22 October, 2002

Playing To Win

I play to win.

It may not seem like it sometimes... When I play Axis & Allies, sometimes I make suggestions to the opposing team; but I do this to increase the level of awareness in the game by all the players, so that if we ever go to a tournament together we will be more practiced than we would have been otherwise. Also, I have been known to miscalculate when in formal Magic tournaments, almost as though I made a mistake on purpose so that I would have something to blame my eventual failure on.

But despite this, I play to win.

There are a fair number of people out there that don't, of course, but I tend to believe there are far more that are more interested in winning than in anything else.

"Winning may not be everything, but losing is definitely nothing."
--Charlie Brown

It is hard for me to accept that games are just that: games. I find myself cognitively reminding myself of the purpose of game-playing even as I play, yet still I continue to focus on winning as the sole goal of the game. In fact, it physically disturbs me to see a pointless play.

Keep in mind, of course, that I said 'pointless', not 'cheesy'. 'Cheesiness' is perfectly acceptable in game play, though it does detract from the fun of the game. Exampli gratis in old school Street Fighter, executing a low quick kick repeatedly to the exclusion of any other move is 'cheesy', but it works. Therefore, I find it acceptable. But trying to set up insane combos that never work unless the opponent is sitting still is just plain retarded. It really does physically bother me when a player does that, unless the player states that (s)he is not trying to win at that time. But even that bothers me, though less so; in my mind, I see no point to playing if one player is not playing to win. If that isn't the point, then why not do something other than play a game?

Mr Van Tate, Jr. (mol@cox.net), a writer for an ezine that I read often, recounted a true short story in his most recent article, and he gave me permission to reprint it here. I do so now with the intention that perhaps it may tell each of us something, though it is mostly for my own benefit.

In a chess tournament a young man was facing a formidable opponent for the second-place seat. His opponent, a master level player, looked and acted like a Vulcan with no emotion or expression to his face. The young man finishes his opening moves and proceeds to move his Queen in attacking position of one of his opponent's pawns (and I mean attacking position from the pawn's point of view). The young man's opponent looked up from the chessboard to meet a wild-eyed stare.

"What is...?" the bewildered opponent asked and gestured towards the Queen.

The young man folded his arms and leaned forward on the table.

"She lost me my chance to get to the #1 match, so I told her she couldn't play this game," he grinned.

His opponent sat there for a moment and began to smile a huge, teeth-exposing smile. He replied, "That's the first smile I've had in months. Thank you. I resign. Congrats on 2nd place."

Reading stuff like that really gets to me.
But why? Why should it? What is the value of rewarding bad play such as this? Does the fact that this story really hits a note within me mean that I am a victim of society's whims? It certainly seems that way, because I can offer no rationale for why I like the story; obviously my reason for liking is societal in origin, then, isn't it?
I think too much, don't I?

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