What is competitive gaming?
I’ll be damned if I say I don’t spend a good amount of time raging every time some random guy on the internet beats me in a game of Hearthstone or whatever else I miraculously find the time to play the last few days. Is wanting to win though considered competitive? Well, let’s explore that term a little bit more, because a rather large amount of people seem to mistakenly take the term “competitive” as something that one would directly connect to the latest scene of eSports and all of its pro players.
Well no, competitive doesn’t have to necessarily mean that you want to win. Everyone is different and despite having similar motives sometimes, it’s not rare that a person would enjoy the game in a totally different way than another would. Let’s take for example a game like Netrunner, or an even more famous one, Hearthstone. Despite their completely different mechanics, both games provide a significantly unique satisfaction whenever as a player you are able to pull off some weird combo that your opponent would never expect. Sometimes those combos are so intricate though, that they don’t allow for much room for other things that would make your deck “competitive.” Oh, damn, here’s that word again. What makes your deck “competitive” though? What is it that gives it that quality?
A competitive player is basically the one that adapts to the meta and plays in such a way that he or she (although it’s rarely a she, but that’s another thing to discuss some day) is able to get to a point in rankings that is considered quite high. The player in question exhibits a gamestyle that is “enough” to put him/her on top of the leaderboards and thus prove his reign. THAT is what a competitive player is.
So it’s common to often confuse it with the sore winners that all they want to do is win. People that just want to win aren’t necessarily competitive too. Heck, I’ve met tons of players that really all they want to do is win, but don’t allow themselves to take the time and understand their surroundings and see why they are failing to do so. A competitive player is thus also a patient player, who takes the time to study and fully realize later what is going on in order to be able to tackle any kind of obstacle set in his way to the top. That’s why you never see small kids on top of leaderboards (you rarely ever do). It’s because the players that are really good, are the ones that aren’t just talented, but the ones that invested time into understanding the game better than others in order to have the upper hand when the critical moment arrived.
Is someone that wins games often competitive? I hardly believe so. If I am allowed to speak for myself at this point, I’d say that despite loving the smell of victory and the sour tears of my enemies, I am not the kind of person that would be sad if he didn’t win. Obviously you get happy when you win, but for me, it’s more about being able to do the best I can to achieve the best result during a game. Which is consequently why I hate RNG games, because they don’t allow me to make the best plays sometimes. That is the reason why I can never like hearthstone on a “competitive” level, despite the fact that there are always some good plays to be made, that a veteran player would know when to make during a game. I just can’t take it seriously, not after the things I’ve played on an indeed “competitive” level. But generally, you can be happy when losing as well, depending on what your motives of playing the game are and what you get satisfaction from.
So generally, I believe we have to stop being biased about this and stop connecting everyone who enjoys a game and enjoys breaking it too (finding every little exploit) with the image of a 5 year old angry kid who just wants to win. If you want to find those kids, go play Halo or something, be certain that you’ll find plenty there. But it goes without saying that this doesn’t mean that a more mature community would be any different either since there are always these kind of people to be found in games. Take for example Eve Online, where entire in-game corporations made real-life threats to other players in order to take advantage of them and gain in-game control. I will not be surprised if the same happens with Star Citizen, since people are putting SO much money into something that is just bound to flop sooner or later. The more money people have put into a game, the more serious they will obviously be about it.
Sharing my 2 cents about competitive gaming though, I believe it’s something that is entirely misunderstood by the common folk (the ones that do not game). People that aren’t us, as a friend of mine would say, don’t understand the difference between a nerd and a “competitive” gamer but that’s just one of the many misconceptions of our modern world. Competitive players are, if anything at all, really smart people who are just passionate about a certain game, and in most cases its mechanics, and have chosen to invest time in it in order to become really good at it. Being able to strategize, lead other people or even react really quick to certain events are all qualifications that our everyday life challenges us in. Games do that on an even more advanced level and that’s something that people are slowly beginning to understand.
There was a time, that some companies asked people if they had any experience in World of Warcraft. That was because being part of a team in World of Warcraft required a lot of coordination, patience and loyalty if you wanted to go far in the game. Those are just a few of the many qualities a competitive WoW player had to have and it’s still quite hard to accomplish some things in World of Warcraft without those, despite its apparent downfall to an easy-to-play game. That is not surprising though, since if you want to attract more of the younger population to your game, then you have to make your game easier.
Generally, having played quite a few games competitively myself, I believe that they are something that most gamers should go through at some point in their gaming lives even on a small level. It’s an amazing experience and in most cases allows the player to form strong relationships with other players from around the world that share the same passions.
Having played Command & Conquer Tiberium Wars competitively, I was able to understand how other people react to certain events and how they strategize. It also showed me what kind of surprises players can prepare. It was quite interesting.
Having played Battlefield 2142 competitively, I was able to command other players on a real-time battlefield situation through the role of the team commander while at the same time, I experienced what it means to have patience in order to protect a strategic point by being camped away at a sniping location. I also got to play as a part of an infiltration squad that the drop pod mechanic of the game made really interesting.
Having played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 competitively, I was able to understand how important it is to stay with the team sometimes and how as a player you need to learn when to break off from the team to pursue an objective. Despite its fast paced gameplay, the game required a lot of patience during clan matches since a lot depended on just a couple soldiers during some rounds. I hated the fact that the sniper rifle became a close quarters weapon because of the title series, but I still enjoyed looking through a scope.
Having played World of Warcraft (quite) competitively, I was able to meet people from other cultures and understand how easily they can be offended as well as how easily they can be entertained. You have to realize that in a highly social game such as WoW, it’s easy to get into a fight with someone else. But the fact that I got to play in several 25man and 10man teams from time to time, tackling the game’s most difficult bosses in a race for the title of having done it first in the world, was something amazingly nerve-wrecking but really rewarding in the end. Even my little time of doing PvP in the game showed me how different each player behaves in a fast-paced battlefield. The game also helped me hone my leadership skills to a very high level.
All in all, these are just my own examples, but every game has something different to offer. Even if you end up never using any of those skills, the fact that you enjoyed yourself while acquiring all these skills, is still something extraordinary. I totally understand why someone that isn’t accustomed to video games and multiplayer ones in particular, isn’t able to fully comprehend how a “game” can have an “impact” on one’s life.
In conclusion, video games can be quite informative too and not just entertaining. Surely there are reasons why video games are bad influences when it comes to certain more intricate analyses but they are still one of the best interactive experiences a human of our time can have. Image, video, sound, control. All of those were just a dream a hundred years ago and yet now, we are building machines that will allow us to fully control an avatar inside a game. I’d say that’s simply mesmerizing.
What I know is that competitive gaming is filling arenas now with eSports becoming a real “thing.” People are coming in by the thousands in competitive gaming events and the more time progresses, the more organized play we see thus allowing for the truly amazing and dedicated players to shine. With organizations like Major League Gaming, World Gaming and many others, I am more than certain that this hype will only grow manage to something colossal soon enough. I’m not quite an eSports fan myself, but let’s leave that conversation for another time, shall we?
What was your best “competitive” experience in a game? What did you learn?
-Constantine “Kelfecil” Christakis