Competitive video games make up some of my most favourite titles ever. Those such as Overwatch, Super Smash Bros, SMITE and occasionally even Fortnite. I’ve realised over the many years that I’ve spent immersing myself within the competitive experience that, sometimes, it can often be hard to enjoy titles such as these when you are a more experienced player.
When you first grab a new competitive game, you enjoy it purely for what it is. You’re trying to win, of course, but you don’t expect to achieve a victory every time you play. In fact, as newer players, we almost expect to lose, because, well, we’re new. Of course, we can’t expect our limited knowledge to pay off on the first day, right?
A couple of years down the line, you’re still enjoying it, and as a competitive video game enthusiast, you now have this expectation of yourself. You expect to be able to pull off the techniques, the strategies and the possible teamwork required to gain that victory. So when it doesn’t happen, and after all the effort you put into trying to win amounts to a loss, it can be quite difficult not to have negative feelings towards the outcome. I believe that this is a big reason why toxicity is common, which is a huge problem across pretty much every online video game.
I mean, you don’t often find yourself talking to your enemies on titles such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I know for a fact, however, that when Ness continuously flicks his left control stick down to make his character duck to the ground over and over again after taking my stock, he is not being friendly.
EXPECTANCY IS A RUTHLESS MIND BLOCK
When we have this expectation of how we should be performing each time we jump back in, we can often get into our own heads and block ourselves from the game’s enjoyment factor. This simply doesn’t exist when we’re still learning the ropes. When we make many ridiculous mistakes and laugh at our failures and defeats rather than moan about them. When your team makes a truce with the enemy, and then someone ruins it and wipes the entire vulnerable team out. These funny moments suddenly become much less of a laughing matter when the game’s competitive nature kicks in. After the “butterfly phase” of falling in love with the game is over.
Getting better at a more competitive video game is part of the fun, too, don’t get me wrong. When you learn how it works and you try your hardest with some friends to reach the finish line together, it’s inevitably a fun experience, no matter the outcome. But when you lose this mindset and you get so high up the competitive ladder that winning is your only expectation? The fun dries out. You lose that need for enjoyment and it is replaced by a need for success.
FROM MY VIDEO GAME EXPERIENCE
My earlier days of Overwatch were honestly some of the best. It was fresh, it was fun and it was something I knew that I’d keep coming back to every so often. When a friend and I jumped into competitive mode, we just wanted to enjoy ourselves and see where we’d place on the competitive ladder. We didn’t care whether we won or lost, but tried our best to grab the win, of course.
Later down the line, however, it became difficult to maintain this thought process, especially when you climb much higher up the ladder. The expectation of winning kicks in, and suddenly it’s less fun to lose. When losing streaks happen and the Skill Rating number falls, it can be disheartening. I ended up taking a break from it altogether, and when I came back, stuck to quickplay after stumbling across the Looking For Group feature, which took me back in time to my best days on the futuristic battlefield.
When I play Fortnite, however, I have no expectancy to win. I don’t play it often, which makes returning to it fun and refreshing. I genuinely enjoy thinking about how my character might meet their inevitable fate within the round. Is it from some random rocket launched across the map? Accidentally falling off of a cliff? Getting stuck in the storm because my awareness is comparable to that of a sloth’s? Sometimes I’ll get the urge to use a dance emote out in the open. Will I go through with it? Yes. Yes, I will.
HOW TO CHANGE YOUR COMPETITIVE MINDSET
My advice to anyone who finds themselves falling out with their favourite competitive video game too much is to re-think how you play it. Don’t play it expecting to win, play it expecting to find hours of enjoyment. Maybe stay away from the competitive environment for a while just to help you gain this mindset. How do you change this mindset so suddenly? Try some of these tips that I’ve found have helped me personally:
Try new game modes – I definitely recommend mixing up your game modes and finding a balance that works for you. Sometimes, all it takes is for you to play the more relaxed modes to realise how genuinely fun the game can be without the serious environment blocking it for you. Try out those casual game modes that you’ve never been interested in and see if you can’t find another element of the game to enjoy.
Grab a couple of friends, or find new ones – Any game can become so much more enjoyable with a couple of friends on board. People you can trust to fill the next few hours with fun for you. Sometimes, though, we don’t always have people that play the same games as us. I highly recommend finding some new in-game friends if this is the case. This is where the Looking For Group feature in Overwatch or the Fill Squads mode in Fortnite come in handy. Give it a go, you never know who you might meet.
Take a break – Easier said than done, but I find it very refreshing to take long breaks from certain games. Now I don’t just mean stop playing any titles, I just mean start playing different ones. Maybe even titles that are completely different. Go from FPS games and MOBAs to sandboxes such as Minecraft and Animal Crossing. Anything that takes your mind away and allows you to cleanse it.
Lose your expectancy – At the end of the day, it really is simply a video game. Even though this is hard to remember when things aren’t exactly going to plan, it has to be said. Try your hardest to succeed, but don’t expect a 100% win rate. It simply wouldn’t be fun. Ask yourself this: If every match of the game you played was a win for the rest of the time you spent playing, would it be fun? The likelihood is, it probably wouldn’t be. When you jump in, you never know what’s gonna happen. That’s the fun and beauty of it, so enjoy it.
Competitive games are some of the most fun and addicting. They can also be quite damaging for many players due to those that are stuck in the victory-expectant mindsets. Let’s see if we can change that, even if just one person at a time.