at lunch that he could beat anyone at any game if they told him what game and gave him two weeks. I said, “ok, well do you think you could beat me at Mario Kart DS?” Tony bursted out laughing, because he knew that it was a challenge that would end poorly for Snake. At the time, I was still playing Mario Kart DS a ton, and ultimately (years later) I became the world champion.

Snake decided he was going to beat me in Mario Kart DS, and proceeded to borrow Tony’s copy. Two MONTHS later, he finally played against me, and I lapped him in two races in a row, but then we had to go to class. Neither of us said anything at the time.

A couple years after that, Snake would play Smash Bros Brawl against Tony online, and he eventually wanted to play against me. He won one game after a few weeks, barely, but I didn’t take it too hard considering I had beaten him every other time, and besides, it was Brawl online, which sucked anyway in terms of latency and options.

He proceeded to send me a message the next day on the Wii starting with, “How’s it feel to lose?” I wanted to respond with, “I don’t know, you tell me,” but decided it would be best to not start a fight. Instead, I played him again, this time with the plan of demolishing him with a slow character because he always played fast characters. I played King Dedede and won without losing a stock. Tony called me up on the phone saying that Snake was actually at his house and he saw the whole match, and was saying, “You owned this guy! With a slow character! That was so crazy!” and all this stuff… After that, Snake never spoke with me again, but it was ok because inside, I felt like I proved myself and proved that it’s good to not rub it in against people you win against. Besides, I never liked him anyway. 🙂

In a couple of weeks I’m going with my friend Jeff, a very good player in my opinion of several NES games as well as Smash Bros Melee, to a Melee tournament at Carolina Games Summit in Goldsboro, NC. I played Quake 3 at that event in 2010 and won 2nd place, (not getting fragged once until the semi-finals by the way), and it’s a great environment with a lot of gamers. I’m looking forward to it, because everyone at that event loves playing the games, and that’s cool, because most of them are still really friendly and the tournaments are organized very well.

(to be continued again?)

~David