"Whaddya mean I lost?! NOOOOOOOOO!!"

I'll admit it.  I'm a loser.  I have met with many a "Game Over" and I will be the first to say that in my battles and fights against both CPUs and other players.  I am not new to the phenomenon of not being the best gamer of them all, and in truth, I am actually kind of glad.  You see, there's a lot of pressure on people who are awesome at a game.  You know them, the people who have spent countless hours slaving away, learning every in and out and trick of the game- memorizing control schemes until it's second nature.  It's even worse if they've actually won an official match or tournament because then you KNOW they're supposed to be amazing.  People like this are supposed to win every time.  And others challenge them just for that purpose.  Because, you see, to beat someone who is actually amazing at something is an amazing feat in and of itself.  That kind of constant competition is exhausting..


"You killed my Magikarp!"

I don't lose on purpose.  I'm not one of those annoying people who tries to sucker others into playing so that I can get them to win and then pretend to be all surprised.  But to be honest, I often play games with people who are much better than I am.  Most of "social" gaming for me is the fun with friends aspect.  From party games or silly dancing games to fighters, I enjoy playing with others because the camaraderie and joking and playful sparring is what truly makes the game fun, not necessarily the winning part.  Even when I'm playing against one of my siblings and things are getting intense, I'm still not really all that upset if I end up losing.  But that's something that's made me wonder- what makes my own good-natured losing different than the person who screams and throws their controller at the wall?

My face isn't *exactly* like this after losing, but you won't see me throwing things or swearing like a sailor.

I think that losing well is a lost art, especially in a world where the face of communal gaming has changed so much in this last decade.  When you are placed face to face with your gaming peers, it is a lot easier to see the consequences of sharp words or stomping on one's controller like a monkey.  Acting horribly seems to be a lot easier when all you have is a headset- I mean, it's a lot more detached, even if you're gaming with people you actually know in the real world.  But on the other hand, it also seems largely tied to the fact that when I grew up as a child, throwing controllers around was the easiest way to break them.  And god forbid you threw your Game Boy- not only might that crack your screen, but a hard smack has been known to short out a cartridge and force you to start all over again only now it won't let you save and every time you turn off the system it resets (*shakes fist at a certain Pokemon Ruby cartridge that suffered this fate after an accidental droppage last March*).

I mean, seriously, do you want to have to fight this bug-loving moron over again?

Those of us who started gaming before we could make random kids in New Jersey cry with spectacular trol-lol-loling remember a time in which rage quitting was not an option because then you'd have to start the ENTIRE GAME all over again from the beginning.  And games where you had to kind of squint to see what the pixels were supposed to represent on the super mega awesome box art were the norm, not the exception.   These games were only generally affordable to parents, because even pixely games cost at least 30 bucks a pop, so if you were a kid, you were happy with what you got, even if it was just Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 3.  You were not ENTITLED to beautiful sweeping landscapes or three dimensional fields of view with bloom glowing all over the place.  So when you lost, you sat there and said, ok, this sucks, but I didn't get an instruction manual and the Internet isn't past the point of dial-up modems and crappy AOL CDs so it takes an hour to get online in the first place.  So you keep playing and playing, even if you get a game over in five seconds, and finally you succeed.

The "I totally did this all on my own after many many failures so WA HA HA!" face.

And let me tell you- that success after rampant failure when you were given NO tutorial or handbook or hints or have access to GameFAQs or online resources....that is a sweet sweet success that I am not sure many people have experienced these days.

And in turn, knowing this kind of failure through trial and error and many an hour doing what you can to figure out how to do it yourself, I think this is how one develops a keen sense of losing gracefully.  You know that you might lose, and after having experienced failure, you're no longer as afraid of it happening.  Because, sure, THIS time you lost, but that doesn't mean that next time you won't win.

This is true in pretty much everything you experience.  Romance, finances, even parenting.  The more times you fail, the more times you have to learn, and the failures that you have after are less frightening.  When you've never lost, have always consulted the manual or the online guide and you do your best to protect yourself from ever having to experience failure, you might actually be doing yourself a disservice.  First of all, if you don't actually fail, it can be easy to build a FEAR of failure that becomes much larger than the actual experience of failing, which basically will keep you in the grip of that fear of failure and may actually lead to a lot of stress and unhappiness, which sucks because who wants gaming to go from being a fun diversion to being something you dread?  Secondly, if you don't fail, it can be hard to know if there are other ways of doing things.  Sometimes, for example, I will start exploring in a game, even if I know that it is possible that I'll go into a dangerous or even deadly area and get a Game Over.  Sometimes, I've found some pretty amazing things from doing this, from secret levels in a Mario game to interesting side quests that I didn't realize were there in a Zelda game.  Other times, I fall off the side of the world or die a horrible death and have to start over again.  Either way, I learn, and I grow in the experience.  Thirdly, I feel like consulting a guide or walkthrough every time the going gets a little bit tough is kind of boring.  Most games exist to test your reflexes and your cognitive skills.  Beyond a couple of bad game designs that basically require you to look at a guide to actually get further in the game (*cough* Trace Memory *cough*), most games simply require you to set the game down, go do something else for awhile and then come back to the game and you can come up with the solution yourself.  And, sure, the answers can be found at the end of a Google search, but sometimes it's amazing to try and figure it out on your own, especially since I honestly think that this is the meaning of gaming- interfacing with that world with your own wits.

Yeah...well, maybe you just lost because sometimes people LOSE.  it's not a character flaw.

I know I've kinda gone on at length, but what I hope you take away from all of this talk about losing is that when you lose against another person at game or simply get a Game Over, that is not a final judgement on your personal character or Self (and really, isn't "game over" a misnomer if you have the option to restart from your last save point or even play the game again?).  When you lose, you're not losing forever.  The game doesn't shut off and not allow you to play ever again.  But what we can learn from losing is how to lose WELL, how to say "good game, let's try 3 out of 3" or even come up with a zinger of a comeback to a gloating winner (winning badly is also in bad taste, just so ya know), but not resort to calling people (or people's mothers) nasty names and threatening bodily harm to console or CPU.  So too do our controllers not deserve to be abused by being stomped on, hurled across a room, or otherwise destroyed in a fit of rage.  When you fail, it can suck, it can be frustrating, but it isn't the end of the world.

After all, even after "Game Over" you always get "Continue? Y/N".  In the end, you can always go on, get through the suckiness of failure, but how you choose to go about it- well, that's 100% up to you.


So, do you consider yourself a "good loser"?

Do you have a story or an experience where you have encountered a "bad loser"?

And finally, what game would you say is the most frustrating game you've ever played?  How did you cope?


In closing, I'll have to say that just like how being a veteran gamer gives you a sense of being less nervous about an all-new game, being a parent for the second time has left me a lot more relaxed in regards to all the baby stuff. Sure, it's still stressful and time-consuming, but it's also a lot easier to cope with since I have the experience with my firstborn and all the trial and error that I experienced with her in my parenting toolbox.  Sure, no two children are the same, but at least if you have the cards stacked against you, it's easier when you know what game you're playing.

I look forward to hearing your responses!