Personality Flaws

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:

Tall
Hairy
Friendly
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.

Comments

I love chess. It is a deep, beautiful game, but one that can give your psyche a true pummeling. Victory is decided by cold, austere, unequivocally honest skill. No roll of the dice or draw of cards to blame. When you lose, it is your fault. Even when you are playing well and making the right moves, it may still not be enough. You can pour hours into a game and then have it wrecked in a single split-second lapse of concentration. I'm mainly a casual player these days, but for a number of years I played competitively in rated over the board tournaments. When I was in grad school, I was playing in an open weekend tournament. In one round, I was up against a seemingly polite, quiet 9 year old Indian kid. I was doing well -- a pawn up, and I pretty much had the game in hand. As any chess player will tell you, it is when you have an advantage that you need your strongest focus. Well, I started daydreaming and stopped thinking and made a terrible move -- a gut-punch howler that resulted in me dropping a rook. I knew it as soon as I took my hand off the piece. Of course my young opponent spots it and starts getting figgity and realizes he's got me. So a couple of moves later, I'm on the clock deciding if I should resign or make him work a few more moves. While I am mulling it over, my opponent disappears and returns a few minutes later with an entourage of 3 other 9 year-olds who stand around the table, gawking and smiling, for the last few humiliating moves until I resign -- at which point they start high-fiving and jumping up and down, basically dancing around me as I walk away. I didn't look at a chess board for a couple of weeks after that. After enough tough games and tournaments, you eventually realize it is just part of playing chess. The rage-quit, throw your board and pieces out the window loses are the price of the victory lap, garland on your brow wins.

Gosh, it's like you're speaking to me directly. Or about me. I'm not sure how these kinds of things are supposed to work.

I chalk my unhealthy attitude about winning and losing up to the fact that I had good parents-- they didn't force me into little league or other structured, competitive environments. As a result, I never learned the how to be a good loser. Instead, my brain goes right for the A = B = C logic that says: You lose People who lose are, by definition, losers. That makes you a loser. The notion of being a good loser, to me, just means someone who's good at losing, and who the hell would want that?

Hallmark card tripe about "doing my best" always brings to mind the Sean Connery line from The Rock:

Sean Connery wrote:

Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and **** the prom queen.

Doing your best doesn't change the fact that you're still a loser if your best isn't good enough.

Healthy? Probably not. But one learns to love it.

Incidentally, it's not just multiplayer that brings this out in me. I don't like losing to the computer either. I get fairly frustrated at games that set me up for failure the first time through a level-- particularly in time-trial type exercises where you're supposed to find something in a hurry but you don't know the layout of the course (Mirror's Edge, or any game in history that's ever featured an escort mission). Fortunately for me, I am secure enough in my masculinity that I can play the easy difficulty without feeling like I have small man-parts.

MourningCoffee wrote:

I know what you mean Elysium and I have been thinking about this myself for some time. I'm horrible at competitive multiplayer games, especially FPS games, but I can see how they would be fun if there was a level playing field in terms of player skill. So far the best solution I could think of was this:

1) Pick an older competitive multiplayer game, preferably something inexpensive (you'll see why later);

2) Pick a regularly scheduled time to play;

3) Round up players who stink at competitive multiplayer games;

and now the most important part...

4) Make everyone in the group SWEAR that they will only play the game at the regularly scheduled time to keep they playing field level. (Limited play time is why the game should be old and cheap.)

Seems like a tall order, but I'm up for it if anyone wants to give it a try.

An amusing plot. I am in if anyone has the following 360 games: The Darkness, Condemned: Criminal Origins, Condemned 2. Absolutely nobody bought these games for their multiplayer component, I assure you.

So far I have found it entertaining to jump into 'booster' games; matches set up by people trying to mine achievements by letting each other win and so forth. I then proceed to totally wreck their sh*t by attempting to play the game as it was designed.

I think we all would do well to remember the words of Dan Sirlin:

Playing to win is the most important and most widely misunderstood concept in all of competitive games. -snip-
In pursing the path of winning, you are likely to learn that concentrating merely on beating the opponent is not enough. In the long run, you will have to improve yourself always, or you will be surpassed. The actual conflict appears to be between you and the opponents, but the best way to win is to bring to the table a mastery of playing to win and a mastery of the game at hand. These things are developed within you and are revealed to others only during conflict.

Fun read for the uber-competitive geek in everyone. Especially this page on how to take it like a man.

kilanash wrote:

I think we all would do well to remember the words of Dan Sirlin:

Playing to win is the most important and most widely misunderstood concept in all of competitive games. -snip-
In pursing the path of winning, you are likely to learn that concentrating merely on beating the opponent is not enough. In the long run, you will have to improve yourself always, or you will be surpassed. The actual conflict appears to be between you and the opponents, but the best way to win is to bring to the table a mastery of playing to win and a mastery of the game at hand. These things are developed within you and are revealed to others only during conflict.

Fun read for the uber-competitive geek in everyone. Especially this page on how to take it like a man.

I tried reading through that a while ago. He and I are on such different pages that I could barely understand his writing.

jakeleg wrote:

I love chess. It is a deep, beautiful game, but one that can give your psyche a true pummeling. Victory is decided by cold, austere, unequivocally honest skill. No roll of the dice or draw of cards to blame. When you lose, it is your fault. Even when you are playing well and making the right moves, it may still not be enough. You can pour hours into a game and then have it wrecked in a single split-second lapse of concentration.

That's interesting, because I generally regard chess at anything above a casual level as being a game of study more than of skill. At least for a large part of the spectrum between beginners and grand masters, chess seems more about memorizing tactics and strategies that others have used, and less about careful consideration. It's built around moves, blocks, feints and counters like martial arts, but without the physical aspects of strength and speed.

I think I sort of hate chess.

I will never understand "Elysium types". While I enjoy competition I really don't mind being the loser. It's nowhere near as enjoyable as winning, but I get a good feeling when I watch someone else enjoy winning. When I win I invariably think about the other guy and can't help but feel a little bad for him. With my personality I think I get less out of winning than "Elysium types" but I also don't seem to lose as much when I fail. I'm also really good at losing in Left 4 Dead despite how much playtime I've burned.

kilanash wrote:

I think we all would do well to remember the words of Dan Sirlin:

Playing to win is the most important and most widely misunderstood concept in all of competitive games. -snip-
In pursing the path of winning, you are likely to learn that concentrating merely on beating the opponent is not enough. In the long run, you will have to improve yourself always, or you will be surpassed. The actual conflict appears to be between you and the opponents, but the best way to win is to bring to the table a mastery of playing to win and a mastery of the game at hand. These things are developed within you and are revealed to others only during conflict.

Fun read for the uber-competitive geek in everyone. Especially this page on how to take it like a man.

Super-good read, especially the bits about player-imposed mores on 'cheap' moves or weapons (OMG AWP sniping!). While playing Gears 2 I've encountered people who have told me that the chainsaw is cheap, the shotgun 2-piece is cheap, tagging grenades is cheap, and getting the torque bow when they wanted it themselves is cheap.

If I listened to these guys I would be playing approximately 1/3rd of the game that came in the box.

Mutually negotiated and agreed-upon restrictions, on the other hand, I think are okay. In Gears and Beers we turn team kill on, which greatly downplays some of the more annoying elements of the game (massive numbers of tagged grenades, grenade spamming, crazy wild blind-firing, etc). I have no problem adapting to these circumstances since they are a result of the rules being changed for all players and enforced by the game as such.

I'm one of those mutants that don't mind losing. What does bug me, is when, despite doing the best I can, getting constantly screwed. (With ping between 500-1500, this happens a lot.). Then I get annoyed. Say, bouncing off of Louis's shiny head from a 25 damage pounce and getting whooped before I can get away annoys me. It's a glitch in the game that messed me up, not any real skill differential.

But, if I get instakilled across the map by a well placed (or lucky) pistol shot while flying through the air, then I don't mind so much.

I am, however, still quite competitive. I just recognize that the occasional crushing defeat helps me keep perspective. Besides, you learn more from failing utterly.

Kannon wrote:

I'm one of those mutants that don't mind losing. What does bug me, is when, despite doing the best I can, getting constantly screwed. (With ping between 500-1500, this happens a lot.). Then I get annoyed. Say, bouncing off of Louis's shiny head from a 25 damage pounce and getting whooped before I can get away annoys me. It's a glitch in the game that messed me up, not any real skill differential.

But, if I get instakilled across the map by a well placed (or lucky) pistol shot while flying through the air, then I don't mind so much.

I am, however, still quite competitive. I just recognize that the occasional crushing defeat helps me keep perspective. Besides, you learn more from failing utterly.

Those are actually Lobster Mobster hacks defeating you. Always blame Lobster Mobster.

mrwynd wrote:

I will never understand "Elysium types". While I enjoy competition I really don't mind being the loser.

I don't think Elysium`s saying he has a problem with losing. I think it's more about being crushed, losing every single time and not feeling adequate.

interstate78 wrote:
mrwynd wrote:

I will never understand "Elysium types". While I enjoy competition I really don't mind being the loser.

I don't think Elysium`s saying he has a problem with losing. I think it's more about being crushed, losing every single time and not feeling adequate.

Well, I was trying to refer to the "competitive to an unhealthy degree" trait. I have a bit of competitive spirit, enough to play a game and try to win, but it's nowhere near the "unhealthy degree" he explains here.

mrwynd wrote:
interstate78 wrote:
mrwynd wrote:

I will never understand "Elysium types". While I enjoy competition I really don't mind being the loser.

I don't think Elysium`s saying he has a problem with losing. I think it's more about being crushed, losing every single time and not feeling adequate.

Well, I was trying to refer to the "competitive to an unhealthy degree" trait. I have a bit of competitive spirit, enough to play a game and try to win, but it's nowhere near the "unhealthy degree" he explains here.

Yeah but to have a competitive spirit, you gotta win sometimes

I understand where you're coming from and even though you say you don't mind losing, I doubt you'd appreciate playing a game of online Dawn of War 2 or Halo nowadays.

Last time I tried It's not the losing that made me cringe, it's realizing I didn't really know how to play (even though I thought I did) and it was too late to learn, those people were way ahead of me in terms of skill.

At least that's what I got from Elysium's article

Just gotta add to the chorus of "Amen Brother!" I definitely in the same boat. The basic point I keep getting back to is that these things we're all spending this much time discussing are GAMES and games (IMO) are supposed to be FUN. Call me shallow, but getting my ass handed to me is just plain n-o-t f-u-n. Because of this, I've had zero interest in a lot of the big-name titles the last few years, like TF2, L4D, COD4, Demigod, Sins, Gears, etc etc etc. Tried TF2 for about 10 minutes before I was ready toss it in the trash. Played 1 round of L4D before I was done with that. Trying single player Sins, Demigod and Gears was a disappointment. These games are all obviously intended to be played multiplayer. It used to be developers would shoe-horn multiplayer into single player games. These days it seems to be the other way around.

Co-op is a little better, but being the only short bus on the team is only a marginal improvement. Just. Not. Fun. MMOs definitely improve on that, for all the reasons other people have given. Admittedly, getting in a good group for co-op can be fun, but I have a hard time finding good groups because I'm only online about an hour each night. Kids, job, wife, etc (Daddy just wants to stay in his man-cave!!)

Thanks for the great article. It's great to hear there's others out there in the same boat. I've been listening to the podcast for a few months and this is my 1st post. (Game sites are blocked at work!)

I think I have the same problem but it's more than anything my sh*t luck in who I play with. I always end up with the twelve year old in an instance telling me to Lrn2Mage (I make water, turn sh*t into penguins, decurse things and shoot fireballs out of my gnome ass, would he also like me to cure WoW aids?) or the high pitched voice of what I hope is a woman (and not that exact same twelve year old who haunts my dreams) talking sh*t when he headshots me with a pistol.

I really don't mind losing to someone I can honestly say is more skilled than I am and wins somewhat gracefully (even if they do feed on my hatred of them) but its the people who either play cheaply and know it or cheat and still talk sh*t about how awesome they are that makes me wish I had sharks with frickin' laser beams.

interstate78 wrote:
mrwynd wrote:
interstate78 wrote:
mrwynd wrote:

I will never understand "Elysium types". While I enjoy competition I really don't mind being the loser.

I don't think Elysium`s saying he has a problem with losing. I think it's more about being crushed, losing every single time and not feeling adequate.

Well, I was trying to refer to the "competitive to an unhealthy degree" trait. I have a bit of competitive spirit, enough to play a game and try to win, but it's nowhere near the "unhealthy degree" he explains here.

Yeah but to have a competitive spirit, you gotta win sometimes

I understand where you're coming from and even though you say you don't mind losing, I doubt you'd appreciate playing a game of online Dawn of War 2 or Halo nowadays.

Last time I tried It's not the losing that made me cringe, it's realizing I didn't really know how to play (even though I thought I did) and it was too late to learn, those people were way ahead of me in terms of skill.

At least that's what I got from Elysium's article :P

There's definitely truth in that, I couldn't play Starcraft 1 on 1's over and over, it would make me cry.

mrwynd wrote:
interstate78 wrote:
mrwynd wrote:
interstate78 wrote:
mrwynd wrote:

I will never understand "Elysium types". While I enjoy competition I really don't mind being the loser.

I don't think Elysium`s saying he has a problem with losing. I think it's more about being crushed, losing every single time and not feeling adequate.

Well, I was trying to refer to the "competitive to an unhealthy degree" trait. I have a bit of competitive spirit, enough to play a game and try to win, but it's nowhere near the "unhealthy degree" he explains here.

Yeah but to have a competitive spirit, you gotta win sometimes

I understand where you're coming from and even though you say you don't mind losing, I doubt you'd appreciate playing a game of online Dawn of War 2 or Halo nowadays.

Last time I tried It's not the losing that made me cringe, it's realizing I didn't really know how to play (even though I thought I did) and it was too late to learn, those people were way ahead of me in terms of skill.

At least that's what I got from Elysium's article :P

There's definitely truth in that, I couldn't play Starcraft 1 on 1's over and over, it would make me cry.

1v1 in starcraft against some koren dude is not a match. It's a horrible excuse to crush any faith you may have ever had in your RTS abilities. This is from someone who has a ball well into getting crushed while turtling in most RTS games. (Especially if you somehow manage to get off a sneak attack on their base. Even if it doesn't do more than make them sh*t bricks for a minute, that justifies it right there.)

I am going to make a confession. I am Asian - Filipino to be more precise. I used to play SC1 with those Korean dudes. I'm kind of run of the mill there - but that's the Asian server.

I'm the guy you guys hate. I'm the guy who, 5 minutes in, knows exactly what you have in your Terran base just from seeing your troop kind and number. If you have Medics, you CANNOT be getting Tanks and Vultures - and I can and will exploit that knowledge.

I also don't mind losing. Because competitive play involves a LOT of losing, unless you're #10 on the Kalimdor WC3 server - then you own.

The thing is, I don't mind losing because losses, in my mind, are the tutorials for winning. If someone beat you in an RTS - it stands to reason that if you did what he did, then you can beat yourself. And then you get better, sometimes MUCH better. This holds true for Counterstrike as well.

Now I don't claim to be any good at Counter Strike. My regular partner used to go into a match with newbies using only a pistol - because it wouldn't be fair otherwise. Not that it was fair anyway, but at least they didn't die on sight. He's a guy who can rush into a room and headshot everyone in it using a pistol - one bullet each - and get out the other side before the bodies dropped. He's frikkin Neo.

But he didn't use to be that good. I used to be better than him. The one thing we shared in common was that we didn't mind playing a LOT of a game we liked, and we didn't mind losing so long as we were playing. At the end of the day, one's abilities are capped by twitch response and intuition, but up to that cap of skill, you can improve a lot so long as you're willing to play just one game for hours on end day after day, for weeks.

Yeah, he was crap at Starcraft.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I don't think it's a personality flaw to feel outraged at being beaten in a competitive game - that is, of course, what competition is all about. That said, I enjoy competition and competitive games because win or lose, I like a good challenge. I would much rather play a very close game of Starcraft and lose than stomp all over a newbie. Where's the fun in that? I don't need to prove I'm better than a newbie - and I derive no satisfaction from eviscerating a bunch of SCVs with Carriers.

I find that the push of closely matched competition makes me learn more about a game and ultimately allows me to do REALLY COOL THINGS inside that game, which is really the payoff for me. Some of my best memories about SC and WC3 and Counterstrike were in games (and sessions) I ultimately lost. Storming a newbie to oblivion with Templars is kinda fun once or twice, but ultimately kinda boring. Flanking a friend's MUCH bigger Terran Battleship fleet and ultimately taking it apart with "mere" Wraiths after I killed all his detectors?

Priceless.

I think I'm ok with loosing, as long as failure doesn't come down as an insurmountable wall. Or at least doesn't appear to. This, I think, is the beauty of, say, Space Invaders, or more recently (and multiplayerly(?)) Horde mode/Survival mode/other 'waves of inevitable doom' games. Failure is the ultimate end state. The point is to have fun loosing.

post script.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step.

Ixthus wrote:

I really don't mind losing to someone I can honestly say is more skilled than I am and wins somewhat gracefully (even if they do feed on my hatred of them) but its the people who either play cheaply and know it or cheat and still talk sh*t about how awesome they are that makes me wish I had sharks with frickin' laser beams.

Agreed. I love CoD4 multiplayer, for instance, but the amount of times that I die because of blind-grenade spam, impossible headshots with a pistol from across the map through a wall and the like just makes me give up. I don't mind being beaten by skill, or even admitting that I'm not that skilled. But dying because the guy you just emptied a clip into shoots you once in the head is very discouraging.

And trash talking should never be allowed, no matter whether you're the victor or the loser. What I need is the CoD equivalent of the Counterstrike: The Lost Server.

Of course, all of the above goes for any multiplayer game that involves competition with other people who are ostensibly members of the human race. CoD is a good example because the FPS genre seems to bring out the worst in people a lot faster than most other online games.

Rallick:

CounterStrike: The Lost Server isn't a myth. There is a pirate server of that game that heavily screens its users. Several, actually. It's just nearly impossible to get to one without an invite from an insider - and they keep their numbers purposefully low.

These days, it's more common to get good games by purposefully gaming only with people from reputable sites, like GWJ here. Which is not to say that I won't call you "gay" on an online CoD match - no promises there.

This sign is literally 3 miles down the street from my house.

IMAGE(http://lh6.ggpht.com/_WS63F-KMGFI/Sj66gPkPkCI/AAAAAAAAEoM/XfohnwMuVJs/0621091551a.jpg)

Certis wrote:
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 could have cooked a pan of muffins using the rage heat emanating from my Xbox Live headset. Knowing you were all "Yeah, good game" and then throwing a man-tantrum after you signed off makes those victories all the sweeter.

All this in mind, I'm stunned at your indifference to coop as always. All the camaraderie, none of the competition! But of course you can't help yourself, can you? If there's a score at the end, you want to have the highest number. *sigh*

I believe the term used by my wifey bretheren is mantrums for that particular spectacle. The sturdiness of the 360 controller also speaks to this. I'm not sure if there's a word yet for what happens when I do it.

Regarding the original post: I think those of us that take joy in the game even when we're dead last in the standings do so because we're not in a position to correlate above-average scores with fun, so we find it elsewhere. That being said, I still sigh inside with relief when I'm not the guy in last place.

However bitter it may be, humble pie is good for us. I think dealing on a quasi-regular basis with the idea that we are pretty bad at some minor things helps prepare us for coping with when we suck at things of greater importance. I'd also like to think it makes us more gracious winners.

Sean, your article really hit home here. I think I'm a gracious loser*

* Some conditions apply, including:

1. The game must be close.
2. I am playing a genre I'm relatively good at (RTS, action RPGs like Guild Wars, fighting games) rather than a genre I suck at (racing games, sports games, shooters).
2. My opponent congratulates me on a game well played.
3. My teammates say, "don't worry man, we'll get 'em on the next go round."
4. I get the chance to wtfpwn my opponent in the next match.

Of course, how often do all those conditions come together in an online environment? Usually it's the complete opposite - I keep getting my behind handed to me by a 12-year-old who loves to tell me how he's playing hide the salami with my mom while my wife sits on his face. The only satisfaction I get in that situation is that the kid won't know what any of his vulgar smacktalk really means until he gets to college.

At any rate, the toughest thing for me is I don't really have time to dedicate to one game to truly become competitive. I play miniature games and board games about once a week at the local gamestore and can usually hold my own. Of course, most of the other players also only get together once or twice a week, so the playing level is rather equal. The problem with online games is the level of competition is insane since so many players put in at least 4-5 hours a day. That's a second job, and I already have a second job as husband and dad.

At any rate Sean, if you want to look me up for some hot noob on noob action in Demigod, I'm Zappadaddy.