Why do I play games? What is it that I hope to get out of them?
I like to think that my love of games is bound up in the pursuit of excellence. That through diligent practice I will improve myself and develop a skill I had hitherto not possessed.
That theory appeals to me because it seems noble. Life should be about climbing the ladder of self-improvement, of never being satisfied with "good enough." To strive is to open oneself up to new possibilities, and to hope for a transformation of the self that brings about a transformation in one's understanding of the world.
However, every time I play a difficult video game (and presumably this would apply to other challenging tasks, though it's been months since I've sat down and read a book and years since I've tried to learn a new language or solve a difficult math problem . . . I should probably address that imbalance at some point), my hopeful philosophy is put to the test.
When I bumped the bots from level one to level two difficulty, my kill-death ratio plummeted, going from something like 10 kills for every death to two deaths for every kill. My team won about half the time, but I'm certain these wins are only incidentally attributable to my actions on the battlefield.
If I were totally consistent about my personal philosophy, this would be an invigorating opportunity. There's so much I can learn in fighting these bots. If I apply myself and stick to it, I can push past my current skill plateau and start playing the game at an entirely new level.
But . . . but . . . I miss winning. It's silly, I know. If I kept playing at easy difficulty, I'd never learn anything. I'd stagnate as a player and never be able to face human competition on an even footing. Any victory made against such hobbled opponents as the Easy bots would be a hollow one at best.
Yet even knowing that, being on the giving end of a righteous ass-whooping is an intoxicating sensation. Compared to the frustration of trying your best and still not being quite good enough, it's like being on top of the world. It may be a vacuous pursuit, but it feels so good.
And it's at times like this that I wonder if perhaps "pursue self-improvement" isn't my true life philosophy. Perhaps, instead, I am merely looking for a series of diversions to fill time until I inevitably succumb to the icy embrace of death. Perhaps I play games out of a sybaritic dissolution, and rather than trying to understand the world, I am in fact trying to shut it out.
I mean, that's a lot to pin on a bunch of cute little sprites jumping on platforms and shooting each other with lasers, but everything's a piece of the puzzle, you know.
I think what I have to do is stick with my training regimen. Keep tackling the tougher bots in the hopes of eventually reaching a breakthrough. Maybe focus on one or two characters to play instead of just hitting "random" every time the character-select screen pops up. It's likely that if I don't lose hope and get in enough practice, the tides will turn and I'll start beating the bots consistently. And when that happens, the wining sensation will return, but it will be even better, because this time it was earned through hardship.
With any luck, I can satisfy both my sensual cravings and my intellectual curiosity . . . to the extent that a simple platformer MOBA can, anyway.