Failing is Tough Even if its a Game

There are those who feel games are a waste of time, or that they teach us the wrong things. Even the most enthusiastic critic will have to admit: games teach us things. Studies show that children who play games often, learn rule structures, social interactions, and guess what else… Yes… Failure.

Have you played that video game that just crushes you when you lose, like Dark Souls? Have you missed the game winning shot in your favorite sport? Or are you just extremely competitive in that friendly game of flip cup? They all share at least one thing… losing sucks.

Let’s not get into the type of game too deeply, as the way we see it, games are about like food. Your favorite In and Out Burger with fries, probably isn’t the best for you if you eat it every day 365 days a year with no other healthy food or vitamins. The idea is moderation. Games are no different, no matter the genre, the violence or other politically charged issue at hand, games in moderation can be fun and even teach us a thing or two.

The question of the day however is, if we know it’s just a game, why do we get so angry when we lose? Our emotions are theoretically governed by various hormones, these hormones are used in our complex brains to help us make decisions, socially interact and learn (among plenty of other things of course). Certain hormones are processed by neurotransmitters, that initiate sequences such as flight or fight when we are afraid. Similarly ‘frustration’ and anger are hormones released to initiate sequences that will have us saying “best 2 out of 3” after we lose.

Aside from the technical details, the point is it is tough to lose in a game when we are emotionally invested. Yet there are good reasons for it. When we are spending time and effort to do something that comes up short and fails, you shouldn’t be apathetic about it, you should feel something. If you are frustrated, if you feel an unsettling sense of defeat, if you can barely hold in throwing a tantrum, or are you the opposite type that feels extremely happy (we won’t go there today… but it’s definitely possible)? Either way if it’s tough, you know you’ve probably tried your best. Of course there are healthier ways to express emotions than breaking the controller or throwing a tantrum; and we haven’t found scientific evidence that “being frustrated” = “trying hard”, but despite that we will hold on to the idea that when you try your best and fail, it usually sucks; even if it’s a game. Why? Because it’s supposed to.

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