Let’s be honest, nobody likes to lose. Nobody! Gaming is no different. Whether you’re online in a player vs. player format, or you take a stupid risk in a single player platformer, losing sucks. Today, I am here to tell you that it’s okay to lose. I know what you’re thinking, “Pie, you just said no one likes to lose, why are you condoning it?” Well, spare me some time to explain.
It has been entrenched in so many gamers’ psyches that losing is directly linked to a sub-par performance. I want to change that thinking. I want gamers to try and grasp why it might be okay to accept losing as an ordinary, if not frequent, outcome in gaming.
Losing in video games can happen in various ways: dying at the hand of an enemy or another player, having a lower score, not winning a race, not scoring enough points, etc. The various ways you can lose in video games as a whole, is daunting and expansive. Sometimes, there are occasions where the game will cheese you, and beat you because it’s designed poorly. I’m not talking about those times; unfair deaths and losses are occurrences in gaming, but I am confident in understanding that most ‘losses’ in gaming, are not those cheap deaths.
There are some small differences with regards to processing a loss in gaming, especially whether it comes at the hands of the game’s programming or at the skill of another player. Allow me to break it down for you!
Let’s begin with losing at the hand of the game. Losing to the game itself, when fair, can be extremely aggravating; almost like the game is taunting you; sometimes doing exactly that. I want to address that when a game hands you a challenge that you cannot seem to beat, at that moment or later, due to perfect design or clever gameplay, you shouldn’t be upset to the point of physical outrage, but rather challenged even further to beat the game. I realize that this may sound easier said than done, but I want you to process just what a loss from the game means. It’s the game telling you in one way or another, to think of a different way to approach this; whether it is a new strategy, a different weapon, or just better timing. A good game will reward you for overcoming the challenge with a feeling of gratification and satisfaction. A good example of challenge overcome by desire is whenever I play a Donkey Kong Country game. I remember when I was playing Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, I held nothing but laughter and desire to overcome the levels and challenges present in that game, because the game was designed in such a way that any mistakes that occurred, were my own; I felt as if it was my fault that I didn’t succeed, not the game’s.
Arguably the most frustrating type of loss is the one handed to you at the mercy of another player. PvP is an excellent way of gauging just how good, or not so good, you may be at a game. Not every game in the market has multiplayer options, or even online scoreboards, but for those that do, there is a certain fire that ignites within a player knowing that it’s mano-a-mano. There is an extrinsic motivation to prove yourself. When another player beats you, it’s only natural that you may feel upset, angry or frustrated. However, it’s with this kind of loss that we can examine how this challenge, is helpful to the player. Like losing to the computer, losing to a human player tells the gamer that there is simply a challenge that is too great for you. Yet, it is different because instead of beating the game’s challenge, the focal point is that you now have something to strive for, aside from completion. A rival-like aspect to the challenge is introduced that promotes a competitive edge within all of us, allowing us to push forward and practice in ways a computer challenge may not inspire. With this train of thought, I know that whenever I lose to a player while playing Super Smash Bros., I know it’s because of their skill level and amount of time dedicated to perfecting their style. This style of game allows for more than a static win, the scoreboard is ever-changing and each loss only fuels the fire!
Getting mad and angry can inspire some others to achieve higher and play better, but I find it can be a mental hurdle when it comes to the enjoyment of a game, not to mention a turn off to other players. Players need to remember that a game is there for the simple concept of fun. Games are designed for players to enjoy themselves and have a good time. Ultimately, if you aren’t having fun playing a game and losing frustrates you to the point of physical rage, stop playing. When a game is no longer fun for the player and the sense of joy and wonderment are forgotten, the purpose is lost. In turn, remember that it’s just a game, but also never lose sight of the fact that it is only a game, and games are meant to be fun.
I hope that I made it clear for others to see how I view losing in video games; however not-perfect I am, it’s something I strive for. I hope that I outlined some things to think about next time you play. To rehearse, it’s alright to lose. Game over isn’t permanent; so don’t treat it as such.
Unless it’s Mario Party. It’s always permanent when you lose in Mario Party! 😉
– Chris Pie