Gaming and Temper

23:56 Wed 15 Nov 2006
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I seem to find it difficult to remain calm when losing at games. Not always, more casual games rarely disturb me. But games I feel competitive about, well, there I have trouble. I become emotionally involved, and when things go against me, I turn surly.

Surly, and irate, and graceless. I feel particularly vexed when everything seems to go right for my opponent. I keep spawning right next to them, they curve out perfectly, I somehow cannot play the Z while they have Q and U, the ball keeps drifting to a halt right at their 3-man, we start our super moves at the same time but mine ends just before theirs… those all hurt. And when these things happen I seem to have difficulty not going on tilt.

This despite knowing this. I know that I should remain calm, that I shouldn’t let it get to me, that concentrating on controlling what I can control—and letting the rest go—gives me the best chance for success (not just in games, either). Yet my mind recoils away from calmness when these things happen. Feeling under pressure already, the strain pushes me into a space where I focus on the string of tiny random-seeming things that had to occur in order for me to suffer in this way. I can’t see anything but the putatively unlikely chain of events that appears to have me as its victim. Its undeserving victim.

Naturally, I (when calm) consider this nonsense. I don’t believe in luck, certainly not in the long term, and I have played all of these games enough times that “luck” would even out. I apparently cling to some idea of ill-fortune dogging my footsteps, persecuting me. Do I believe this, perversely, because it allows an excuse for failure? I suspect that this could be the case, ironically, as it clearly contributes to the likelihood of failure.

No malign forces shadow my game-playing (or my life, unless you wish to count global warming, corporate capitalism, etc., but these seem rather less personally-focused). Luck, good or bad, strikes me about as often as anyone else. The idea that the vagaries of chance somehow manifest cruelty, or injustice, strikes me as ludicrous—unless I’ve already gone on tilt, at which point it strikes me as fact.

I need to remind myself of this, to breathe, to realize that no victimization is occurring, to see that the walls are not actually closing in, to remember that in any game (and in life?) my responsibility begins and ends at playing to the best of my ability—beyond that, I must accept the slings and arrows.

2 Responses to “Gaming and Temper”

  1. Brett Says:

    Sometimes I find myself wishing I did believe in luck. If I did, then when unlucky things happened, I could believe that the universe owes me some luck, and I’m really just building up stock. After 99 tails, it just has to come up heads soon, right? Unfortunately (heh), many kinds of random events are independent of the past, and that’s the toughest pill to swallow: every time something unlucky happens, your expected value — as of now — over your lifetime has gone irreversably down. (The converse of course is also true, but when something lucky happens you genearlly don’t need additional cheering up.)

    So far as game-playing and tilt goes, I generally find it best to just assume I’m going to be phenomenally unlucky from the outset. It’s just my personal handicap. This assumption requires setting aside my firm scientific and mathematical beliefs about the universe for a moment, but the psychological advantages are twofold. First of all, it causes me to play better, because I know I’ll need to extract every edge to overcome the huge misfortunes that are undoubtedly awaiting. Secondly, when I do get unlucky, it’s no big surprise. Par for the course.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    That technique of simply assuming in advance that you’re going to be terribly unlucky is a great one. I’ve tried it a few times, and it helps, it’s just that somehow I can’t quite stick to it… something happens that pushes me to a point where it no longer seems as reasonable as it does right now, in the cold light of day. Still, it’s something I should practice keeping in my mind as I play.

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