Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Failing Forward II: Try Hard - Eddie Gibbs and the Endless Quest to Git Gud

It's been over a year since my last entry. Here we go again.

Things are different now. I am pseudo-retired from tabletop gaming, partially because I moved to Denver, Colorado and have few local friends; partially because my misanthropy has gone to new levels and, by and large, I'd MUCH rather be alone than with people, these days. There are exceptions. They know who they are.

My gaming world has mostly gone inward, to the digital realm. And within that digital realm, one game stands head and shoulders above all the others. It is My Game. It is precious to me. That game is Overwatch. At this point, I have probably played Overwatch more than any other game at any other point in my life. My infatuation with this game has reached obsession levels; I see it in my sleep. I make inside jokes with myself. I have deep, personal feelings on certain heroes within the game.

The dream, I will freely admit, is a spot on a roster with an Overwatch League team. I want to go pro.  I want to play Overwatch for a living. The path will be long, and ardous, and chock-full of doubt (it has been already). I may not make it. But I do it with a powerful resource: love. I want to go pro, but even if there wasn't such a thing as Overwatch League, I'd still play this game as much as I could, whenever I could, forever.

The many reasons I love Overwatch will be elaborated upon throughout the subsequent entries here. In this particular entry, I want to talk about just one of those reasons: my desire to explore my own competitive spirit.

I have never been a competitor. When I was six years old, I played a game of checkers with my dad. I thought I had him. He was smug the entire time, knowing I was falling into a trap. I fell into the trap and promptly lost. My dad mouthed "sorry" to me when he saw the look on my face as I ran to the bathroom to collapse on the floor in a bundle of childish, immature tears. Since then, I've spent most of my life actively avoiding competitive situations. I am a sore loser, and I let losses make unfair leaps to judgement in my mind, about my competence, about my worth!  Been doing it since I was a child, in fact. I think ego is a fragile thing for almost all of us, and I think that fragility can inform the way we look at and love things. I have been a cooperative, chill-ass gamer my whole life, because I have always been a terrible competitor.

I tried, once before, to become a competitor. The game then was Magic: The Gathering. That was back around 2002, I believe. I attended tournaments and shit. Lost constantly. My strategy that time was to just steel myself; to ignore all the losing and just keep playing, keep pushing, keep trying to win. I don't think it worked, in the end, because of the missing ingredient: love. I don't love Magic. I never did. I think it's a great game and all, but I had no passion for it. I only wanted to play it because I thought I had what it took to win. My experiment failed shortly after it began. I haven't seriously played Magic since.

Overwatch, however, is different. That missing ingredient is there. I love Overwatch. As I said before, I'd be playing it even if there was no chance of a future in it for me. If God himself came down and said "This ain't in the cards for you, Ed," I'd be like "Well, you're God; DEAL ME ANOTHER FUCKING HAND!"

It's that irrational, crazy love that has fostered this new curiosity about my competitive spirit. Can I actually be a competitor? Do I have what it takes? Is it possible to hack my own personality, to go through decades of habits and learned lessons and acquired behaviors and change the emphasis just slightly enough to be a contender?

It's actually another game that provoked all those questions: the legendary two-player board game Twilight Struggle. In years past, I had thrown out TS as a game automatically because of the two-player thing. A competitive game that's JUST me and my opponent, with no zany politics or interpersonal shit to blame for a loss? Fuck THAT!

However, Twilight Struggle is a phenomenal game. And its at its absolute best when your opponent is trying as hard as you are to win; it's what turns the game into the Cold War showdown that the box advertises. Win or lose, it's an epic struggle. So whenever I sit down to play TS, I play to win, not because I actually care about winning, but because that's how TS is at it's most fun.

But as good as TS is, I don't love it. I LOVE Overwatch. And Overwatch is another competitive game, like Twilight Struggle, where the game is at its best when all 12 players are trying to win. So combine my love for Overwatch with the rekindled spirit of competition from Twilight Struggle, and there's the beginning of the Endless Quest to Git Gud.

Why be competitive? Why even try? There are several reasons. As a gamer, however, I cling to this one: the best games are competitive. It's absolutely true. There are very, very few games that are non-competitive that offer the level of pure joy that a competitive game with a worthy competitor can provide. This is absolutely true; a fact so easily lost on non-competitive gamers like myself it's ridiculous. You can throw exceptions to the rule out there: Skyrim immediately comes to mind. Most Mario games are fundamentally single-player experiences, as are most Zeldas. But those games are just that: exceptions to the rule. They're special because they defy the common logic. And the common logic is this: all games are at their best when everyone is trying their hardest. The easiest way to assure that is if the game is competitive, so that effort meets effort and motivates more effort. Like two soldiers leaning on each other to sleep in a trench in World War I.

And so, here I am, trying SUPER hard, at the beginning of a long path, a quest to Git Gud.

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