Why does anyone even play arena? Every time we enter, it's a deathmatch on one of five maps. No dragons, no intricate storyline, no phat loot. The same team compositions show up again and again. Titles only last for a season unless you have the drive and ambition to hit rank 1.
It's pretty depressing when you think about it, isn't it?
I'll tell you why we do it: competition. People are naturally competitive. We always want to be better than the next guy, and arena is an outlet for that.
Competition is different for everyone
I've been thinking a lot about competitive games recently and how they have shaped me as a person over my lifetime. Truth be told, I'm not really much of a gamer in the sense that you might know gamers.
The games that I've excelled at have been few and far apart. Other than WoW, I've only played maybe four games that have held my interest for longer than a few hours. I might have mentioned these before, but I've been an avid player of Chess and Magic: The Gathering, and the only other video game I have ever played is Halo 2. Were I to add sports to this list, it would get a good bit larger. Baseball, football, wrestling, boxing and Olympic weightlifting each hold a special place in my life.
Every game I've been interested in, whether it's a team activity or an individual contest, is at its heart very competitive in nature. I like seeing where I rank among my peers and then moving up the ladder. Figuring out the tricks of the trade is something I've loved doing for years.
Competition can bring out the best or the worst in someone. It can make people afraid of competing at all, or it can teach them very important lessons about who they are.
Fear of failure
Some people don't want to compete with others, not necessarily because they are actually worse in a given sport or game but because they are afraid of failure. I notice this most often in Chess and arenas, where skill determines virtually every single outcome. Everyone starts at the lowest rung on the ladder, so you're bound to lose far more than you win. Sometimes those initial losses push new players out of the game.
Instead of pushing themselves to get better at that game, they decide that they don't like it because they're not good at it and miss a very interesting opportunity to excel. This is a shame, as games are usually the most fun while you're still learning them -- not after you have them mastered.
WoW was much more fun for me while I was leveling up my first character than it is now. Getting new abilities and exploring new zones was much more fun in the first month of playing the game than those things are now for me. Arena is the same way. Hitting 2200 for the first time or getting a tier 2 weapon the first time around feels pretty awesome. It's a shame some people will never get to experience that because they're afraid that they're not good at arena and put it down the first time they try it.
Bringing out the worst
Some people are more competitive than others and will push to win at nearly any cost. Win-trading, steroids, game hacks, drawing extra cards or other forms of cheating are easily the worst that can be brought out by fierce competition. However, the dark underbelly doesn't start there. Bad sportsmanship is the beginning of bad competition.
We've all heard of overzealous parents going nuts on the sidelines for their kids at a youth baseball game. Maybe they've had one too many drinks, but that's no excuse for letting competition get to you. I've seen YouTube videos of youth league coaches and parents brawling.
One doesn't have to look far to see where this kind of thing starts in arena. It could be smack talk on forums, creating a level 1 alt to complain about how cheap a team composition is, or otherwise. Arenajunkies.com, while being a fantastic source for PVP information, is littered with adolescent rage and furor for other members, especially on battlegroup forums. Players talk smack on each other to prop themselves up, I guess. I don't really know why they do it, but it happens.
Bringing out the best, too
Sometimes, competition can be a microcosm of life. Without competition, I wouldn't know a lot about myself today.
Being able to assemble a team that works cohesively is a challenge in and of itself. If you've been part of a great sports team, you probably know how great it can be when teammates trust in one another and enjoy playing the game for the game's sake, not for a tally in the win column.
Understanding that I can conquer challenges set before me is a direct result of doing such in games. When I first started playing WoW, I had no aspirations of becoming a multiple rank 1 gladiator. I didn't think it was for me, so I ignored the competitive aspect of the game as long as possible. I started doing arena with a friend, and it was a complete failure. We could have ended it there, and I never would have batted an eye over it. However, my friend was also a competitive guy, so we battled week in and week out to a respectable duelist ranking from 2v2. While this might not seem like that epic of a story (and believe me, it's not), it's the little things that push us forward.
Listening Music: Weezer's Say It Ain't So. A classic.
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