Failure Drives Progress

A thing about me some people might like to know is that I hate to lose, I mean I really hate it.  This aligns with my comfort level in games of chance.  When I lose, I get an insane drive to try again and learn from my mistakes.  I’ve come to accept the fact that there are times where I will make no mistakes and still lose.  I can often spot them and just either play through or drop out.  My career deals with the political space, so without detail, it happens more often than I would like.

Anecdote, to this.   My career has been defined by people telling me that something couldn’t be done or by being told no.  I am a firm believer that no matter how hard you squeeze, something will get out and that telling a client no just means that they are not going to ask you for help next time.  I have climbed the proverbial ladder in short order (about 10 years faster than I had planned), with “failure” as a primary motivator.

Which brings me to playing games (and hockey) where my skill is the primary barrier to success – not some random roll.  I know in Wildstar there were a few battles where you needed near perfect timing to complete them.  The first attunement boss quest was one such event that you really needed to learn the dance to avoid the fire blasts and being knocked down 1000m.  It didn’t help that he was (is?) bugged so that any DoT had him spam cast his fire blasts.  We were 6 trying, he bugged every time and all but 1 other quit.  It was 2AM, after 4 hours of trying that we got it.  Success felt great and the possibility of success was always there.

I love XCOM, have since the first version on DOS.  I had to go to the library and write my own mouse driver (I must have been 13 at the time) to play it and I put in a solid 200 hours over the years.  I saved at the start of a mission and at the end, so that the decisions made were strategic and tactical and not a numbers game.  Balance made sense.  I played a lot of the new XCOM and did the same thing to start.  Then I reached the mid-game, where 2 or 3 90% shots would miss.  Like point blank shots.  A few of those missions in and I started to feel like my strategies were flawed.  My squad was perfectly placed, turns saved up.  I’d send one guy to open the door then scoot away (taking fire on opening was ok).  Then I’d miss every shot that round, enemy would throw a grenade and mind control and next turn I was down to 2 soldiers.  I think not.  I’ll take getting swarmed, or duck and hide strategies but if I play perfect and the game “cheats” I move on.  Old SNES games often did this…Mario Kart’s blue turtle shell is a prime example.

MMOs are a tough one for me.  Sure, they give you some control on outcome and they are generally stress free but today, they don’t provide enough controlled failure to keep me attached.  Or they do and the requirements to meet that control are not worth the results at the end.  So Wildstar again.  I do love the concept of the game.  I do not enjoy the concept of elite-level play with minimal margin for error on all content past 50, for rewards that are marginal.  In particular if that requirement is less about you being perfect but that 20-40 people have to be.  The skill floor is very high and honestly, the rewards are not there for me today.  FF14 has a lower skill floor and a slightly better reward structure.  SWTOR is close to this level, with a slightly lower skill floor.  WoW arguably has the lowest skill floor of them all and the skill cap just got nerfed to the ground baby!

And to add more complexity to it, I really do not like PvP.  I find it to be one of the most anti-social activities on the planet, though one of the most instinctive ones.  See, I like sports because there are rules and officials to ensure even play.  So that cheating is rare and that skill is the main point.  Two teams, to be matched, are generally on fairly even terms.  PvP is the opposite of that.  Cheats and hackers are rampant.  Griefing is a core tenet and piracy is the norm.  I get the theory of comparing power levels, I do.  I do not understand how stealing someone’s house has anything to do with that.  So I don’t play.  I’ve tried them all certainly, but none have provided anything but frustration as no one is building and everyone is destroying.

That said, failure is one of my main drivers.  Finding fault and trying to fix it and avoid it is fun.  Realizing that you cannot fix that fault (say a gold hack, or bad boss programming) means I leave that action and maybe the game.  If I never fail and there’s no challenge, then it’s a one and done trip if I think the end result is worth it.

It’s interesting to reflect on the concept of what is fun for you.  It ends up saving me money/time by avoiding things that clearly have all the flags of no-fun, while at the same time maximizing my fun in a game finding activities that are more in-line with my happy place.  Challenge is fun!

5 thoughts on “Failure Drives Progress

  1. I don’t mind losing if I lost in a good match. To me, its the spirit of competition that outweighs the importance of winning and losing. That carries over into PvP of all sorts, though it doesn’t spare me from some serious nerd rage if I lost because of my own obvious makes, poor game mechanics, or another player cheating.

    My big problem with the current state of MMOs is how they’ve moved away from mastering a class or role. Instead, more action-oriented gameplay, simplified/streamlined mechanics, and more difficult encounters off-load a lot of need for expertise. There’s a much bigger feeling of twitch-based gameplay now, rather than a more strategic, nuanced approach to overcoming an encounter either solo, in a group, or in a raid.

    While I did enjoy the challenge of WildStar, the fairly simple rotations and straight-forward roles and abilities made me feel less like a great Engineer and more like someone who just ‘twitches good’. I think the cleaner we make our MMOs, mechanics and design-wise, the duller they end up being.

    I will never be in the best guild in the world doing content before anyone else, but I can become one of the best healers/other role or [insert class here] in my moderately decent guild of like-minded friends and players. That sort of personal progression gives me an attachment to my role, my class, and ultimately the game that just learning the patterns of a boss and mastering getting out the fire never will.

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