Demigod is basically dead to me. Along with it, Left 4 Dead, Halo 3 and basically every real time strategy game conceived by the hands of mortal men. It’s not that there is anything fundamentally wrong with these fine games nor their presentation of apocalyptically dysfunctional worlds, but that there exists a class of citizenry who have since taken control, and their tyranny seems immutable. They wield terrible and magical skills based on what I assume to be a contractual obligation with dark forces. I am no video game revolutionary, and I cede these multiverses to the superiority of their existing warring factions.
I realize that I could perhaps make a seven course meal of sour grapes — sour grapes crab puffs, followed by sour grape salad with a lovely balsamic vinaigrette dressing and then sour grape infused foie gras soaked in a lovely duck jus, etc — but despite my best efforts to be a better person, I remain stubbornly jealous and petulant when people are better at things than I am. This inferiority complex is compounded when people act in the ways that they tend to while online, which is to say like ill-cultured children.
As a less than elevated human being, the strongest factor in game abandonment for me is how far I’ve fallen behind the talent curve.
I think, to some degree, the reason I hold so strongly onto a game like Rock Band or World of WarCraft is because I at least approach some measure of adequacy which can sustain my ego far better than learning an entirely new game and being bad at it for a year or two. That I have a WoW character who engages with moderate success in various heroic instances, or that I can approximate the vague hint of a tempo to the game’s satisfaction is for me the equivalent of a gaming aphrodisiac.
I take my gaming Spanish Fly quite seriously, thank you.
This is not news to many people, including those who have bested me at a competition only to find that I quickly lose interest in direct proportion to the gap of my defeat. I recall with no sense of pride as site co-founder Shawn “Certis” Jerk would regularly exploit my incompetence in NFL 2k5 again and again, always with patronizing words of encouragement that urged bile ridden fluids deep into the tender mercies of my esophagus. I recall committing myself to off-hours training, practiced passing schemes, elaborate defenses devised as custom strategies to offset his endless molestation of 10-yard crossing patterns, and all of it eventually for naught. Finally, I conceded my last defeat with casual indifference that was so forced it might have been able to lift a Winnebago, and I rage quit in the privacy of my own skull.
I marvel at people who play competitively with others, languish in last place and feel a sense of contentment. They are an alien species that I suspect should be dissected to find the hole inside their skull where my overdeveloped sense of impotent competition resides, if only so I can be properly lobotomized in the same ways that they are.
As you might suspect, this makes me a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around some of the time. While I won’t describe it as a primary trait, it certainly takes on a dominant role when triggered. I suppose if I were better-abled at clearly competitive events like video games, being funny or having a casual discussion I’d unleash the demon far more often, but as a seemingly elaborate cosmic joke, I’m also the ultimate choke artist.
You ever see those athletes, playing for the honor and glory of historic fame, who collapse under the weight of the pressure of their endeavor? That’s me, but in totally ordinary circumstances like beating a fellow shopper to the 10 items and under line or merging onto an interstate.
Were real life like the Sims 3 in which each person has a set of predefined traits, mine would likely be:
Competitive to an unhealthy degree
Unable to accomplish the simplest tasks in which performance is measured.
Were I to go to the dentist tomorrow and be asked to demonstrate how I’ve been brushing teeth to make sure I’m doing it right, I’d likely start rubbing toothpaste on the tip of my nose with a fork. In my head a panicked and bewildered voice would cry out, “No, you fool. You’re doing it wrong. Stop faiiillling!”
So, I do not frequent much of the competitive spaces of online games with this odd affliction. It is, one must admit, among the worst possible personality trait combinations to have, like indiscreet and talkative or exhibitionist and poor body image. Despite the fact that I have no reason to expect that my Demigod or Halo 3 skills would be anything aside from subpar, I would play these games with the impotent fury of a provoked gerbil with a muscular disorder. On rare occasions I will find something for which I have some rare natual affinity, and I cling to them like a tiny, baby monkey clings to the underbelly of its overactive mother.
So, in short, if you’ve ever sent me a game invite for some friendly, casual competition and been wordlessly rebuffed, know that I was in fact doing us all a favor.