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The way I enjoy games has changed to the point of affecting my self esteem – just the way of modern games?

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Recently I picked up a game with an online battle feature. It was my favourite genre and I felt confident I could finally do well at an online game. My esteem was quickly ground to dust when I realised everyone online was utterly perfect and a single mistake even in lower ranks would cost games with everyone being visibly able to see how often I was losing.


A lot of modern video games have such an online competitive element. It feels like these modes are integral parts of the game; like clearing the main game is only practice and the online features are the main bulk of the experience. The problem with that is, people like me aren't ever good at these modes. Some of us practice and practice for years at genres of games, only for a brand new player to come along, destroy us, and rub it in for good measure. These days playing against the AI isn't so satisfying, but playing against other people is mentally depressing and is less challenging, more an impossibility if you don't have natural talent.


Even if a game doesn't have an online feature built in, modern day social media makes it feel like a competition anyway. Take speedrunning for example. I purchased Crash Bandicoot 4. I'm a long term fan of the Crash series, as it was my introduction to video games as a whole. I picked up 4 hoping to go at my own pace through the weeks, only to see dozens of people complete it 100% in mere days, and then immediately go about speedrunning it. Such things are impossible to ignore because the players good enough to do this are praised and popular and posted everywhere, while the people like me who constantly make the same mistakes are laughed at and labelled as "casuals." Every time I made a mistake in the game, or saw the Game Over screen, I remembered how many people claimed the game was very easy, until eventually I just no longer wanted to continue out of embarrassment. This was a series I've known and replayed for 2 decades, and to be shown up so easily at it by every second player was a horrid feeling.


I miss the days where I could pick up a new video game, and even if I couldn't even get past the first few levels, I could still have fun. Being stuck on the first levels was still rewarding because you could learn the ins and outs of the level layouts, so a game held more nostalgia later down the line. And of course back then we didn't have the internet and social media to easily compare ourselves with others. Oh sure, we had conversations in schools and suchlike, but in a small community, it felt more enocuraging to be pushed to beat something a friend had recently beaten. Besides none of the goals felt impossible back then, because only one, maybe two people would have achieved it.


These days though, everything feels like a contest, and it's impossible to ignore how well others are doing at games when it's so easy to see even in glimpses. Hundreds of video titles of 100% endings on day 1 of release, frequently updating world records for speedruns, videos that say "This is what separates noobs from pros" or compilations designed to humiliate bad players. Not to mention those "Grandmaster player Vs Team of low rank noobs" that seem surprisingly common. These things are always at the back of my mind when playing video games these days as much as I wish they weren't, because if you can't be the absolute best at a game, you can't claim to be good at it at all anymore. And for someone like me, who doesn't have a lot to say I'm any good at in the first place, being increasingly told by the community at large how bad I am at games in comparison to most is very off-putting. I only have one other thing I can say I'm good at besides video games, and because of my disabilities these days, it's no longer a possibility for me. Therefore my ability at video games affects me more than most, especially given how much time I have for it compared to most. Working hard to try and be good at something only for everyone to be smarter and better than you anyway is a terrible feeling. Maybe I could let people play games their way if the number of people looking down on casual players wasn't so prevalent.

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I remember watching a friend of mine playing the Dark Souls series on Twitch. He was fascinated by the lore, the world, the gameplay mechanics and what waited around every corner. Unfortunately people in chat started mocking him for being bad at the game. The heckling got too much – stopping one would only encourage others – and he stopped playing the games altogether.


Of course not every game falls into this trap. Games like Spiderman PS4 or Batman Arkham Asylum are exceptional because most people will play the game in the same way despite the freedom provided at first glance. Anyone can enjoy the well written story, anyone can feel satisfied at the gameplay because there's much less to compare to others on it – speedrun tricks for such games are more about breaking technical boundaries than simply being a better player which greatly softens the blow – and the games naturally encourage improvement whether or not you go for 100% completion. You might be able to take more hits in combat at lower difficulties, but in the end everyone is doing the same combat, and everyone can gradually feel more confident to work their way up to higher difficulties thanks to the natural progression. Other games such as most fighters and shooters, or long lasting platformer franchises, are less forgiving. You're either good at these day 1 or you're going to be looked down on by communities are large. A harsh lesson I've learned in game communities is nobody likes the losers, even the hard working ones.


It really is a shame because under most circumstances I would probably enjoy these games a lot more if it weren't so easy to compare to others. It's all very well saying "stop comparing to them" but that's like saying to not use social media or video sharing these days, a near impossibility. Besides the damage is already done – very much every major video game released will have a deluge of players quickly showing how good they are compared to others. Even if I were to no longer look for them, knowing they are out there still hurts, and facing them online if the game allows it only hurts more in the end. And I must face it, I'm an idiot. There have been plenty of times I've tried to practice to keep up with the community, but by the time I can grasp one concept, the majority of players have grasped a dozen more ahead of me, so working hard is hardly working.


The way I enjoy games has changed because I no longer feel like I can be bad at them and still enjoy them – I MUST be excellent at them or I'm not worth the time of day to anyone I try to befriend over them. I can now only enjoy games if I can consistently do better at them than someone else, which is almost never. I know these seems ridiculous, and I apologise if all I've done is sound even more like an idiot, but still I wonder if anyone else shares such experiences? Has anyone else been affected by the more competitive nature of video games these days?


TL:DR: Most modern video games have a competitive element that makes it easy to look down on casual players, whether built into the game or in the community surrounding it. This strongly affects my enjoyment of games because I feel like I'm not permitted to be bad at the game, or because all the practice in the word isn't enough to make me even an average player.

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