The only hobby of mine while growing up that rivaled my passion for video games was my passion for sports. I played as many sports as possible and my love for competition was what kept my gamer friends and I close during the offseasons. Looking back, I’m not sure if I was more addicted to video games or real life games as much as I was just addicted to trying to win. However, as high school ended I realized that in order to be successful it required dedication and practice to be good at any game or sport. The lust for competition only grows as you climb the ladder, and in order to climb higher on that ladder it meant that you had to focus more and more on one specific activity. Ultimately, that meant that I chose the route to play a wide variety of video games for entertainment rather than just focusing on a few games to become great at for competition. That doesn’t mean I don’t look on with a bit of envy any time I see skilled gamers excel at games I’m interested in. Lucky or unlucky for me, if I wanted to head down the competitive gamer path I cannot pick a genre to focus on, let alone a single game.
Any given match
Real time strategy. My nemesis has evolved into the juggernaut of professional gaming. While the cash and prizes of StarCraft II are certainly tempting, I have no interest in the scale of those battles. My allegiances in the RTS world begin with Warcraft III as its hero based battles and smaller squads were much more interesting to me. Of course, WCIII led to the creation of the MOBA genre and, even with the pending release of Dota 2, I have to say that League of Legends intrigues me the most. The smaller, quicker battles where each character matters and balances against others. Let’s face it, it’s just magical action chess and the problem solver in me is ready to blitzkrieg. I have never played for fear of addiction, but I watch that game with a sense of wonder. I know if I had 4 other friends as dedicated as I know I would be, I would jump into that League of Legends without ever looking back.
I may have missed my true calling as a professional Unreal Tournament player years ago, and honestly deathmatch just doesn’t have the draw it used to. UT did breed my overall lust for chaos during a time where my disdain for military shooters began thanks to an overly enthusiastic college dorm that had a Counter-Strike obsession (and let’s face it, the only reason I love Battlefield is because I like to cause confusion with my misuse of all of the vehicles). That being said, I love a good head shot and a well placed grenade or two. In the last few years one shooter has gotten my adrenaline pumping, and that would be the 2v2 Arena in Halo: Reach. I’m not sure what does it for me about Halo as it took until Halo 3 for me to be converted. The answer must lie somewhere in its balance of realism and sci-fi abilities, i.e. the brilliance of the shield vs the satisfaction of the battle rifle. Sticky grenades vs a sniper rifle. Futuristic swords vs a needle barrage. While the chaos of huge team vehicle battles in wide open spaces drew me to the game, if I wanted to get serious I’m only taking one close friend in with me as we go head to head against one small team at a time.
More fun than the real thing
One of the coolest competitions I’ve seen in recent years is the Perfect Game Challenge from the MLB 2K games. While my true interest in realistic baseball games has been recently documented, I do respect baseball games as possibly requiring the most skill out of its players when compared to other sports sims. Granted, if I’m going into sports, I’m going to need a bit more action. I suppose due to the age of Wrestlemania 2000 and it “not being a real sport” we should probably throw it out even though it’s the only sports-related game I’d stand a chance in. If I can’t jump in the ring, throw me in the cage because the UFC Undisputed series has looks to have high rewards for dedicated players. Like its fighting game cousins, UFC Undisputed is both fun to play but difficult to master. That is something I both respect and fear, which has caused me to stay away because I know I’d never be satisfied until I was great at the game.
Speaking of fighting games, does it deserve a different category than UFC games? Well, I’m giving it one because a majority of my initial video game competitiveness spawned from Street Fighter II Turbo. I was a kid of the arcades, so naturally when this nearly flawless arcade port came home, my friends/enemies and I were obsessed with it. While I will always love the SF series and originally defended the game against any of the other fighting games out there, I cannot deny the satisfaction I get from winning a close match in Mortal Kombat. The most recent Mortal Kombat was the game we were all picturing while we were playing the original. A fighting game without finishing moves is just not as fun for me, and no finishing moves come close to those in 2011’s Mortal Kombat.
Finally, I have to recognize two completely opposite games that scared me away from video game competition for the same reason. Joust in the arcades is the first game that I can remember being a total jerk when I played against my friends. Stretching out matches after I had won, toying with the computer, it was all so much fun because I was good (and I had played much, much more than my competition). Unfortunately, I had no source of income at the time and the cost was too much as I had to eventually stop spending all of my quarters on it. Then there was my addiction to World of Warcraft, the closest I have ever come to giving up all other video games in favor of one title. There is a part of me that would have loved to get absorbed into a giant competitive PvP guild with friends and peers that I respected. Ultimately though, I just saw my yearly fee to play the game as taking away from 3 other games I could be buying/playing, let alone the personal cost the game had on my social and gaming life.
Start training now
For a medium that got a lot of its initial draw from its best players touting their high scores, I’m glad video games have diversified to not be completely focused on only competitively gaming. Though it has been really interesting to watch competitive gaming mature in the last decade or so to make professional gaming an option for more gamers than ever. I’ll never be dedicated enough to be a pro gamer myself, but that doesn’t mean if you beat me that I won’t want a rematch after I’ve practiced a bit more.
Follow-up: What video games bring out the competitor in you?
Giant Bomb (images)