Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Losing is fun

I typically avoid metaphors or analogies but I think this is going to have to be another one of those exceptions. The reason is this revelation about video games came from doing something completely unrelated to video games, so rather than manipulate that into video game relevance I’m going to speak straight and then apply the parts that fit later.

On Sunday I got ride in my friends race car at some off road races. I ride with him a lot, but it is still just as fun as the first time. When I was in High School I built a truck to race off road and I did that until I was 21. I ended up rolling the truck and going to the hospital and I just didn’t have the money to put it back together at the time. I love racing, and it got me thinking.

Any sport or game where you compete against someone there is always a winner and a loser. The more people that participate the more losers you invariably have, because there can only ever be one winner and an indefinite amount of losers. We lost this weekend, but I still had just as much fun as when we win.

My favorite race of all time was one I didn’t even win. I was 19 years old racing against guys that were 10-15 years older than me and had helped me build my race truck. For the first 6 laps of the race I was in 2nd place with less than a car length between myself and the truck in first place. The truck in 3rd place was on my bumper and the truck in 4th place was on his. We did this in the dirt, off jumps, for 6 laps straight and going into the 7th lap I made a mistake. I dropped back to 3rd place and continued to follow the crowd. Everyone was going high, low, trying everything we knew to get around one another and you simply couldn’t pass unless someone made a mistake. I finished that race with a 3rd place and to this day it was the most fun I’ve ever had in a race car or race truck.

So I was thinking about other sports where I lost but still had fun. I love soccer (football) and I have tried to continue playing it ever since getting out of school. I was playing on a Co-ed Indoor team for a few years before I moved to where I am now. Our team’s very first session together we made it to the finals, I didn’t even know everyone’s name but we worked together so well that we dominated the playoffs and made it to the championship game. We lost that game, but it was one of the funniest football games I’ve ever played. After nearly an hour of regular play and two overtimes the game was tied 2-2 so we went to a shoot out. We lost the shoot out 3-2, yet I still remember the game fondly.

Sports, games, races… they are supposed to be fun regardless of winning or losing. Why is it that I can lose at any of these and still have a great time, but in a video game it isn’t fun unless I win. This is actually a rhetorical question because I think I know the answer, but I want to hear you opinions. I can’t fully put it in words yet and that may take a day or two but why is it that I can lose at a sport and still have more fun than winning yet that same feeling doesn’t apply to a video game?

1 comment:

  1. Playing to "win" is different from playing to have fun. Sirlin pooh-poohs those who just want to enjoy the journey, but it's a completely valid playstyle. I'd even say it's a healthier one, since it lends itself better to cooperation and reduces contention.

    Even if you're playing to win, though, losing can be valuable experience. ;)