If my most recent posts are any indication, I’ve had Destiny on the brain for the last several weeks or so. That hasn’t changed either; I’m thinking about how I want to to tweak my Iron Banner load-out even as I write this! Still, even with Destiny dominating the gaming portion of my brain, I have managed to pull myself away from it from time to time. Lately, those times have been to play Mario Party with my roommates (what could possibly go wrong). Mario Party being the way it is, things can, and often do, get ugly pretty quickly. I’m telling you, if we hadn’t been playing in another dimension, I doubt we’d still be living together.
Mario Party has a unique power. It has the ability to draw its players into another world. In this world, close friends become enemies, and people you’d normally trust become snakes just waiting for you to make a mistake. There is only one goal in this world, one objective that you and those who were formerly your friends are after: victory. Victory no matter the cost! This world is a fragile one though, collapsing in on itself once victory has been achieved, and taking with it all the emotion that fueled your decisions within it. You’re left just as you were before you entered that world, free to continue on as if you’d never entered it in the first place.
Okay, Mario Party doesn’t do anything nearly that dramatic, but I don’t it it’s all that far off from the effect it and most competitive games have. They relax the normal rules and remove some of our own self-imposed inhibitors while we’re in their space. We’re allowed to speak and behave differently while in the midst of a game, even to the point where we could almost view our competitive personas as different people entirely.
In my own case, the difference is clear. In my “normal” state, I’m very soft-spoken. I’m rarely loud, slow to anger, and wouldn’t dream of saying anything nasty to my friends. In the competitive space (and in Mario Party especially), that is most definitely not the case. In that space, I’m loud, quick to get frustrated, and love to exchange insults with my competition. In short, “Competitor Hatm0nster” is almost my polar opposite and I’d hate to have to play against him. Considering how he and the competitive versions of my friends behave and how quickly we disregard it after the game is concluded, it might as well have all played out in another dimension. It’s what fascinates me most about all this.
In practice, we treat the game space as a separate reality. In that reality, we can trade insults, sabotage one another, be loud, be angry, get frustrated, revel in our victories, and do it all without the malice that would normally accompany such actions/attitudes in the real world. It’s all done for the purpose of enjoying the game, and it’s all understood without spoken agreement. In fact, it feels like the effect becomes more pronounced when you’ve known your competition for a long time. It’s kind of weird, but it kind of makes sense since our close friends and family usually let us get away with more than a stranger or minor acquaintance would.
Mario Party is known as a friendship-ending game, but we all know that’s not really the case. It just happens to know how to create a game space where we can be the most competitive versions of ourselves. We get loud, we get angry, and we say things we’d never say under normal circumstances, and I doubt Mario Party players would have it any other way. It’s just too much fun!
I wanted to be much less anecdotal about this, but I had difficulty re-finding the sources I originally got this idea from. If you’d like to know more about this phenomenon, try reading up on “play theory”. There’s more to it than this and it’s all really quite fascinating!
For now though: What have you observed of this phenomenon in your own life? How does your competitive self differ from your normal self?
Lede image captured by Hatm0nster