Winning, At What Cost?

If there’s an attitude I don’t understand, its people who have to win everything at all costs. You come across people who think like this in all walks of life; I used to run across them back in my younger days when I played miniature wargames. I’m not arguing against being competitive or trying to win. Some of the best battles I fought were when both sides had brought their best army lists and were really going all out.

The crucial difference is remembering that it’s a game and both people are there to have fun. The game I played was fairly notorious to having poor balancing between the armies – a unit considered weak in one army would have been a strong choice if it were in another – as well as bunch of fiddly  movement where often imprecision didn’t matter, but occasionally a quarter inch determined if a battle changing manoeuvre could be executed or not. The people who were fun wouldn’t care if you were maybe sloppy moving around units in the backfield in the interests of speeding up play, and would understand that if I brought a weak army in, I would bring the best, most optimised list possible while they should take the opportunity to try a gimmick build with their strong army. The people who weren’t fun would insist on watching you measure out every trooper’s move and would always play their best list regardless. For at least a few of them, insisting on making sure your moves were legal was certainly hypocritical because if you didn’t pay attention to their movements, certain key units could end up moving much faster than they should have been able to…

They couldn’t even adjust the approach to new players. Most people didn’t regard beating someone who was still learning the rules as any sort of accomplishment and would do things like make deliberately bad choices and tell their new opponent how best to capitalise on it. The new player learns and the experienced player gets to have fun doing everything they normally wouldn’t. The hypercompetive sorts would use their experience to stomp a new player flat as fast as possible, leaving the new guy to wonder if he really wanted to continue in a hobby that could be so crushingly unfun.

There’s times when such attitudes are justified, I suppose (not the cheating, of course). Of late, an evening diversion of choice has been repeats of The Amazing Race; a sort of reality/game show where teams of 2 compete in a series of challenges as they race around the world. That has a prize of $1million for the winners and as far as I can tell, nothing for anyone else. But I’m always struck by how nice the majority of people are, even in this rather extreme scenario. On a recent episode where the challenge was swimming, one contestant thought another was having difficulty so he swam over to check. This was on a final episode as well, where a few minute’s delay can cost the race but he still thought it was more important to help than keep racing. Of course, a fair number of contestants try to be sneaky and underhanded at every possible, which can backfire; one such team on a different season managed to lose their instructions and no one was willing to help out Team Angry Jerks.

There’s definite consequences to the take no prisoners approach; you may win the short term goal, but lose out long term. On the Amazing Race, you may win the million bucks, but your terrible personality is exposed on primetime TV. For the wargamers, sure they had a good win/loss ratio but they got a reputation as being unfun and no one played against them if they could help it. I can’t help but wonder at these people who willingly lose the war to win the battle.


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