When I think through my childhood, I remember enjoying games like Pokemon Yellow on my GameBoy. I remember countless hours being spent on games like Crash Bandicoot and Sonic the Hedgehog. I remember just how much fun I had playing these games, it was just you and each increasingly harder level. The immersion was perfect, and each challenge was taken on gladly.
However, in this day and age, I, along with millions of other gamers, are playing a very different type of game. I myself, am playing games like StarCraft 2, Hearthstone and Overwatch, whilst others find enjoyment in games like CounterStrike and League of Legends. And what is it that all these games have in common? They are all purely competitive.
Now, what is bad with this you may ask? Inherently there is not too much wrong with competitive games. Because I am a huge fan of the eSports scene, and it has been amazing to see its rise over the last ten years or so. The stigma that games are for unsociable smelly teenagers has long been quashed with the introduction of global events and multi-million dollar prize pools.
However, when we look at the flip side of things, there is definitely a case to be made that competitive games can bring the worse out in people. When the ultimate object of the game is just to win, people can get extremely tilted when this doesn't go their way. I have experienced this many times in games like Overwatch, where people will rage at their team when they lose a match. Or start trolling because a round isn't going well, causing the rest of the team to start tilting, thus causing a bad atmosphere.
I even admit myself, that when I play a competitive game, my only aim is to get that win, whether or not I enjoy the match doesn't matter to me. All that matters is the thrill of the win, the feeling of being better than your opponent. The momentum you gather from winning is what drives you on to keep hitting that play button. It's amazing what a drain losing can have on your mind, it causes you to have doubts in yourself. It makes you scared to hit that play button again in fear of losing more.
Now of course as I have gotten older, I am more able to accept why I am losing and what I can do improve my gameplay. Whilst of course losses are always going to be disappointing to me, I'd rarely find myself "raging". Though of course, if I was playing in a huge tournament for thousands of dollars I'd probably get a bit mad if I got knocked out because it would be a crushing disappointment. Luckily I have only competed in minor tournaments, and have been able to enjoy the experiences, especially at offline events.
All of this accumulates to one big question: why do we struggle to play games for fun these days? I have pondered this question a lot lately, and I try to remember the last couple games I played purely for fun. These would probably be Skyrim and Shadow of Mordor. These games were focussed on the single player aspect, so obviously. You could screw up at some point, but you could always go back and try again. Competitive games are definitely dominating the market, even games which have a solid single player mode, still have a heavy focus on the multiplayer.
It just seems that the competition is what people want these days, eSports has helped a lot in this regard, and whilst I myself love the thrill of winning, and the challenge of getting better and climbing the ranks in whatever game I play, I sometimes wish I could go back to the days I played games for what they were. But I still look forward to watching the competitive gaming scene continue to flourish and maybe one day compete with the biggest sports in the world.