Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to Win at Losing – A Note on Sportsmanship

Last night my girlfriend and I finished our first hot-seat game of Civilization IV.  It was incredibly close; though I was trailing in points for most of the game, I had better research and economy, and eventually our points became almost totally even.  However, I lost.  She got a Space Race victory despite finishing the Apollo Program a full 12 turns after me.  Her production capacity was incredible!

For those who have been reading this for a while, and for those who know me, you may have noticed that Civilization is one of my favourite game series.  I’ve played it since I was little.  Literally hundreds of civilizations have been ruled by me.  This was my girlfriend’s 3rd attempt at the game.  Ever.  Anyway, the game ended, and I like to think that I took losing rather well.  I won’t lie; I’m a little sad with myself for being beaten, not by my girlfriend, but by someone with such comparatively little experience.

But losing is an important part of gaming.  Losing teaches you, shows you holes in your strategy.  Since this was the first game I finished against a human opponent on Civilization, it suggests that my strategy really only worked against AIs.  If you don’t lose, then it is harder to know what you were doing right to win.  Was it skill or luck?  Was it my research or my economy?  Particularly in learning how to deal with human rather than computer opponents, losing is valuable.  Humans cheat, they use sneaky tactics, or just prioritize things in a different way to any computer.  Sometimes, this will catch you off guard, and the loss will show you another aspect of the game you hadn’t considered before.  For me, I learned that factories are REALLY important....

Losing gracefully is important too.  Online games especially are full of people who will readily reel off a string of expletives and accusations at anyone who beats them at a game.  Counter Strike, for example, is renowned for young boys and their microphones, and the profanity that comes from them.  Charming.  On the other hand, ‘GG’ is the standard response at the end of any online game.  Good game.  They say that a lot at the end of sports matches too, don’t they?  I know we had to when I played football (soccer) when I was young.  It’s polite, it’s simple, and not yelling at someone immediately raises their respect for you.  I think its an important skill to have, arguably more important than skill at the game itself.  After all, at the end of the day, it’s only a game.

Ok, I’m sorry.  I can’t say that with a straight face.  Ignore that last part.

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