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Friday
Oct242008

Power Is Fleeting

Both fame and competitive gamers are fickle. “What have you done for us lately?” the masses will ask you. To stay in the spotlight, you will need to keep winning, which is no small task. Just because you’ve done it before is no reason to believe that winning is your divine right. Others are continuing to improve and work hard and they may “deserve” to win more than you at some point.

When you’re king of the hill, there’s always someone waiting in line to knock you off the top.
—Sagat, boss character in Street Fighter 1,
to Ryu upon passing his title

You have probably thought a great deal about how to beat your peers and how to stay ahead of them in the race to improve. But your current peers aren’t your only competitors: new players, even players who have not yet started playing will eventually threaten you. You have so many advantages over them (knowledge and experience) that they are easy to dismiss, but they have youth on their side. Eventually, they will have more physical strength than you, and more powers of mental concentration—at least some of them will. Whether it’s tennis or chess, experienced players reach a point where they become vulnerable to newcomers, whether they like it or not. Newcomers are not without their own advantages, chiefly their ability to think “outside the box” because they either don’t know what the conventional wisdom is, or they reject it, as young rebels are known to do.

So if it’s not your current peers who dethrone and surpass you, the future generation of players combined with the ravages of “old age” will eventually get the better of you. By the way, “old age” can be as young as twenty-five in some games!

Will you do as the poet Dylan Thomas advised?

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage,rage against the dying of the light.

There are more forces than just other players and old age seeking to subdue you. The demands of the game itself on your lifestyle are serious concerns. No matter your inherent skills, dominating a game takes a huge investment of your time and thoughts. Life has many ways of pulling you away: a girlfriend (or boyfriend), spouse, kids or other family obligations, career obligations, a social life, or even other hobbies. And if all that isn’t enough, you may no longer have “love of the game.” Continuing to be the best at a game you no longer love, or never loved, is a difficult and hazardous thing to attempt. Those who love the game will find an easier time sticking to it, improving, and giving it their time and thoughts. Even if you can keep up with them, devoting such a large part of your life to something you don’t love is going to create its own problems that will no doubt eventually lead to your downfall.

Some games have it easier than others here. If you’re really so good and your game happens to be basketball, well, you don’t have to worry about your career at the pencil factory: you should be raking in the cash by now with your basketball career and advertising endorsements. Several of those life forces just lined up for you, so consider yourself extremely lucky.

Competitive video game players should be so lucky. Unfortunately, as of this writing, organized competitive video gaming is still in it’s infancy and “going pro” is only a reality for a very small number of players of select games. A few gaming organizations are trying to change this, and I’d love to help them make it a reality, but it just hasn’t come true yet. I deeply wish our society valued our mental games more than our physical games, not the other way around.

Since going pro is not a reality for most gamers, it’s entirely possible that sustaining any kind of balanced lifestyle with career and social or family life is incompatible with the time commitment necessary to stay on top of the gaming world. Savor it while it lasts.