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Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Rage Factor

I watch a little too much YouTube, but one bastion of insight and, for me at least, solace and solitude, is the commentator SeaNanners. He's one of those people who seems to never be angry, though, like all of us, he is human, and anger is certainly an emotion he feels. I'm not subscribed, but when I came across the video Rage-Nanners, I had to watch it. The nice people, with calm, distanced personalities, who rarely get angry are, to me, far more frightening when they are angry that those who are upset more often than not. But enough about me and my thoughts on SeaNanners. I want to talk about rage in gaming, as he did.

I have my fair share of anger, but I find that I spend more time enjoying my experience than I do with a pit in my gut and a scowl on my face. What causes these rage sessions, though? It's a game. There's no attachment to reality, the people you play you'll likely never see again, never meet face to face, the objectives a useless means of spurring players to different play styles. The answer is a simple one, but before, I want to make an analogy. Games are like sports, and indeed are quickly becoming a sport unto themselves. You don't go to a sports game and not see at least one guy in the stands, and on the field, angry at something at some point. There is an inbred need to compete inside us and all thinking animals (indeed, all of evolution is essentially a game of who's better at what), and when we begin to fail at something, even a little bit, there is a frustration that builds. It's a subtle thing, really. When we have an expectation of ourselves, as everyone does with enough experience in something, and we thusly do not meet that expectation (perceived or real), we feel that we've cheated ourselves. Why, we ask, can't I hit that guy/catch that ball/ find that flag/get that grade? What is it I'm doing that makes me unable to achieve my goal?

I think it's these questions that are the real cause of the anger we feel. From my own experience, I put this forward. With Black Ops being my first Call of Duty game, I had no expectations of myself. I knew I'd suck, and I knew I'd suck with impunity. I was completely fine with it. My good games were those where I had K/D over 1, or even right at 1. The whole experience was new, there was nothing there that made me want to know what it was I'd done wrong, or even I was doing anything right. I chalked up a lot of my kills to luck of the draw or the stupidity of both me and my opponent (and that I managed to be just a touch less stupid). As with most things, with time came skill and, by extension, expectation. I began to see where my limits lay, what I could and couldn't do, and, like a typical human, I wanted to push those limits. The anger came when I couldn't own up to even the most basic of the limitations, false limitations, really, that I'd set for myself. My K/D, in my mind, should always, always, be around 1.5. I can generally get two kills before dying, because I know what players are doing, how they move and where they plan to go based on my time in game. It is when that knowledge either fails, situations present themselves that block my ability to reach my goals or my team is outright shit that I begin to get truly angry. The questions come, and they come in waves. Why, why, why, why, why, why, why? I ask myself with no clear answers because there are none, because the situation I've found myself in lends itself to an unexplainable deluge of failure, and because my rage-clouded mind can't process more than the sum of my anger. It doesn't help, of course, that like SeaNanners, I am very much a perfectionist, whose expectations of himself and his attitude towards himself are far higher, and far worse, than some others.

In the end, though, it remains a game, and if you fight through the frustration, you can have a good game. If that's not your game, put down the controller and have fun in the sun, surf, snow or rain (or some combination thereof). I know I need to do that more.


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