Learning to Lose Gracefully

I love to win, and I don’t care who knows it. The thrill of overcoming my opponents can’t be matched. I want to conquer friends, family, and strangers. For just a few moments at the end of a round of Halo or Call of Duty, I’m revered as something magical. Unstoppable. The greatest. Until, you know, I can’t manage to get a kill to save my life the next round.

As the old adage goes, you can’t win them all. I used to believe I was the exception. I was the kid who flipped the Monopoly board when I landed on my mom’s Boardwalk with a hotel on it. Get rid of that much of my money? No thank you. I’d rather just stop playing. I was fine with all the pieces scattered in the floor and on the table and the money fluttering away. As long as I didn’t have to pick it up, I was free to run crying to my room to pout. With each recurring incident, one of my parents or a member of my family would always look at me with disapproval and call me a sore loser.

“Sore loser,” I’d think. “I’m a kid, I don’t even know what that means.” All that was clear to me was that when you win, you get everything. The approval, the euphoria, and sometimes even prizes. Long story short, I grew up one of the sorest losers to be found anywhere. No matter what game, console, board, PC, or even sport, all I wanted was to come out on top. And if I couldn’t? I’d just cheat my way there, because then I’d be a winner.

mariotennis

I never felt any remorse for being a spoiled brat, crying and pouting my way out of losses or demanding handicaps for my opponents until I began playing Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 with my dad. After numerous disputes with my parents over the years, I’ve come to find that gaming sessions with my father will usually mend any rift. My dad’s a big sports fan, but he is unable to play most. Sports games, to him, are a great way to experience them since he cannot. Of course, he annihilated me almost every match as Yoshi against my Boo.

“You cheated!” I’d wail, and toss my Nintendo 64 controller down in a fit of rage. I’ll never forget the day my dad had decided that enough was enough, and that he wasn’t going to play with a sore loser anymore. Suddenly I had lost my favorite gaming partner. I would get out Mortal Kombat and he would vehemently refuse to play. Mario Party became a solo affair. GoldenEye multiplayer wasn’t an option. All this time spent alone got me thinking.

Why was winning so important to me?

The short answer is that it really wasn’t. The more solitude I experienced, the more my mood began to deteriorate. I loved that time spent with my dad. One lucky day, he proposed we start up a match of Mario Tennis. Four games in, I had lost all but once. It didn’t matter, though. I had been having fun. I was enjoying the game, and that’s the point of gaming. To have fun. It’s too often that we forget this.

It’s true that not everyone has 70+ hours a week to spend memorizing maps, exploiting glitches, or upping their rank. What’s more, not everyone wants to. It doesn’t make you less of a gamer, and it most certainly does not mean that you should be unwelcome because you might lose a match or two, or four, or twenty. It’s not wrong to strive for greatness, either, because with enough practice you could very well win the majority of the games you play. There is no guarantee, however, but more power to those who want to be the best at any given game. That’s their prerogative, and I respect that, especially the best of the best who really earned their stats.

I just want to play games. I just want to have fun. Real fun, the kind that comes from spending time with friends and meeting new people, not from telling everyone how much of a noob they are because they were virtually pumped full of lead for a good fifteen minutes. Being just that, a “noob”, is never anything to be ashamed of, if you really are a beginner and you aren’t just being insulted. It’s treated like such an enormous deal when someone is new to the game. Everyone was once new, but the drive to win turns people into selfish braggarts who have no regard for others.

deathmatch

Unless you’re getting paid to win or your career is riding on it, there is no reason to become so hateful toward others who either did not further your cause or thwarted it. Sure you can strive to win, but don’t make it your modus operandi. Remember why you ever picked up a controller or a mouse in the first place. I want to play fair, and I want to play clean. I want to share my passion with you. I want to play and get better, one day at a time. As we all should know by know it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

How do you play your game?

  • http://jakewriting.blogspot.com/ Jake

    my gf hits me if i beat her at smash bros….

  • Ryan Cartmel

    Wow. I love this article.

    Some of my best memories were while I was holding a controller in my hand and my father or friends would be playing with me.

    My dad would play sports games with me, starting on the NES with RBI Baseball, and eventually that bled into the SNES with Madden taking over. He would also play other games with me, games like Battletoads, Double Dragon, NBA Jam, and Street Fighter II (he was a good sport because I would dominate). He still gets on me to come and visit him so we can play some Madden (in which I have to be the good sport because he dominates me), but it’s a bit of a longer trip these days.

    And oh man, me, my brother and my friends, would just go crazy sometimes. Aside from the fact that I discovered Secret of Mana by helping a friend of mine beat a Vampire boss (well more like running around trying not to die because I had no idea what was going on as it was the first time I had ever played it), the N64 is where the majority of my multiplayer experiences with my friends lie. So many memories of screaming and hollering while playing Bomberman 64, 007, Perfect Dark (which would cause us to stay up all night playing well into the morning multiple times), Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey, and WCW vs NWO.

    Nobody was a sore loser and it was always a blast, and the stupid things we would say and come up with while playing would be inside jokes for years.

    Ah memories.