Back in March I wrote a post about competitive gaming after an article entitled entitled Fun vs. Competition: Can you enjoy gaming if you suck? was published by Lyte Bytes. The author stated he felt as though there was a limit to how much enjoyment could be had with a video game due to the presence of competition in certain genres. I had to agree: I concluded that you can have fun even if you’re not the best player, but in a competitive environment your teammates may make it extremely difficult.
That’s one of the reasons why I was hesitant when my stepson Ethan asked if we’d take him shopping so he could buy Rocket League with his pocket-money. I didn’t want our nine-year old to have to deal with any of the abuse that seems commonplace in competitive gaming, regardless of the fact my other-half and I would be supervising. But as he wanted to play online with his school friends, and Psyonix’s release generally seemed like quite a ‘friendly’ game, I pushed my fears aside and we went to visit a local toy-shop one Saturday afternoon.
Once we’d got home, Pete and Ethan spent the rest of the day racing around the pitch, scoring goals when they could and decorating their car with mohawks. There was something about Rocket League that captured their attention and they stayed enraptured in front of the screen all afternoon. We didn’t come into contact with any of my stepson’s friends but didn’t experience any negativity either; perhaps I was wrong about the whole competitive gaming malarkey?
After Ethan had grown tired and we’d seen him up to bed, Pete literally ran back to the sofa and immediately picked up the controller. A few ranked 3v3 matches later and we realised something: as soon as the opposing team scored a goal or two, the rest of his teammates sent requests to forfeit or dropped out completely. There was barely a single game where this didn’t happen and we soon began to expect it – the only difference between the matches was just how quickly it would occur.
I’m not a competitive gamer myself: I don’t get much enjoyment from competition (although I do like a local multiplayer every once in a while) and Rocket League really isn’t my thing. Titles such as League of Legends and Overwatch have never held much appeal and I’d rather go for something with a strong narrative. Maybe that explains why I couldn’t understand the mentality behind these actions; why put forward a forfeit request when there was still several minutes of the game to go and every opportunity to turn it around?
It seemed pointless for a player to get involved in a competitive, team-based title when they appeared to want nothing of the sort. The word ‘competition’ implies that sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose, and participating in it fully means accepting both sides of the coin gracefully when they happen. I can’t help but feel that choosing to drop out while your team are still fighting shows a certain amount of disrespect for them; it’s as if you’re saying they aren’t good enough to play on your side or worthy of your time.
Due to my lack of knowledge about Rocket League and competitive gaming in general, I asked a couple of friends to help me understand this situation. They explained that some players would rather take a loss than a blow to their stats so they can appear more appealing to professional teams. But there’s something I don’t get about that either: why play for the sole purpose of reaching a certain rank? You’ll get the rank you deserve by playing well rather than by artificially maintaining it and, if you learn from your mistakes when you lose, you can only keep getting better and better.
Maybe I’ll never understand the way competitive gaming works and so these are the words of an outsider. But it seems to me that losing in a game is ultimately no big deal because there’ll always be another match. If you find yourself down a couple of goals just smile, take a wild shot in case it breaks through, and give the other team a high-five if they play well.