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The Great Arnoldo's blog

7:02 AM on 01.14.2010

Why Games Make Us Mad

Right then, here goes. Iím going to use this opportunity to have a closer look at the competitive animal that resides in all of us. You know the one. Itís what made you throw your SNES controller at the wall as a kid. Itís the self same beast that makes you wake in the middle of the night fretting over that glorious chance you blasted over the bar at Fifa. Itís the one that makes those prepubescent kids send you a whole paragraph over Live, questioning your sexuality and size of genitalia after you filled them full of holes on Halo. For me...... well for me itís the grinding of teeth, the pounding on the start button and the under the breath muttering that follows every single loss on Street Fighter. And thereís the difference Iím interested in. Why do certain games elicit this reaction, while others, win or lose, just leave us with a pleasant sense of shared escapism?

In order to examine this closer I feel it pertinent to look first at the games which donít bring forth this feeling of rage. This list is entirely subjective and I would imagine personal to all of us. One manís Streets of Rage is another manís Shaq-Fu after all. For me; I can play a game of Gears of War and spend my entire evening at the bottom of the pile with nary a sign of my inner rager. I canít envisage a night of Forza that sees me in last place for every race leaving me with that vein pulsing in my neck, it just wouldnít happen (the rage that is, the consistent last place is an entirely more feasible proposition). So why does a single loss in an evening full of wins at Street Fighter leave my blood boiling?

First guess would be that the very nature of a fighting game brings on the red mist far more easily. I just canít see this being the case though. If that were true then surely my abysmal win/loss record at Tekken would have resulted in broken pads covering my living room floor and a trip to the doctors for some well needed ďhappy pillsĒ. It wouldnít explain why I used to get worked up over a game of Mario Kart, but not over a game of Forza. I think these examples prove that the type of game actually has little to no bearing on the reaction it elicits from us. So what does cause it then?

Could it be that it is not the game, but rather the opposition, that gets us mad? On first examination this seems a very likely candidate. Having thought about this though, Iím not so sure. Drawing once again on my own experiences I recall a time when, having previously lost rounds to a couple of friends at Street Fighter and, in spite of winning the majority, still experiencing the familiar sense of oncoming rage, I then played a game of Gears with them both involved. Now whether by design or not, both of them sprayed a disproportionate amount of lead in my direction and pretty much owned me for the night. Did this battlefield embarrassment produce the same reaction as a small percentage of losses at Street Fighter? No, No and No, not even close. So there it is, the same opposition, different game and a polar opposite in my reaction to a loss. So if it isnít the nature of the game and it isnít the opposition then what does that leave us with?

And here we come to what I think may be the real reason behind it all, our own perception of our own ability at any given game. The better we think we are at a game, the more it hurts when we lose. This fits perfectly with my own findings. It explains why one loss at Street Fighter makes me rage more than a whole evening spent full of holes, or at the back of the pack. It explains the messages Iíve had accusing me of ďcheapĒ tactics or blaming a connection that is the same at both ends following a loss that, by this theory, my opponent wasnít expecting. This means that even the most innocuous of games can produce the most rage filled of reactions, dependant on your own perception of your ability at it.

So, the next time the red mist descends, it may be worth considering that you arenít as good as you thought you were....... I will.   read

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