Why more choice is great in games
and why single-player games shouldn’t be counted out — even in the realm of esports.
The greatest thing about video games to me is that there is something for everyone, especially considering the effort developers are making towards accessibility. This is highlighted best to me in my favorite game of 2020, The Last of Us Part II. Among other accolades, the game won ‘Innovation in Accessibility’, which is stated on the official Game Awards website as a piece that is “recognizing software and/or hardware that is pushing the medium forward by adding features, technology and content to help games be played and enjoyed by an even wider audience.”
More people are playing games than ever before, and with this comes more varied preferences for the player. The two main types of games I discuss with others are competitive oriented titles, where you play to win against others (Overwatch, Valorant, etc.) and any other game in which you are not actively competing to be the best (story, better ranks, etc).
Each of these games attracts audiences for different reasons, and I certainly see the appeal of both, but in my opinion, single-player/non-competitive titles are my preference, so let me make my case.
Whenever I play a competitive title, I am committing to an action that is more like a sport than anything else (minus the physical activity). When I experienced intense matches in Overwatch, I often felt energy unlike anything else for an extended period, and not always of the positive variety. The issue with competitive games is that everyone wants to win, all the time, and in the best competitive game, that isn’t exactly possible. In the best theoretical matchup, the game should be as close to the wire as possible, with everyone in the lobby being of equal skill.
This is often not the case, which is why we see complaints about fair matchmaking pop up so often in-game discussion today. Focusing on my previous point: everyone always wants to win and winning does not (and should not) happen all the time. In my experience, I lose more than I win, and winning a game is often a slog. Therefore, the main emotion I feel when playing competitively is predominately stress, negativity, or sadness due to the loss.
Despite these internal feelings, I would always try to keep a positive attitude and communicate with my teammates to the best of my ability. However, this doesn’t factor in the fact that most competitive games are team-based, ultimately resulting in your game skill only being reliable to an extent. At a certain point, the impact of your skill diminishes as you need your team to back up your plays to lead to victory.
This concept is present in almost every competitive team game I have tried. If you choose to engage in voice chat, teammates are often soured by their own losses and negative experiences, leading to that game being a loss, everyone leaving with a negative attitude, and the cycle continues.
Now, despite me pointing out these negative aspects, there are still many positives to competitive games, like teamwork, camaraderie, and improving over time, which you will do with focused play despite a win or loss. There is also the experience of viewing competitive games rather than playing. In all these ways, I feel like competitive games are sports, hence esports.
However, everyone plays games for different reasons. I play games to relax, and these fast-paced high-stress titles do not offer me this feeling. Instead of leaving energized, I feel sad, tired, or angry. Different people deal with these emotions in different ways, but I play games predominately to relax, and these competitive titles offer the farthest experience from this. Competitive games can be fun if you are the best or competing professionally/on a team, but I feel this is a small percent of the total player base.
On the flip side, single-player games are tailored completely to my interests, I can go at my own pace and do not have to worry about the performance of others. They offer their own mechanics, worlds, music, graphics, art, and story with each new experience, and I can make the game as energetic and difficult or relaxed and slow as I want. In this way, I relate my favorite games to being lost in a similar form of media like books, music, and tv shows. They are experiences to be enjoyed, not something to be frustrated over, and are curated exactly how you want them to be.
At the end of the day, it goes back to my first point, in that games offer something for everyone. It is most likely just my personality that is not competitive, as my brother and many friends enjoy these games extensively, but I am appreciative of the variety of this medium and glad it caters to any experience the player is seeking.
As entertainment, seek what you value most, even if it is competitive games. Pursuing a career in esports & games is possible if you wish, but it is just as engaging to pursue another career about your favorite game, like a podcast, book, art, or content creator. Seek what makes you happy, and you’ll stick with gaming for much longer!