Weekly Question Thread - Week 2 - Playing games competitively

Howdy again! I had a lot of fun reading through everyone’s replies in last week’s thread so thanks to everyone who answered! This weekend, I watched a ton of competitive Magic so my head is in a different place.


So, I thought that i wasn’t into playing competitive games. I am generally very reluctant to play shooters with my friends, especially considering I am usually the weak link among those I play with. And just generally didn’t like the anxiety I got playing competitive shooters or fighting games by myself.

But back in February I installed Magic Arena on a whim, thinking back on when I used to play casually with my family back in college and such. Ten months later I continue to play quite a lot, and one of the interesting things about coming back to it has been realizing I actually like playing competitive games. I am still not particularly good at Magic, but I’ve been having a lot of fun playing ranked games and slowly learning how to play better and tune my decks for the field. It just turns out I needed a game where I could pause think over what to do. I still play too quickly at times, but even just being forced to stop has turned out to make it feel so much easier to find optimal plays than in a real-time game where I just can’t think or react as fast as everyone around me.

Additionally, earlier this year I got into speed-running Hades, which may go in contradiction with what I just said about thinking and reacting fast, but I don’t know, it feels different. My main competition is myself and Hades in-game timer, and while checking the speed-run leaderboards is fun, it’s just as satisfying to just focus on speeding up my own times. Perhaps this isn’t considered competitive in the same way as a directly PvP game, but at least for me, it tapped into lot of the same things I got out of playing Magic on the ladder.


Questions to Ponder:

  • Do you enjoy playing games competitively against others?
  • If so, what kind of games? Do you find you prefer games with certain traits over others?
  • If not, is there anything that you think could change that?
  • How about games where you don’t directly compete against others but maybe against yourself, a time, a scoreboard or similar, like speed-running?
  • How about watching competitive games? Have any favorite games you follow the competitive scene for even if you don’t want to be a part of it yourself?
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I am not a competitive shooter player or anything that requires a high degree of physical dexterity. I don’t have the time or the patience to develop the reflexes to be good. I enjoy watching NetherRealm’s games though, because I have developed enough of a skill base in their games to at least understand what I’m looking at.

I do love me some CCGs though. I cannot pretend that I’m some kind of professional Magic player, but locking horns with great players (and even winning occasionally) is a lot of fun. I’m also one of the forum’s two Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links players. Yu-Gi-Oh isn’t subject to the same resource constraints that can hinder a conventional Magic game which means the swings can get nutty in a way I enjoy.

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I got into valorant for a while when it was the hot new thing. I like playing competitive games sometimes - if it enters my brain the right way I’ll focus on it for a good few months until my brain finds the new thing. Really though it helps to play these games with friends, or even just people from the Waypoint community, when I know that I’m not going to be in a really toxic situation. I can’t really handle the random group competitive situation, as folks are too mean and one shitty comment can just ruin it for me.

If I can turn my brain off completely though, like in a battlefield or a call of duty, I can play those just as time wasters. They’re technically competitive but I’m never really interacting with people. That might as well be podcast game time. The exception might be battlefield 1, easily my favorite battlefield game, where I like feeling immersed in the muck and the mud and the hellfire. Just an altogether unique experience.

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Oh hey, it’s me, the guy that’s been playing deathmatch arena shooters since the mid-90s. First it was Quake in my school’s computer lab, then Goldeneye and Perfect Dark parties with friend, with a sprinkling of getting stomped in Counterstrike when I could pay for Internet cafe time. But then, Halo. Non-stop LAN rounds on Blood Gulch, tight closing quarters fighting in Chiron TL34, I simply could not get enough. And when I went away for university, Halo 2 over Xbox Live became my line of communication with old friends. Since then I’ve been hopping from one multiplayer shooter to another, with my current rotation being Halo MCC, Overwatch, Destiny PVP, and Apex Legends.

I guess what draws me to these sorts of competitive games is the fact that no two games are ever alike. AI has yet to match the unpredictability of a human opponent, so I am constantly surprised and delighted by the actions my allies and opponents take. Furthermore, there is a fundamental social aspect to these games, which especially in a year like this has been great in keeping up with both offline and online friends.

Anyway, onto the questions!

  • I tend to prefer shooters just because that’s typically where the gaming zeitgeist sits, however just this past weekend I got back into Rocket League with friends and in the summer I got into NBA 2K’s comp mode as well. I just like well crafted games that allow for many different strategies to be explored.
  • I’m not as enamored with indirect competition, admittedly. I tried to get into Tetris 99 last year and it just wasn’t for me. It felt like I was just playing Tetris by myself with annoying crap randomly spawning on me with little rhyme or reason. That being said, I do sometimes check the monthly gamescore leaderboards on Xbox Live now and again, so maybe I’m more of a meta competitor?
  • Hard pass on watching esports. This is going to probably come off as harsh, but it just seems too boring even for me. With watching the NBA, the stars are mostly large personalities who I would want to hang out with (and probably play video games). Plus I am genuinely amazed by peak physical performance of traditional athletes. With e-athletes, I don’t envy their fashion style, lifestyle, and have no desire to hang with them. And if I’m watching anyone play a game my only thought is my time would be better spent just playing said game. But hey, I’m glad they’re thriving and totally understand why people get into watching e-sports.
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  • Do you enjoy playing games competitively against others?
    No. I easily fall into patterns, which makes me extremely predictable, so any decent player will destroy me. However, PvE games usually reward you finding and repeating a pattern, so those feel better to my brain.

  • How about watching competitive games?
    I watched professional LoL for a little while. The thing I enjoyed most was the commentary because they would point out what to look for, which is very helpful since I didn’t keep up with the patches/new champions myself. I don’t play competitive games, so it’s cool to see high-level play since I wouldn’t experience that otherwise.

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So for me, esports is a mixed bag, and a large part of it is if I like the game, but also how easy is it to watch? Any first person game is going to be so difficult to watch and understand usually just because of the limited information you have at any one time, Overwatch had this problem for a long time and might still have it but I stopped watching after the first tournament or so because of this. Battle Royales haven’t really created a good formula for competitive play either. On the other hand, fighting games are easy to watch, but the execution floor is so high for most of them that I’ll just have a hard time getting into any of them.

Magic is probably the one non-sport that I watch and it’s because I like the game, with Arena the game is very easy to figure out at a glance now, and I have a decent enough floor of understanding to see an action and know “oh shit, that was a really interesting play!” and feel like I’ve learned something I can take with me when I’m playing myself.

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I fell off competitive online games a little while after Bad Company 2 came out. The lack of auto team balance and generally just struggling to feel competent at it made me question if I liked multiplayer games. Add to that constant abuse and often racist language from opponents and teammates alike makes it hard for me to get excited about playing with randos.

However an online community I am a part of recently got very into Apex and I decided to join in. Turns out when I can just play with other chill people its a lot of fun. I think part of why Apex clicked with me after so long away from mp shooters is the variety of guns and characters makes the game more interesting to me than standard military shooters. I also like the daily/weekly quests, they give me goals and encourage me to play characters/use weapons I might not use otherwise.

I have considered checking out other BRs but I’m not tired of Apex yet and don’t really want to split my time between multiple multiplayer games.

Indirect competitive games don’t really interest me, I don’t find climbing the leaderboards to be all that interesting.

I have never watched esports/high level competitive play. I probably should watch some Pro Apex just to get a sense for what they do/how they play, but I haven’t done so yet.

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Competitive games against others hell yeah. There’s so much more depth, deviousness, and fun times playing with another human being that AI can’t match. Against an AI, just trying enough to figure out their patterns and then you can get them. But learning to beat somebody who is good at something means you have to learn that language too. But getting to that point takes time and effort, and it’s such a different feeling of a game being a marathon where you can get good and find community at your own pace.

It’s fighting games and the more technical depth the better for me. If a game is simple to pick up, it tends to have a higher share of assholes. Something complex, like Guilty Gear, and then finding competitive communities on the margins has done wonders for helping me stick with games and has changed how I approach everything. Also mahjong.

I respect speed running, but it’s not for me. It has to be wrecking another human being in a fun atmosphere for me to be interested. I’m not dedicating hours to learn how to consistently shave seconds off my time.

And hell yeah I watch. Evo, Lunar Phase, Combo Breaker, NLBC, WNF, Arc Revo, Caliburst, Pacific Mahjong League Open? Love putting on a competitive stream. It’s my sports. Love following players and seeing long-running, emergent narratives. Like who doesn’t love the ongoing, organic rivalry between Sonicfox and Go1?

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I love competitive gaming, but I get SO into it that I often have to restrain myself to maintain other aspects of my life. Splatoon on Wii U was the first time I ever got pretty good at a shooter (think I was in S or S- rank when I stopped playing) and I have extremely fond memories of those times. But Splatoon 2 came out when I was in a really difficult period of college and I avoided it intentionally because I didn’t want it to eat all my time.

Later in college I got extremely into Smash Ultinate and went to stuff like local tournies for the first time. My college formed a smash club around when it came out, so I got to get in on the ground floor of a new community, helped run tournies, work on our player rankings, etc. It was cool being a “notable” player at my school and also helping shape that community into something genuinely inclusive. Right now I can’t go to locals so my enthusiasm has dropped, but I’ll still try to get characters into Elite Smash online here and there.

As for watching eSports, I was watching a lot of smash pre-COVID. But now they’re all online and nobody, even the pros, enjoys playing smash in that form so all the tournaments are pretty miserable. Additionally, anybody paying attention to that scene saw some pretty wretched scandals. Was really disheartening for me personally because me and many other people had worked to make our local community inclusive and safe. Seeing that the broader community had failed so badly to do the same made me extremely upset. Haven’t watched much since.

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I don’t have a particularly healthy emotional relationship to competition. I either need to be all in it win it, or I find myself in the hell of pretending not to care. Video games for me are a hobby that helps me reduce my overall stress levels, and my inner competitor doesn’t play well with that. Plus, I have priorities that will automatically override any game I’m in, and I hate to let other people down, so quitting out of a game where other people were counting on me to be there as a teammate or opponent is stress I don’t need.

Outside of the video game world, I’m an amateur endurance athlete. And in that context, I do find competing against myself to be engaging. Getting my times down and my distance up is a long term project that doesn’t feel like competition, but a metric of personal improvement. And with that age ticking up, it’s nice to feel like I’m defying the inevitable in some small way. I don’t think there’s an equivalent in the game world that has caught my attention in any way. Part of it is the accessibility of how much better other people out there are. And to me that feels oppressive, rather than inspiring.

I do like occasionally watching competitive games. It’s pretty easy for me to decide which player/team I like better and cheer for them and get just emotionally involved enough to have fun and feel a part of it. I used to really dig SC2 analysis casts, because I find the mechanics of competition (and the game design crunch that feeds that) really engaging to listen to. After a while, though, that did become relatively stale. The kinds of “new things” that I learned after a while started to get same-y.

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I don’t do a lot of competitive gaming because although I’m only a mildly anxious person in general, I find that competition dials it straight to eleven. Mostly this manifests as overwhelming pre-competition anxiety, which leads me procrastinate actually doing the thing.

The only game I’ve played competitively in a truly serious fashion, by which I mean playing regularly for a long period and actively trying to improve, is Go/Weiqi/Baduk. Obviously not a video game but I mention it because the experience of getting into Go this year and playing online is the closest I’ve come to the experience I had playing Starcraft 2, but also weirdly bicycle racing.

What I find kind of fascinating is how similar the experiences were for me: lots of queuing anxiety or the equivalent, an enjoyable and manageable amount of adrenaline during a match/race, followed by exhilarating levels of euphoria from a win, or in the case of bike racing from having done it at all without crashing. But also how different: the communities are extremely different, from how welcoming they are to beginners and to what the organizational infrastructure supports, plus the very different math of 1v1 games versus mass start racing (never once did I line up at the rail at the velodrome with the expectation that I’d be on the podium)

I know a lot of folks experience ladder anxiety, but for me it’s more than just ladder and rank. I get very anxious playing unranked Go online with strangers. I would love to be able to just casually play game after game the way I see some Twitch streamers play Go. The only remedy I’ve found is the do the very thing I’m having trouble doing, and playing regularly.

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I thought I enjoyed competitive games. Spent hundreds of hours in Team Fortress 2 after all, got pretty good with the demo’s grenade launcher. Then around when that game’s energy had faded Overwatch showed up, so I pre-ordered that and played it for… 3 or 4 hours total? Turns out what I actually liked was loading into random servers to mess around on ridiculous custom maps and modes, and when I ran into a game where competing was the actual point I just couldn’t care.

Competing against myself, though, I can get into. Love a good high score or time attack game. Online leaderboards often have cheaters at the top unless the dev puts an unusual amount of effort into stopping them, but beating my own records is enough satisfaction.

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Back when I was in school and owned maybe 6 games a year I played a ton of shooters because they were what my mates had. I got the Xbox 360 and worked my way through Halo 2 - 3, Modern Warfare 1-2, Gears 1-2, Rainbow Six Vegas and a host of other things which was great because we all played together, made friends, had silly trash talk and were all really good at one or other which kept us entertained.

I don’t really have that anymore. I found the Modern Warfare Remastered to be more anxiety inducing than enjoyable even though I wasn’t much worse. I was maybe smarter if less good with my reflexes. I still very occasionally dive into the Halo: Master Chief Collection because Halo was my game that I was the best at.

I think apart from being anxiety inducing my main problem is why I find playing competitive multiplayer really boring and repetitive? Idk if it’s the games I play but they’re either too small and get dull or are too large for me to feel that I’m meaningfully affecting the outcome?

The one game that still works for me is Warzone. It’s the one thing I play with my boys and it’s perfect for me. I’ve always loved the idea of Battle Royale, the video game and the Call of Duty one is the first one that plays really well, doesn’t have any annoying gimmicks, and has enough variation and enough generally going on to keep me hooked. Plus having a ready made group of people to play with has kept me playing all year even if we’ve only managed about 10 wins in as many months.

ETA: I sorta like the idea of playing CK2, Europa, or Civ competitive but I hate gaming something which feels necessary in those games to win and I just like relaxing. Plus I hate losing for protracted amount of time and would feel too bad about pummelling a friend for the same amount of time. Man, calling people out on the Mafia thread here was stressful enough.

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This was very true for me when I was playing Smash. Sometimes I’ll watch a smash bros video and suddenly be assaulted by flashbacks of the time(s) I messed up at a bigger tournament. It’s silly but also very annoying. I think having a local tournament every week that was also a social outlet helped reduce the stakes. If I messed up I could come back next week and I also had other people to talk to and cheer for.

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The only competitive gaming I like is fighting games (which took me a bit to get into if you look at my post history in that thread). I feel like, generally, mobas and shooters require a lot of knowledge to play AND watch. Fighting games you have to make the bar go down, and that’s it! It’s easy to watch, and relatively easy to get into.

I also like the 1-on-1 format. When I win I know it’s because I bested my opponent, and when I lose I know they were better than me. There’s no teammates to blame it on (or to blame me) and I think that reduces the toxicity.

I feel like (generally) my experience with the FGC has been a positive one, probably helped by the fact that I’m a straight white due, but any bad stuff gets called out in my circles. I play with a hitbox, which is really satisfying, and makes practice fun.

But there is a lot of that- I would end up practicing and labbing by myself 30-45 minutes/day, followed by 1 hour of online playing.

My favorite games are Granblue Fantasy Versis and UNICLR, which unfortunately have awful netcode. Once COVID hit it felt like online got even worse, and I wasn’t practicing to play in locals. Once we’re vaccinated I’ll start playing more frequently, but probably only games with rollback netcode.

Edit: In general, I don’t feel like I’m a very competitive person. HOWEVER, I do like competitions and attending them. I like putting my skills that I’ve developed into practice. While I learned this at smash tournaments/weeklies for fighting games, it was solidified when I competed in powerlifting. I like having a stage to compete and showcase the hours that have gone into competition preparation.

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I do enjoy playing competitively even though I’m not too good at it. My favorite genres for it are shooters, racers, rhythm games, and especially fighting games. I mostly stick to online matches, but I do really enjoy playing fighting games locally (even though I very rarely do because I’m way too shy :sweat_smile:). I’ll also dabble with other random games here and there, like a Fall Guys or Disc Jam.

As far as competing against myself, I don’t really do it except for rhythm games. Usually, it starts out with me trying to beat harder and harder songs, or songs on higher difficulties, and then eventually it moves to me trying to beat my high scores.

I don’t do it super often, but I will occasionally watch competitive games–mostly fighting games and rhythm games. Partly to learn new things that I can hopefully bring into my own play, but mostly I just love seeing high-level play in these types of games.

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