Don’t be that Guy: Leaving the Competition Behind

Sitting down for a few online matches can be a fun way to relax after a hard day at work or school. But it’s hard to avoid getting even more frustrated when we have to share our games with idiotic players.

In this column, we’ll talk about some of the worst offenders and how they end up corrupting the hell out of our gaming experiences, and we kindly invite you to…well, don’t be that guy.

Competition, that’s why we play against other human beings, right? To see who’s the best; to measure our own skills against the others, am I correct? And it’s alright. A game isn’t a game without a winner, and the point of most videogames is beating your adversary, but sometimes we kind of forget that we’re playing to have some fun, and then things may get out of hand.

Since this is my first entry of this column for Culture Mass, I’d like to introduce myself a little, and let you know one of the experiences that led me to think the way I do whenever I talk about competition in gaming. You see, my closest friends and I got to know each other during our high school years, and I was the guy who introduced the rest of them to serious gaming. It all started during the Nintendo 64 era with games like Turok 2, Pokémon Stadium, and Mario Party, but no other game was more frequently played like good ol’ Mario Kart 64. Mario Kart 64 has everything you need to have a great time with friends; it has competition, excitement, and a sheer amount of violence that often leads to hilarious results. Since I was the “console guy”, it was really difficult to snatch the first place out of my grasp –and frankly– that was kind of boring, but as my friends kept improving, it wasn’t rare when they finally started getting the first place, and it was OK for me. Good competition meant more for me that the insipid taste of “I win all the time.”

And then something happened; Mario Kart: Double Dash happened. The new generation rolled in, and one of my friends and I got ourselves a Nintendo GameCube, and whenever we got together we played MKDD, all night without pausing. Average humans shouldn’t be allowed to play that amount of Mario Kart I’m telling ya, but we kept going; we learned every twist and turn, and every shortcut. We played so much that I eventually learned to hate the game, I realized how broken and how random the conditions of victory in this thing are. Blue shells were no longer an odd possibility like in MK64, they’re in everyone’s hands, and now they explode, and the guy on the back of your kart ends being dragged along for a few seconds, scraping his or her poor knees, and (more importantly) slowing you down for that same amount of time.

Stars, Chain Chomps, Golden Mushrooms are also being abused by everyone… everyone, except the guy on first place; Mario Kart punishes you for being on the pole position.  At this rate, I started playing every time worst, I didn’t even mind getting in second, third or fourth place; that was a lot better than being first place and not being able to enjoy a simple curve without being ransacked by a barrage of Blue Shells. That game finally made it; the guy who was the most vocal about videogames in the group was the same guy who started saying that “we should do something else instead of playing all night.” Hell, I even preferred playing Mario Party… freaking Mario Party! At least that game was honest about being 50% random luck, and not trying to delude you into thinking that skill is what you need in order to be the winner.

Then Mario Kart Wii came out, so I rented it and invited my friends over to try it. I found that game a little more balanced; no more two-characters-on-one-kart nonsense, there are other power-ups that players on the rear can use to catch up on the competition that aren’t the dreadful Blue Shell, and (my favorite) now the game can hold other AI opponents to share the race with. Then I couldn’t believe that my friends just went back to Double Dash; “it’s not the same” they said about Mario Kart Wii “I didn’t like it”, and as much as I tried to remind them that they said the very same thing when they played MKDD the first time, they simply dismissed Mario Kart Wii’s existence.

It took me a long while to realize what was going on; maybe it didn’t matter if they didn’t like Mario Kart Wii, hell… it doesn’t even matter if they’re not as videogame savvy as I am. I could complain all day about Mario Kart: Double Dash with them, but that may not change their minds or stop them from playing it; they’re having fun with that game, and that’s all that matters. Then I remembered all those great games I’ve shown them over the years, and how those have ricocheted from them in favor for some utter garbage they found in a bargain bin.

The thing I learned about this experience is that it’s OK not to be competitive, that it’s OK to lose every now and then if it’s for the sake of having fun. Also, I started enjoying being sent to the last position, so I could make their lives as miserable they usually do mine.

Alright, who wants the next Blue Shell?

Daniel Castro

Daniel Castro

Daniel is an engineer, teacher, and freelance writer and translator. He considers himself blessed to be born during the the times video games were created, and has followed their development as an entertainment and artistic media ever since. He loves talking about video games as much as he enjoys playing them, and he's always ready to introduce gaming culture to a newer audience.

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