Every individual might have a different reason to play video games. However, publisher and developers alike are now putting more and more focus on games with a competitive tilt. I play games in order to have fun and grow as an individual, whether it be through increased problem solving, greater world understanding, or relatable characters. Lately, these competitive games have me more worried about whether I got the most kills in Rainbow 6 Siege or who has the most Siege damage in Heroes of the Storm, than whether or not I had the most fun.
eSports are becoming one of the biggest trends in video games. Games are becoming a service to be maintained for years after the initial release of the game with updates, downloadable content, and patches. They are designed to be played without end and more recently organizations have begun to create events surrounded games to keep players interested and playing the game.
I am not saying that this is a bad thing. I have certainly enjoyed my fair share of eSports, through both playing and watching on services like Twitch.tv and Youtube.com. At the end of the day real life sports like baseball, futbol, and track and field share a lot of similarities with eSports. Sports are defined by three characteristics: a common set of rules, skilled movement, and competition. Even watching sports can be problematic, individuals experience decreased happiness when their favorite team loses. Even more so when you are actually playing and lose, and in competitive games you are designed to lose about 50% of the time.
A common saying throughout the sporting world is that “Competition build character.” But research has shown that competitive sports actually breed negative emotions, such as frustration and aggression. Competition can be used to enhance our experience of video games, however, video games are not necessarily designed to be competitive. It is only in the last few years that we have seen an explosion of competition-driven experiences. Which results in competition becoming an end in itself. The only reason people play the game is to win, however, the experience can be quite different when winning is simply the fruit of your labor and the true victory is watching yourself improve.
Working hard to improve at a video game is truly an enriching experience. Building relationships with townsfolk and filling a museum with fossils in Animal Crossing, creates a sense of self-worth and development without competition. Video games provide an opportunity to work hard and improve without the need for competition. Which is fantastic because of how easily competition can lead to negativity. I’m calling for publishers and developers to de-emphasize competition in games and reemphasize fun and self-development! The epitome of this line of thinking is the cooperative game experience. Have players work together to achieve something greater than themselves. This allows elite players to help new players and grow the size of the community together, at the end of the day all the players are winners and everyone has a chance to see themselves improve.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that values the individualistic nature of competition. We have a societal desire to be better than our peers. Competition teaches us that our goal is to be better than someone else, to push others down in order to improve your own standing. As long as you aren’t the slowest runner you won’t get eaten by the lion. Cooperation however, teaches us to work together in order to reach a higher plane. To reach back and pull someone else up in the hopes that one day they might do the same for you. Cooperation improves the state of everyone in the system. I can’t play cooperative games by myself; I want to create a community that helps gamers of all skill levels improve within a system that promotes cooperation. I don’t think there is a perfectly cooperative game yet, but games like Diablo, parts of The Division, and Destiny’s raid and community wide puzzles, are getting closer to creating a cooperative experience.
Jake Fredericks is the bourgeoisie of Spoon Deep and is trying to give back his means of production to all gamers. He is an armchair philosopher that enjoys leisure time and has some extra gold in WoW for Chase if he reads this. Reach out to Jake if you need a Project Designer for the future of massively cooperative games (or other business inquiries) at firstname.lastname@example.org.