A Rant in Two Parts

I am not ordinarily given to rants, or so I like to tell myself, partly because the nature of the rant is so overwhelmingly negative, but mostly because it's the comfortable bastion of every casual writer with a grudge and a thesaurus. True, that's a painfully accurate characterization of myself, though I actually have _two_ thesauruses – I so want to call them my thesauri – but even very good cliché is still at its best cliché. Usually my better angels prevail and I make at least a passing attempt at penning an article of some meaning, but like the impulsive midnight run to Taco Bell, sometimes the cheese-stuff coated badness just tastes too good to resist. With that, I offer these two brief rants.

Spoilers

I have a friend. For the sake of protecting the innocent, we'll call him "Rob". He's insane about spoilers. Not only doesn't he want to know important plot points like the guy narrating the entire story actually turns out to be the killer or that Spiderman is actually Peter Parker, he doesn't even want to know that the villain exists ahead of time or see possibly tainted speculation about who is playing Minor Supporting Love Interest or Cappuccino Junkie #2 in the movie version. He builds an information wall around himself, and guards its parapets like an online Davy Crocket staring down the virtual Santa Anna Army of Internet Rumor Junkies waiting to storm the fort and tell him that Bruce Willis is dead the whole time!

"Rob" is a crazy person. I have solid evidence to support that fact, but he does have a basic point, which is that in the internet age, ruining movies, books and games for people has become an almost casual sport. Even the very marketing that supports media franchises regularly and casually gives away points that would have been far more interesting to see in the actual product. Thanks to Battlestar Galactica, for example, for saving me the trouble of having to actually watch an episode by putting entire mini-episodes at the end and beginning of each show. Like I needed two chances to see that Tigh does something drunken and stupid while Adama and Roslyn uncomfortably fawn over one another.

But, when malcontents sail past long lines of young Harry Potter fans waiting for the midnight release of the book and shout spoilers out the window, you really have to reconsider on a fundamental level the possible merits of putting people in the stocks and throwing rotten vegetation at them. As we consume more and more media that relies on mind-bending twists and double double-crosses at the same time that the internet has made secret-keeping a whole new kind of difficult, we come to a crossroads where jerks thrive. That I had to go on a week-long media blackout just so I could get through the Deathly Hallows without compromising the ending is ridiculous.

I think of those who spoil entertainment as members of one of three categories. The first, and most easily forgiven, are the accidental information klutzes, people who either by presumption or momentary lapse of reason let slip a crucial piece of information in sensitive company. It is possible to remain friendly with these folk, but not recommended to spend any time around them if they've seen a movie you're waiting to see.

The second is the media sadist, the person who secretly revels in ruining experiences for others. Often stealthy in their delivery of spoilers, and quick to mimic the intellectual klutz, they see their possession of information as a power to be exerted over people. These are actually an uncommon breed, online evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, and should suffer permanent and lasting humiliation for the particular cruelty of their crimes.

The last, and by far the most common and insidious, spoiler criminal is the person who simply has no idea there exists on the planet anyone but themselves. These are the same people who drive 60 in the left lane, who take a cart brimming with items into the express checkout lane, who casually decide upon their fast food order at the driver-thru box right at the heart of lunch hour, who simply drop by for hours at a time with no prior notice, who can't bother to even pretend to hold the door open for me at the Post Office when packages are clearly falling from my tenuous grasp, who stand oblivious right in front of the exact loaf of bread I'm trying to buy no matter how loudly I shout "Excuse ME!", who carelessly let obscenities slip while walking by the playground with a dozen scandalized three year-olds, who answer their cell-phones in theaters and then carry on any conversation at all and who usually wear driving hats while driving very large Cadillacs which they invariably park across as many as three spaces. For these people, my scorn is limitless and vast, a great and bright nebula of intergalactic size that burns with the young fire of 10,000 newly formed nuclear furnaces, because these are not the carriers of spoilers.

These are spoilers themselves, spoilers of art, of kindness and of manners.

A Loser's Tale

I have no shortage of personality flaws. I chew my food too loudly. I like bad eighties music. I revel in my own imagined superiority at things of little consequence. I even occasionally tell my wife I need to close the office door to get some work done when secretly I just want to hit level 38 with my Undead Warlock. But, among my most grievous failings is the terrible marriage of an overdeveloped sense of competition and a bad attitude about losing.

One might think that with such an extensive resume of losing at competition, I might have developed a thicker skin about it. I am not what you might call a "winner". I don't mean that I lose at the important things like life, relationships or fatherhood, but on the far more trivial matters I have an apparently infinite capacity to psyche myself completely out of the game. I am, in the face of certain victory, like a puppy who pees on the floor out of joy for being promised a trip outside. I live in the unpleasant netherworld of sensing impending victories and knowing even as I sense them that I will let them slip through my trembling fingers.

I am a choke artiste. I may even be a choke maestro.

My uncanny ability to competitively lose despite endless preparation and training is decades old. It is a predictable thing, and made all the more poignant for very occasional and unexpected bouts of victory that don't really serve to shine my tarnished record, but only remind me of what the victories I so richly desire taste like. Imagine giving a starving man a Hershey's Kiss, and you have a good idea of what I feel like in the meaningless victory of a video game, or a round of pick-up basketball, or a day on the golf course or even a casual board game among friends.

Some people play competitive games simply for fun, win or lose. For them the important thing is simply spending time with friends and doing something they enjoy. My lack of understanding of these people exists on such a fundamental level that I must assume that with sophisticated enough equipment scientists would be able to prove we are actually different species.

You may have the impression that I am lamenting this unfortunate tendency, and I suppose to some degree I am, but I also recognize that in the stuff that really matters, I have the exact opposite trend. I have been very fortunate in cobbling together a life mandated only by my own goals and desires, and 97% of the time that's much better than winning a game of the aptly titled Trivial Pursuit. The only time I feel differently is in the wasteland moments immediately following some souring defeat, and that is where my unreasonable and misapplied competitive streak sends me to dark places where I can actually feel testosterone in my veins commanding me to break glass and plaster to express my primitive fury to a world that would probably be embarrassed to be seen hanging out with me at the time.

I am an angry loser. And, though I make great efforts to hide it, those who know me best see it and, to their credit, try very, very hard not to laugh at me when I'm acting like a two year-old who's just had his fuzzy bear taken away. I am a controller breaker, quick to torque fifty dollars of equipment to the snapping point simply because Jerry Rice dropped a pass. Again! An easy, floating pass after he's executed a perfect route and is alone in space. I mean honestly! When does Rice drop a crucial third down pass with no coverage that hits him in the hands? Never! That's when! That's why he's going to be in mother-fragging Canton!

Sorry, I got carried away there.

Perhaps this isn't so much a rant as it is an open apology. I am not alone in this character flaw, and we really are mostly aware that we are acting unreasonable. We are sorry; maybe not at the time of the offense but certainly later. We realize we are acting like children when we eject the disc from the Xbox and sail it across the room in the sincere hope that it satisfyingly shatters into a hundred glittering shards of broken failure, but in our darkest moments of loss the impulse is simply overwhelming. Call it poor-sportsmanship, being a bad loser or just a good ol' temper tantrum, and just be glad we don't play video games with something sharp or explosive in our hands. We'll try to be better next time.

We promise.

Comments

Entertainment that depends on you not hearing spoilers to keep it from sucking is not good entertainment. Not that people who intentionally reveal this information are not morons who should be shot. It's just hard to imagine that knowing who Luke's father is before you see Empire somehow makes the movie any less enjoyable.

You're going too easy on those who spoil with malice, in my opinion - hot tongs applied to their tongues seem much more appropriate to the crime in my mind (I also went to extreme lengths to avoid Harry Potter spoilers).

The Bad loser rant touched a bit of a nerve with me. I have a close friend who loves to play games and plays them to win. She tries her hardest to win at any game no matter how trivial. She is kind hearted and generous all other times, but put her in front of a game and she becomes merciless. She is also a bad loser. She pouts and makes faces complains about the one bad die roll that ruined her well laid strategy. She gets excited and shouts some times when things take a turn for the worse.

We are still good friends, and I can't help but enjoy playing games with her even more just to beat her.

She also feels bad about the way she acted later. She has promised to be better next time but she never is. Thats ok though. I understand.

Elysium wrote:

I am not ordinarily given to rants, or so I like to tell myself, partly because the nature of the rant is so overwhelmingly negative, but mostly because it's the comfortable bastion of every casual writer with a grudge and a thesaurus.

I always thought of ranting as an emergency venting process to keep the vitriol out of the important things you're trying to write. I guess it depends on if you think of yourself as a writer or a ranter.

Either way I don't think you should think of ranting as a guilty pleasure, but rather a healthy purging.

Of course, being completely full of sh*t is also a trait of the casual writer, so you should probably disregard my advice.

Hope that's helpful.

I want to be a media sadist! Spoiler sodomy!

If you hate spoilers, then you REALLY hate the spoiler T-shirt.

Loved the article.. but first two nit-picks:

For these people, my scorn is limitless and vast, a great and bright nebula of intergalactic size the burns with the young fire of 10,000 newly formed nuclear furnaces, because these are not the carriers of spoilers.
Imagine giving a starving man a Hershey's Kiss,

Hershey's kisses (at least the three types i've tasted) taste like sick. You want to inflict more pain on a poor starving man?

More seriously i'm completely with you on this whole rant with the main exception being that i will/can rant about everything and anything. My blog is one long ranting session combined with opinion and pessimism. I automatically gravitate to the least optimistic outcome and try to justify it by pretending that i can be overjoyed when the opposite occurs.... not that i very often am.

Of course i'm also a little different with the violent/swearing outbursts from you as well. I am competitive - usually in situations that i have no chance of winning, annoyingly - but i usually don't mind losing until it comes to my own personal skill. If i know that i can perform better, play better and i fall below that mark i often feel the rage building inside of me. Like a black, blood-stained claw reaching up from the darkest depths of my being to drag me down to my lowest, most bestial state... lycanthropic transformations have taken place whereby i have smashed one mouse and "hard" reset my tower by banging on my desk in frustration (needless to say it now resides on the floor outside of the blast radius's vibrations).
But then there are other instances in life when i've come close to losing it for a moment - like Chiggie says, a safety release valve. For a moment only i have lost control and within that same moment, the anger spent, i have attempted to correct the speeding fist by reducing the force that was intended. Those instances were certainly not games and that is why i would prefer to lose my temper with a game - to vent that anger in a non-constructive but ultimately beneficial way...

Love that t-shirt Rabbit... must buy...

I too, am a controller breaker. There are very few things in life that cause me to loose my temper, and videogames are one of them. Tomb Raider 2's controls pissed me off so much I ripped the controller out of the Playstation, swung it around my head like a bolo, and smashed it like a sledge hammer into the carpet.

Pieces of controller went flying everywhere. Springs and shards of plastic were embedded in the carpet. As good as that felt for the instant it shattered about 2 seconds later I felt more ashamed than I'd ever felt in my entire life. An eerie calm encompassed me as I realized that I lost my temper over a collection of pixels. That I wasn't smart enough to stop playing when I wasn't enjoying myself.

I haven't destroyed a controller since, but I still find my temper slipping, but even that's gotten better. I may lob my controller out of frustration, but it (almost) always lands on a soft couch. I'll scream and rage at the TV, but 90% of the time it's me venting my frustration at not being able to figure something out. I've learned to take breaks when I get stuck, and come back to it with a fresh perspective a few hours or days later.

That last 10% of the time is usually due to poor game design or flaws that drive me batty. Now, instead of pressing on, I just stop playing. I've learned it's not worth getting frustrated over something so trivial. It's just a game, I keep telling myself. If I'm not enjoying myself, then why bother playing? Put in another game, or better yet, get my ass off the couch and do something else.

If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that I was your friend Rob. I go out of my way to avoid anything that will give away the most minor of plot points. To the point that I will put my fingers in my ears and hum to myself in a theater if a trailer is shown for something I'm looking forward to. I've threatened to not watch a show with my wife after she found out some information about an upcoming episode of some TV show we watch. In the years BD (Before DVR) when we would watch The Shield as it aired, I would leave the room for a few minutes at the end of each episode because she insisted on watching the scenes from next week's episode. During the opening montage of Battlestar, there's thankfully no audio other than drums, so all I have to do is look away from the screen.

I'm less anal about this when it comes to video games since, for me, video games are still about playing and having fun. I couldn't care less about the story in most cases, so I will allow myself to partake of trailers, gameplay demos, and so forth for highly anticipated titles. GTA IV is one of the most recent examples. I've watched both trailers and found they just make me want to play it more. For all the games in that series, the gameplay is the real draw for me while the story is tertiary. There is something to be said for discovering features in that type of sandbox game in an organic way rather than seeing them in a video, but I find it doesn't diminish my enjoyment of it.

Trachalio wrote:

I too, am a controller breaker. There are very few things in life that cause me to loose my temper, and videogames are one of them. Tomb Raider 2's controls pissed me off so much I ripped the controller out of the Playstation, swung it around my head like a bolo, and smashed it like a sledge hammer into the carpet.

that made me giggle. I can so relate to having that competitive drive but always falling short and not being real happy about it. I'm alot better now than I used to be, I used to almost HAVE to break something.. smashed my watch into tiny pieces once. Threw it down on the tile floor then literally jumped up and down on it. Then I felt like a retard, and wanted my watch back. For whatever reason when it comes to online games, if I talk trash at a game i'm AWESOME at, i always choke and lose those games. I've always been "pretty good" at all the games ive liked and been competitive, sometimes as good as top 10, once ranked #7 on mortal kombat deception on xbox live out of the 250k some odd ppl at the time but i hit a wall, i could NOT move up. I'll never be #1 always second best (or 7th best) and to me thats just cruel, i'd rather be hopelessly bad at a game but I usually get good enough where I have a shot, but never breach that barrier.

Elysium wrote:

These are the same people who drive 60 in the left lane, who take a cart brimming with items into the express checkout lane, who casually decide upon their fast food order at the driver-thru box right at the heart of lunch hour, who simply drop by for hours at a time with no prior notice, who can't bother to even pretend to hold the door open for me at the Post Office when packages are clearly falling from my tenuous grasp, who stand oblivious right in front of the exact loaf of bread I'm trying to buy no matter how loudly I shout "Excuse ME!", who carelessly let obscenities slip while walking by the playground with a dozen scandalized three year-olds, who answer their cell-phones in theaters and then carry on any conversation at all and who usually wear driving hats while driving very large Cadillacs which they invariably park across as many as three spaces.

f*ckers.

Long Live Hall & Oates!

Oh ehem, excuse me.

Another characteristic of the self absorbed that really irks me are the ones that giggle during tense scenes of a movie or they somehow find suspense/horror movies hilarious. Such was my experience with the incredible movie "Sunshine" last night. But yes, the movie was good enough to survive such giggles and the fact that a piece of hair was stuck in front of the lens, causing a shadow in the lower right hand corner of the screen that the attendant interrupted the movie 4 times to try and remove.

Im actually a pretty patient loser. In most instances I live for the sport or the competition. However, deaths in an MMO are a different matter. Need I refresh your memory of the time we were running through Cabilis at level 7 and you accidentally ran into the arena portion of the city. You were killed instantly by a level 54 necromancer and it made my blood boil.

Hey look, it's my good buddy Ely!

Elysium wrote:

True, that's a painfully accurate characterization of myself, though I actually have _two_ thesauruses – I so want to call them my thesauri – but even very good cliché is still at its best cliché. Usually my better angels prevail and I make at least a passing attempt at penning an article of some meaning, but like the impulsive midnight run to Taco Bell, sometimes the cheese-stuff coated badness just tastes too good to resist.

"To me the front is a mysterious whirlpool. Though I am in still water far away from its centre, I feel the whirl of the vortex sucking me slowly, irresistibly, inescapably into itself."

"Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine-guns, hand-grenades--words, words, words, but they hold the horror of the world."

I was torn between going with that or "From Here to Eternity."


You know I love ya!

(Disclaimer: Neither my husband nor I count ourselves as 'hard-core' gamers. We certainly enjoy video games, but we tend to stick to adventure-puzzle types and RPGs such as Final Fantasy, Myst, and more recently Zelda. We both had other hobbies growing up - and still do! - which take up significantly more time than our game time. Nonetheless, the purchase of our Nintendo Wii back in February marked a turning point: neither of us had ever been early adopters of a console before, and in my case I'd never even owned a console before.)

It's really remarkable how video games have the ability to bring out frustration and aggression in a way that almost nothing else does. My husband is usually a gentle, soft-spoken, polite individual. Set him down in front of any of the parts of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that he found frustrating for any reason (usually poor camera work - it's hard to hit something you can't see! - or the Z button deciding it wanted to be used as a Target button rather than Reset View button), and the resultant cussing is something to hear.

As for me, I've gotten better at putting the controller down when I notice my adrenalin level going up. Whether it's losing a warthog race (again!) in Rayman or needing a break in the middle of a boss battle in Twilight Princess, if my heart is racing, I need to stop awhile. I curse a little more easily than my husband in real life, but mostly don't curse at the screen much.

I think your problem is you think of losing as negative, like it's the end-all. If you don't win, you aren't fulfilling your duty as a gamer to be good at your hobby. That's wrong. No one is perfect, and if we always were on the top then the makers have failed with what they are doing -- trying to beat you. AI gets better as time goes on, and maybe that one time when Jerry Rice was supposed to catch the ball the sun was in his eyes the computer determined. Or maybe that time you got chainsawed by the Locust you hadn't pulled the trigger fast enough.

I'm one of the mythical gamers who doesn't care if he loses or wins at a multiplayer game. Just look at Gears of War weekly. There are rounds I suck so bad even my Xbox starts thinking it should turn itself off, and times where I'm on fire, yet I'm always smiling and having a good time.

If it's single-player though.. well, I'll get frustrated if I'm doing all I can to beat a certain part and the game is still laughing in my face. Multiplayer is only as difficult as the skill level of your competition. The N64 lost more controllers to me than it saw saved from my 9-year old fury, mostly due to my never-ending hatred of Super Smash Bros.

I think your problem is you think of losing as negative, like it's the end-all. If you don't win, you aren't fulfilling your duty as a gamer to be good at your hobby. That's wrong. No one is perfect, and if we always were on the top then the makers have failed with what they are doing -- trying to beat you.

That makes total sense!

Unfortunately my brain doesn't work that way. This is probably why you can play a game like Ninja Gaiden and not want to murder the designers.

I, on the other hand, can not.

The last, and by far the most common and insidious, spoiler criminal is the person who simply has no idea there exists on the planet anyone but themselves. These are the same people who drive 60 in the left lane, who take a cart brimming with items into the express checkout lane, who casually decide upon their fast food order at the driver-thru box right at the heart of lunch hour, who simply drop by for hours at a time with no prior notice, who can't bother to even pretend to hold the door open for me at the Post Office when packages are clearly falling from my tenuous grasp, who stand oblivious right in front of the exact loaf of bread I'm trying to buy no matter how loudly I shout "Excuse ME!", who carelessly let obscenities slip while walking by the playground with a dozen scandalized three year-olds, who answer their cell-phones in theaters and then carry on any conversation at all and who usually wear driving hats while driving very large Cadillacs which they invariably park across as many as three spaces.

Black hatred was rising within me as I was reading this paragraph. It's hard to be "enlightened" about these situations when all I want to do is grab them by the ears and slam their face into my knee repeatedly.

Some gamers choose to spend more time on being better at games than others. Some of us spend our time in other ways.

I spend my time finding backwards ways to compare Ely's writing to the chaos, calamity, and carnage of WWI battefields.

I've always been a somewhat competitive person in most aspects of my life, but I also find that I can easily detach myself from it. Whether it was playing baseball, getting good grades, or video games, I was always striving toward being better than the next guy. But if I wasn't, while I was angry or frustrated at first, I was quick to accept it. I'm able to turn off the competition switch pretty easily. As long as I've been playing video games, almost 25 years I guess, I've never once broken a controller out of anger.

wordsmythe wrote:

Some gamers choose to spend more time on being better at games than others. Some of us spend our time in other ways.

I spend my time finding backwards ways to compare Ely's writing to the chaos, calamity, and carnage of WWI battefields.

You mean like how he originally wrote "uncomfortable" instead of "uncomfortably"?

Quintin_Stone wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Some gamers choose to spend more time on being better at games than others. Some of us spend our time in other ways.

I spend my time finding backwards ways to compare Ely's writing to the chaos, calamity, and carnage of WWI battefields.

You mean like how he originally wrote "uncomfortable" instead of "uncomfortably"? :D

"Both our inventions meet and jump in one."

Hah! I remember someone scolded me privately here on the forums for revealing some plot point about Planescape.

I don't even remember what I said, but I thought it was funny that someone took it so seriously. I mean, it's like a 10 year old game, come on...

Quintin's mom's a lot older than 10 years, and he still doesn't like it when I tell spoilers about playing her.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Some gamers choose to spend more time on being better at games than others. Some of us spend our time in other ways.

I spend my time finding backwards ways to compare Ely's writing to the chaos, calamity, and carnage of WWI battefields.

You mean like how he originally wrote "uncomfortable" instead of "uncomfortably"? :D

Ha - when I saw that in the article, I thought "There's some fodder for wordsmythe."

I'm a dick.

Black hatred was rising within me as I was reading this paragraph. It's hard to be "enlightened" about these situations when all I want to do is grab them by the ears and slam their face into my knee repeatedly.

I once did exactly the same manoeuver (although just with one ear, not repeatedly, and in a situation far more blunt than talking loud in a movie theater), and ended up with the bastard's blood under my fingernails. In this day and age of HIV/AIDS and whatnot, that's something we'd better avoid.

Elysium wrote:
I think your problem is you think of losing as negative, like it's the end-all. If you don't win, you aren't fulfilling your duty as a gamer to be good at your hobby. That's wrong. No one is perfect, and if we always were on the top then the makers have failed with what they are doing -- trying to beat you.

That makes total sense!

Unfortunately my brain doesn't work that way. This is probably why you can play a game like Ninja Gaiden and not want to murder the designers.

I, on the other hand, can not.

If you think that a game developers sole job is to make the player lose, I think that explains quite succinctly why you think Ninja Gaiden is a good game.

Poor sportsmanship runs in the family.

I don't know who you are talking to Pyro, but I don't think it's the developer's only purpose to defeat you. However, they do try hard to make sure the game is not a pushover to the point that it's not fun. They want it to be a fun adventure that uses your skill.

Vrikk wrote:

They want it to be a fun adventure that uses your skill.

I thought Zork was a fun adventure.