As someone that invests in the idea of simulation-theory and the virtuality of existence, I’ve been busy doing research by playing a MMOFPS (Massively multiplayer online first-person shooter game). It took me a few weeks, but I recently reached my goal of getting into the top level. The top level is highly competitive in its own right and contains higher leagues, but I don’t care about that, I just wanted to get into the highest numbered level.
There were times when I wanted to quit because I was fed-up with being cannon-fodder for higher-powered players. I eked out an existence by capturing points for my team while they did the bulk of the fighting, and other times I hid behind stronger teammates. But as my capabilities grew, there were times when I stood out front crushing those that dared stand before me.
Overall I had a pretty quick rise through the ranks. But this resulted in me being matched against tougher and tougher opponents, usually in a league or two above me. Although I know what it feels like to be the top guy in a match, I’ve been squashed like a bug many more times.
Was it hard-work and grinding through the lower levels that allowed me to reach my lofty goal? Somewhat. But like a lot of these games, there’s a lottery system. I won things that helped me progress at an accelerated rate. I don’t know if the lottery was rigged in my favor to entice me to keep playing, I simply accepted those wins as my very own good luck.
Another factor beyond my control is the matchmaking. Why am I teamed up with certain people while pitted against others? An algorithm controls my fate. No matter how good I think I am, I get crushed when placed amongst the higher league players. But other times I do the demolishing, it simply depends on the matchmaking. Of course when I win, I chalk it up to pure skill but when I lose it’s due to terrible matchmaking (which it is).
Regular life appears as though it has lottery-like resource dispersement. It has a matchmaking system that introduces certain people into our life while fading others out. We’re pitted against opponents in regularly occuring contests. There are preset goals we’re expected to achieve. Our character even comes with a particular set of attributes.
There are times in regular life when we feel like cannon fodder — and sometimes we want to quit because of it. In games, oftentimes our character is battered and tattered and limping through the virtual-world, yet we persist. So in life we must also persist. We must find the fun amidst the turbulence and keep progressing until we collapse.
There have been times when it was obvious my team was going to lose, we were smashed from the start, yet we stuck it out — fighting relentlessly until the buzzer — and we won. What a feeling that is, to be so close to defeat yet pull out a victory at the end of a hard-fought battle. It’s intense, minutes feel like hours and the prize is so much sweeter.
Of course, sometimes my team did lose badly, but it was that context that became the foundation for the elation that would occur with subsequent wins. Every narrative must have its ebb and flow, that’s simply how it works. We can plainly observe narratives taking place all around us, which proves life’s fictional nature.
It’s silly to yell at the screen when things don’t go as expected. We watch shows and ride rides specifically because of the rollercoaster inducing effects they provide. Essentially, I wanted to lose again and again just to increase the tension so that I could maximize the feeling of triumph.
So when life feels at a low, it’s the same thing — tension is building for the purpose of an eventual payoff. But realize that the outcome only comes when we stick around to see it. If we quit, it’s over — the tension and its reward dissolve back into the aether of potentiality.
Yet why doesn’t the gameplay always align with our preferences? Why are we taking part in contests that we can’t sync with? Why are we riding rides that turn out to be too fast? Why are we involved with stories that are too intense? That’s because there’s an exploration and discovery period where we’re supposed to figure out our perfect fit. Basically we’re shopping and experimenting — and that in itself can be fun.
For instance, when I started playing the MMOFPS game, I clicked with certain combinations of weapons yet couldn’t effectively use others. Even though some weapons were clearly effective at defeating me, I just couldn’t use them myself. So to determine which weapons I was best with, I had to try them all out. It was a turbulent time when I lost a lot, obviously — yet overall, the experimenting was entertaining.
We come into this game not quite comfortable with our role, so we spend time testing things out. And we must remember that every contest seems silly when overanalyzed. We mustn’t judge a mechanism of triumph. For instance, I feel triumphant playing an MMOFPS game. Someone else might feel triumphant overcoming a disease. Every life is full of triumphant episodes, even though outside observers might not appreciate them as such.