The Allure of Competitive Gaming
Playing video games competitively was my primary hobby for about 8 years. Obviously I played story games, RPGs and stuff on the side- but not nearly as much as playing multiplayer. It all started with LAN gaming in an internet cafe in Norway. There is this thing called the Night Jib, and you pay and you stay there from 12am-9am in the morning and you get a free pizza and drink. I went with my friends in Norway at least 15 times. Strategy games and FPS shooters for 9 HOURS!!! Nothing more fun than pulling off a sick strategy and winning. CounterStrike, Halo 2 & 3, COD 2, Warcraft III, Diablo 2 (yeah pvp was shitty but I loved it), Command and Conquer: Generals, the Smash Bros. Series, World of Warcraft, and finally now I have turned to Street Fighter and other fighting games. What makes it so addicting? I have no idea but I can try to convey my thoughts.
Let me start by saying this. Multiplayer games are really fun- but they are different from competitive games. A game like Mario Party is a multiplayer game but its sure as hell not balanced, it revolves around chance. A multiplayer game becomes a competitive game when the developers focus on the multiplayer aspects while keeping all the elements of the game relatively balanced. For example, when a team starts a round of Halo, the teams should spawn in an area which is not advantageous when compared to the other team. This is a reason why you see maps that are perfectly symmetrical sometimes- because it is easy to balance the spawn spots. In recent years, competitive games become more balanced over time due to patches. This is a good thing. Sometimes the developer cant do extensive enough testing to balance everything and the players will find little tricks to gain an advantage against other characters, so they patch it out.
At first this article was supposed to be about how competitive gaming should be considered a sport. That is not the focus anymore but I’ll give some thoughts on it. Im wrong I guess because by definition a sport has to be a physical activity….fuck that. Do you know what makes competitive gaming so fun? Every time you pick up the controller and play a match you get a different experience. You have to adapt and face your opponent. Thats what makes it the most addicting for me. Sure, cheerleading is a sport, but how do they adapt to any situation at all? They just practice and perform- like a play…but they do not change according to what their opponents are doing.
I mean this argument can go a bunch of different directions- with my points you could argue that golf is not a sport because the golfers don’t have to adapt to their opponent, they just practice and play their best. BUT GOLF IS PHYSICAL GUYS! I am not saying that Golf and Cheerleading are not sports, but I am arguing that competitive gaming has elements that both of those sports don’t have. And when you boil down the definition of a sport: its about competition. Maybe they need to change the definition of a sport? Im not sure.
Some competitive games also have other elements of sports. For example, a Basketball match requires teamwork. Team chemistry is essential to winning. A sponsored team in Halo isn’t gonna start a capture the flag match with “EVERYONE RUN TO THE SNIPER!” No, they are going to meticulously plan their strategy of attack with constant communication. Even in Street Fighter, a 1 on 1 fighting game, team members and friends help coach each other in between matches. If you are a sponsored player on a league team, then you are going to practice with your team members- even if you are playing alone on the battlefield the team members still train with each other.
What else makes competitive games addicting? Well for me, there is no better feeling than completely dominating your opponent when he was the one talking shit. This is also true in real life. People get mad hyped for rivalries between different teams and athletes. The best is when an MMA fighter or Boxer talks shit then gets blown up in the fight. People love this. Competition and smack talk. (except samurai they never talk shit)
So competitive games will always be one of my favorite hobbies- that will never change. I have to force myself away from Street Fighter half the time because I want to go back to playing all genres of games. This I have been doing successfully- but I will never quit playing games competitively (especially cuz I can turn most of them into drinking games.) What makes them addicting? Talking smack, winning, adapting to the situation to mind fuck your opponent. SEEING YOURSELF get better and better after TRAINING. Developing strategies. Competition.