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The Victory of Defeat

By Lawrence Benedict 'Malystryx' Phillips
Jun 23, 2006 00:18

“Some will tell you that sport is all about winning. Have nothing to do with such people” Barnes 2006
Winning is not the only thing in gaming. There is also losing, for example. Losing is one of the most important things in gaming and people do it all the time in their thousands. You can lose unfairly, impressively, humiliatingly, stupidly. You can lose by a frag, a hero, an item, a power-up, a shotgun, a rifle, on points. You can be owned, raped or decimated off the map. You can be beaten and hang up your mouse, throw your keyboard, make a new account, swear at yourself, your opponent, change to a different game; you can be beaten and still take a lot of positives from this.
Take ESWC for example. If we add up all the competitors from the various disciplines it begins with 550 competitors. After the first initial group stage 377, more than three quarters, are already losers. That’s 377 supposed top national “e-athletes” out of the game. Owned, beaten, stuffed. Second-best. Once the finals have been played the number of losers has risen to 535. How can winning possibly be the only thing when so many in gaming obviously not doing so? Steve Archibald a famous Scottish professional footballer famously said that "team spirit is an illusion only glimpsed in victory." the idea that winning is the only thing is the same kind of illusion, when your winning you believe that is all that is important.
The idea of losing is commonly repressed. In the build-up to the World Cup for example it’s all about anticipation. In gaming, even voyeuristically, anticipation is the starting point. The fantasy of the unfulfilled potential of the players is arguably the most exciting aspect. In anticipation, we are all champions. The national team we follow and support are always unbeatable in our minds, that is, until they are beaten.
Defeat is the gaming or sporting experience that dare not speak its name. Defeat is the thing that keeps us interested; for when victory is assured, where is the joy? A match that is not “balanced” brings no pleasure to the winner. Victories are hollow, meaningless without a challenge. Victory is not glorious without the possibility of defeat. Even when teams or individuals dominate for a sustained period of time, we know that defeat will get them in the end, complacency, lack of motivation or simply lost their touch will end the streak sooner or later. It always does - Spirit_Moon, Fatal1ty, Grubby, SK Sweden, Winz are but a few examples.
Without defeat there is no victory. Without losers there is no winner. We glorify the winners; and we do so while repressing the thought that every winner floats high on success on the tears of the losers. We should be forever grateful to every loser, to every opponent defeated, without them there is no competitive gaming.
We the gifted few who follow the competitive gaming scene are hooked on the twists and turns of the narrative, the ever changing cast of heroes and villains, who’s hot, who’s not and the thrilling alternations of victory and defeat. It is the unexpected victory that is always the sweetest, when the underdog overcomes the odds against him like LoSt CaUsE. They are so sweet because they come so close to defeat.
Let’s look towards the ESWC, the world cup and all the tournaments that await us. Some fellow Englishmen hope to see our nation triumphant at the World Cup or at ESWC whether it’s 2GD in Quake 4, srs.demuslim in Warcraft 3 or 4 Kings in Counter-Strike, but versus the superior competition in all the departments the chances look slim. Does that mean we won’t bother to follow the tournaments? With a massively reduced prospect of our team coming out victorious, is there no point in watching?
Certainly not! We will switch on and watch the World Cup in our millions or follow ESWC coverage whether it be shoutcast, live video stream, replays or articles, following every score and as the tournaments go on, from naïve optimism to total despair. We will watch believing even knowing our team or player will be defeated. That they will join the long list of losers. We will watch just waiting for that moment where they meet defeat and when it does we shall react with appropriate disappoint and disbelief.
We are obsessed as with defeat as we are victory. Competitive gaming would be not gaming without misery, without despair, without hopelessness, without its twists and turns. Victory is for the naïve, the blind for it’s in defeat that the true spirit of a skilled gamer or team is uncovered.
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