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Radarman is back!

Sportsmanship

Has the following ever happened to you?

One fine evening, after a long day of backbreaking labor, you sit down at your computer and boot up Battle.net. Tonight you're feeling it. Your fingers have that special jitter, that wonderful feeling that lets you know you are about to Pwn Some Noobs. And Pwn them you shall. After a few moments of searching, you find an opponent, and ten minutes later, his base is in ruins. You have indeed Pwned A Noob. However, instead of conceding like a respectful opponent, you get a message like this.

"(insert racial slurs and liberal use of the F-word, and perhaps one or two instances of the word 'Imbalance')"

You are shocked. Your opponent seems unable to accept his loss. To him, winning was more important than any meaningful interaction with yourself, and his lack of restraint suggests a maturity level usually found in children. Why are four-year-olds playing this game? You wonder. Don't they have classes for this kind of anger? You wonder. Why am I so good? You wonder.

Now, suggesting that there is a certain lack of sportsmanship among gamers is not exactly groundbreaking. We've all run into our fair share of trouble makers, most of whom are merely upset about a frustrating loss. Even worse, it's not difficult to understand the sort of rampant emotions that would drive someone to say such hateful things. No one likes losing to a supposedly "cheap" strategy, and it's easy for any passionate soul to succumb to the occasional case of Nerd Rage. Yet, if you wants to compete at any game— be it Warcraft 3 or Starcraft 2 or Football or Chess—you must keep your emotions in check and understand that unrestrained emotion is no excuse for poor play. In fact, it is one of the causes of poor play.

See, competition is all about challenging yourself to overcome obstacles. In the case of online gaming, the idea is to overcome your opponent and achieve victory. But, for some reason, perhaps the anonymity of the competitors, people seem to ignore the entire point of competition. When you play a game, the goal is to win, not humiliate your opponent. If you want to do better, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard, because poor sportsmanship actually affects your personal success.

The respectful player—the one who keep his emotions in check, treats his opponent with dignity, and has no problem admitting defeat—he will not only be a better player than the less respectful player, he will also be more successful. Respect demonstrates a proper understanding of competition, and, to at least some degree, the related knowledge about becoming a better competitor.

To illustrate this point, let's examine the cases of two gamers, named Travis and George. Both of these young men play Starcraft 2. They have dreams of becoming pros. They have dreams of becoming well-respected at their craft. They have dreams of riding in expensive cars with beautiful women. But one step at a time.

The boys are also very different from one another. Travis, you see, is a very respectful player. When he wins, he says GG, but waits for his soon-to-be-defeated opponent to do so first, so as not to appear as though his opponent is wasting his time by staying in the game. When he loses, he's not always happy, but he always says GG, and sometimes even congratulates his opponent on the win. People enjoy both watching Travis play and playing against him. Travis is well known for these likeable traits, and soon becomes even more popular. Men want to be him, Women want to be with him (but still think he needs to cut back a little).

George, on the other hand, is disrespectful. When he loses, he insults his opponent's mama and claims that anyone who beats him is a hacker. Anyone who plays against George gets annoyed because he whines so much. He acts like a child. When George wins, he gloats. In victory, he still insults his opponent's mama, as well as his opponent's play style. George can't seem to win without making sure everyone around is aware of even the smallest victory. The people whom George has defeated more than once get a special kind of gloating.

Time goes on, and our two competitors slowly stack up hour after hour of Starcraft 2 playtime. Travis remains cool, collected, and committed to improving his game, while George continues suffering from his ego. Soon, something strange becomes apparent: Travis is much better at the game than George is. In fact, Travis looks to have a real shot at going pro while George is still struggling to find anyone who enjoys playing with him. Now, how could that be?

Unfortunately, George is doomed to failure. If George somehow constructs a winning streak, he'll become complacent. He'll reassure everyone that he is the best. But if he believes he is the best, why would he want to practice? What is there to practice? For a time, George will be on top. But players are only getting better. It won't be long before George finds himself in a losing streak. Then he'll make excuses and try to justify his losses with accusations about his opponent. I only lost because that was a cheap strategy and anyone can play it, he says. Only noobs play that strategy, he says. He was a hacker, he says. If George can't find excuses, he'll get frustrated. The world is out to get him, George will soon believe.

Meanwhile, Travis is working hard. He prefers to let his record speak for itself. Of course, he won't be satisfied until he is the best player around, and thus he does whatever he can to improve. He watches replays. He practices hard. He eats nutritional breakfasts. Because he is very respectful, his opponents enjoy playing with him, and are more than willing to help him when they can. They know exactly how he feels. They want to be successful as well, as they can point out some of the flaws in Travis' game. They also have no problem helping such a wonderful guy. And Travis, always gracious and thankful for any kind of advice, listens willingly and applies the advice he thinks will improve his game the most. Soon, Travis is successful. Beautiful women follow him around like sheep and he has his own line of gaming equipment. George, meanwhile, flips burgers and works the drive-thru counter at his local Mcdonalds. Not exactly what you would call successful.

Because Travis showed respect for his opponent, Travis was successful. He understood that his opponents had the same goal as him—to win—but without these opponents there would be no game to begin with. You can't play any game with only one person. Travis didn't bother wasting his time worrying about how much better he was or how much worse his opponent was; Travis knew that these were irrelevant pieces of information. Being better or worse than your opponent doesn't guarantee a win or loss. Everyone has heard at least one competitive Cinderella story. So focus on the game. Play your best, and know that the only way to be successful is to be a good sportsman.

Radarman himself is quite the sport when it comes to online gaming. But act like a jerk and he will destroy you.






  1. Nice article, well done.

  2. Those who are just, mannered, and respectful aren't always the winners in life. Too often is there a George on top. But then again, no one is the stereotypical George or Travis, there is a little of both in each of us. Desire, determination, and a little bit of luck are what constitutes a successful gamer, not manner (look at Idra).

    Thanks for the article, but aim for a deeper meaning, not for a happier one.

  3. Chimpalimp, the deeper meaning is this: Everything works both ways. Good people tend to support each other in a mutually beneficial relationship. And if you aren't bringing anything to the table except excuses, bad manners and disrespect, sooner or later you're not welcome at the cool table. You get to eat with jerks like yourself. Just depends on which direction you want to spiral. Upwards... or downwards.

  4. Its too cup cake fairytale for my liking. In the end it isn't about what you said, but what you did, and the nice guy doesn't always finish on top.

  5. @Chimpalimp They don't? If you look at certain high level people without being clogged by emotion or jealousy you will most often find that those are pretty nice, respectful, kind and grateful... On the other hand if you look at most people who are at the "bottom", they are often being jealous and frustrated all day about not being on top. Maybe you are talking about the people who were born into "riches", who never actually achieved anything. It might look like success but it will not be lasting success if the people are jerks.

    This is a great article, loving the clarity of insight.

  6. George failed because he attributed his failures to external factors (things out of his control) like hacking, or "imbalance!" for example, as opposed to any mistakes he made during the game, which falls under internal factors (things he can control) like skill. Sadly though, George's fragile ego renders himself incapable of understanding that he's made any gameplay errors at all (which can be fixed if acknowledged) but it doesn't happen because George truly believes "I'm the best at this game!".

    Alas George never really improves, and continues making the same mistakes over and over and over again. It's a sad tale, almost running parallel to the "Narcissus" tale in greek mythology where a man's obsession with his own beauty leads to his downfall.