Over Christmas break, my sister came to visit. She's a dedicated PC gamer who has barely ever touched a controller, so of course I decided it was time for some co-op Yoshi's Woolly World. Have you ever tried playing a co-op game with a completely new, green gamer? You won't get very far, but it can be hilarious fun if you let it. She kept swallowing me by accident, leading to me having to yell, "Press down! Poop me out and throw me!" We laughed like crazy through the few levels that we were able to complete. It was the most fun I've had multiplayer gaming in a while, and it reminded me that sometimes it's important to embrace the fun of losing at video games.
I tend to avoid the competitive online gaming world because it is way too "serious business" for me. Even when I'm good at a particular game, I just don't find it entertaining to play with people who don't seem to be having fun even if they win, much less when they lose. I'd rather get together with friends who are mainly in it to have casual fun and laugh at ourselves when we screw up. Online, I stick to MMOs, and there I seek out groups who enjoy finding a special niche, like my old Guild Wars 2 guild that used to avoid the big PvP mob fights and sneak around the map capturing lightly-guarded objectives. Sure, we'd eventually get tracked down by a huge mob and wiped out, but it was so much more fun to employ a bit of creativity and create original strategies rather than doing what we were "supposed" to be doing for maximum PvP currency or whatever.
Let's face it. Most of us don't have the time and/or reflexes to be actual pro gamers. Unless we obsessively concentrate on one single game or genre, we're going to be mid-tier at best in most games, and that's okay. I don't want video gaming to be like physical sports, where only the most elite adults actually play while the rest of us just spectate (sure, there's the occasional work softball league, but so few of us keep playing team sports after our school years). So why are the lower- to mid-tiers in online games so full of angry, angry people? Gaming is supposed to be fun, and part of that fun comes from being able to enjoy yourself even when you're losing. I'm not saying you shouldn't be competitive, just that throwing a tantrum or blowing a gasket and reaming out people who are still learning a game is pretty much the opposite of fun.
Being able to tolerate and even enjoy losing is important for expanding your gaming horizons, too. Up until my mid-20s, I was an exclusive PC gamer like my sister, and mostly played turn-based strategy and RPG titles. When I decided to get a PlayStation 2 and get serious about controller gaming for the first time, I sucked at everything. Still, I loved the colorful world of console platformers so much that I kept at it until I got much better. Like most of you, I'll never be a pro gamer, but I'm pretty good at most major game genres now. That never would have happened if I hadn't been able to laugh at my awfulness and have patience with myself as my skills grew.
We all have a few genres at which we absolutely suck. Sometimes, like with me and fighting games, it's because we don't really care for the format enough to get good at it. Other times, we have a tendency to avoid something because we know we're bad at it. It feels nice to be automatically good at a new game, but that can lead us to silo ourselves too much in a single genre, and we can get left behind if the game industry adopts new technologies. I've seen that happen to RPG fans who refuse to play any combat system that isn't turn-based. I also feel like gamers as a whole did that to the motion control trend, slamming it because it wasn't as comfortable to them as the trusty old controller and failing to give it a chance to fully mature. I hope we don't make the same mistake with VR, which is young and promising but is going to require us to be flexible, open-minded, and yes, willing to fail.
Losing at games is important. It teaches us how to improve, sparks our creativity, and accompanies us as we broaden our gaming horizons. It can also be a lot of fun, especially if you do it together with friends and refuse to take yourself too seriously. In 2017, make it your resolution to try some games that you're not so familiar with; that you'll probably suck at. You might just discover a new favorite genre or create multiplayer memories that last a lifetime.