We all play games to have fun right? Think about what makes playing a game fun. You can’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you have just as much fun if you’re playing a game losing all the time. We can all relate, everyone has lost no matter how good they are. Some gamers out there try to reason and talk themselves out of the importance of whether they win or not because they think of themselves as “casual gamers.” They say they are “content with their skill level,” their opponents “use cheap tactics,” or something else from a multitude of excuses. This can lead to a subconscious defeatist attitude and thus less fun in one’s gaming. A better way of thinking about it is: there are gamers who do well and then there are gamers who hide behind the title of “casual gamer” or excuses because they don’t know how to do well or they just don’t want to put in the effort.
“Playing to win.” It is an idea many competitive gamers live by. For some of those, it is more than a phrase, but a philosophy. Most of us who call ourselves gamers have probably never stopped to think about it and don’t really understand the true concept. Why does it matter? It matters because some of these competitive gamers are the opponents you are facing online, or maybe don’t even realize it’s a good friend of yours that comes over every now and then and beats your tail in your favorite game, which they don’t even own.
If you want to get the most enjoyment out of your games, if you want to be the best, or if you just want to at least be competitive enough to make things more fun, you must come to understand what separates these different types of gamers.
What is playing to win? It is not accepting any form of excuse as to why you made a mistake in game. Accept a mistake for what it is, even professional gamers make them. If you lost, it can usually be attributed to something you didn’t do, with the exception of something like internet connectivity problems or your controlling peripheral being unplugged.
Perhaps one of the most common excuses a lot of us gamers are guilty of is accusing an opponent of using “cheap” tactics. Maybe the guy who got the lucky headshot on you in your favorite first person shooting game was using a bunny hopping or a ground diving technique that made them hard to shoot. Even worse, they were camping in a shadowy corner and shot you in the back. Or your opponent crushed you in your favorite real time strategy game because he sent a small army to rush your base within the first 5 minutes. How about the guy that beat you in your favorite fighting game by using a grappling / throwing move 6 times in a row while you were trying to block their attacks? He didn’t even use a single special attack on you! How cheap right?! “He obviously has no skill”…no, this would be the reaction of someone who is not truly playing to win. We must remove ourselves from this mindset to reach the next level of play.
We need to stop living in these artificial sets of rules that we have constructed in our minds as to what is acceptable play and what is not. This is what holds many of us back from being the best, or at least the best to our ability. Ability is something that is easy to improve with practice, but our mindsets have to be in the right place to begin with if we ever hope to become truly good. A good player will learn how to use the so-called “cheap” tactics and in doing so will learn how to counter them and what their weaknesses are. Eventually, through such no-holds-barred playing, the good players will learn even better tactics than the ones originally labeled as the “cheap” n00b tactics. They will learn how to overcome the camper, the rusher, the bunny hopper, the perpetual single special move repeating player, or whatever tactic in any game.
The great players will try the things the majority of other players don’t try. They will become really good at the character, the playable team, the weapon, technique, etc. that no one usually wants to use. Eventually they often find most other players aren’t prepared to deal with their uncommon choice because those players were sticking to what everyone else says is “good” instead of learning for themselves and they end up not knowing how to react to a well played force that they have no experience with.
Here comes the big kicker. If you play to win all the time, wouldn’t you always want choose the one tried and true character, team, weapon, technique, etc. that you know best, the one that’s known to create a win the majority of the time? Well, yes and no, if you never explore your other avenues then you will confine yourself to a tiny portion of the game you are playing and someone else that has explored the games other many nooks and crannies will come along some day and hand your tail to you once again.
Inevitably, some gamers may say, “Yes, but I have to play down to a lower level or my friend, significant other, sibling, etc. won’t play with me anymore.” If that is the case, then it is understandable to gimp one’s playing ability to accommodate or there’d be no playing at all, but first ask yourself is that really the only person you are ever going to have to play with? Is it worth taking the fun out of the game for your self by constantly playing at a lower level, should you seek out other competition, or just cease playing that game altogether? There are so many good games out there surely you can find a game where both of you can have fun and friendly competition.
If you are now scratching your head and wondering what’s the moral here, remember this: the most important thing is that you’re having fun, but remember what it is that makes a game fun and be aware that you’re not making any excuses for why you can’t be the best, or at least very good.
Have a differing view from the one presented here? Let us hear it in the comments section below!
I am a 29 year old Navy helicopter pilot and aspiring game designer with an affinity for creativity and writing. I have a B.A. in Foreign Language with 2 years of hard time in undergrad Comp Sci...