On Tuesday, March 27, I had an article published here dealing with being a loser in Magic. I thought the message was pretty clear, even though, admittedly, the writing was convoluted.
- You are a loser because you lose at Magic.
- Magic is just a game.
- Thereís nothing wrong with losing.
Donít get so upset about losing.
First of all, I chose to talk about losing and only losing. I wanted to address how people think and act when they lose. I didnít want to address what people think when they win or how they act while they play. Those are separate articles entirely. This is all about losing.
Question from the audience: What was your inspiration for this piece?
Answer: Magic Online.
Surprised? I didnít think so. MTGO is my most readily available source of Magic games (quantity, not quality), as it is for a lot of people. Yet, I have been finding myself in an unfortunate dilemma when I play online. I can not win and enjoy myself at the same time. Because whenever I win, my opponent feels the need to say something spiteful attacking either me, my deck or my playing.
Example 1: October of last year, I entered a two-headed giant game. I don't even remember what deck I was playing, but my partner had some insanely fast red deck, utilizing the red Shoal, giant spells, and cheap hasty creatures. He dealt 40 damage about as fast as I've even seen it dealt. After the game, my partner and I offered a good game, to which one of our opponents, by the name of Jakus said "gfy" and "8===========]>" (the inspiration for a different article) while our other opponent, sylvia393, said my partner should apologize "cuz you're a dip[dollar sign]hit." A pissing match ensued and all I could think is "Why don't you just leave it alone and start a different game?" Using profanity and name-calling isn't going to make your opponent play a weaker deck or show him that you're right. It simply reinforces the possibility that you haven't graduated the eighth grade yet or that you lack the intelligence and social skills to accept defeat.
Example 2: A few months later, I started a game playing my online ninja deck. It has 4 Mana Leaks in it. During the game, I countered two of my opponent's spells and ended up winning. I offered a Good Game. My opponent, Creasty, responded in a private message, saying, ďshaddup, counter boy. its never a good game.Ē To which I thought, ďThen why are you playing?Ē He either blocked me or signed off before I could actually respond with my question. But once again, if he thinks that it is never a good game, then why does he even play? Or perhaps he meant that itís never a good game when he loses.
Example 3: A few months later, I was again playing Magic Online. I had just built a really janky burn deck using Scornful Egoist, Erratic Explosion, Torrent of Fire and all that sort of crap from Scourge. It was a really bad deck, but I used to have one in real life and I liked playing it so I wanted to try it out. Well my first two opponents conceded to me after I played my first burn spells. The first one said I was too slow. The second one said he didnít have time to play a ďscrubby newb deckĒ. Before getting frustrated with more of these responses, I switched to a different deck. I then lost the next game I played because I am a loser and thatís what I do. I offered my opponent a good game and he responded likewise. I thought things were looking up, so I entered another game with another deck. This next game was one of the most fun and intense games I can remember playing recently on MTGO. It got down to a race and for the last 2-3 turns, he was telling me that he just needed to draw one of six cards to win. Well, he didnít draw them and I won. Once again, I offered a good game. He responded by saying, ďnot really. i never had a chance.Ē So two turns ago he was one card from beating me and now that the game is over he never really had a chance? That just didnít make sense to me. He was really pleasant to talk to during the game. He played well, he had a cool deck, but when it came time to lose, he just couldnít handle it.
Those are the three occasions that most stick in my head and got me thinking. Again, it wasnít the games or even the outcomes of the games that made me think Ė it was the responses from my opponents. I think that itís pretty easy to be civilized when you win. And itís not hard to be mature when youíre playing. Itís a lot harder to be a good sport when you lose and thatís when my opponentsí true colors began to show.
I think there are three things you need to accept before playing any game of Magic.
- Magic is a game based largely around luck. When you shuffle a deck and draw seven cards, you are entering an unsigned agreement stating that you are aware of the fact that luck is strongly involved in the game. If you donít like it, go buy a chess set.
- Not all Magic players think like you. To me, four Jittes are not casual. Yet a rare-free affinity deck is. Maybe it doesnít make sense, but itís how I think. Other players are going to use cards and build decks that are much too powerful for you to beat. If you canít accept it, play solitaire.
- Your opponent is not trying to make you angry. He is there for the same reason you are. Heís trying to have fun. He does this by trying to beat you in a game of Magic. Even if you feel that you are being unfairly ganged up on in a free-for-all, this only means that everyone attacking you thinks that your loss will increase their chances to win. Itís nothing personal. If you hate your opponent for trying to beat you, then go back to playing the computer.
Now, I think a lot of the confusion in my article came from my use of the word ďloser.Ē I was using definition 1a, as can be found at dictionary.com.
loser Ė n. 1. a. One that fails to win: the losers of the game
You are a loser. You are a loser because you fail to win at Magic. Sometimes you succeed, but not always. If youíve ever lost a game of Magic, youíre a loser. If you havenít, youíre either a liar, a bully, or you donít play Magic. The entire article was dedicated to the discussion of being a loser at Magic.
Hereís a list of what I did not mean when I said loser:
- Youíre not a loser just because you play Magic, as it applies to the fantasy aspect, general geekiness, and/or what the ďcoolĒ kids might say.
- Youíre not a loser if you aspire or even dedicate your life to become a better and/or more successful Magic player, as in entering competitive events.
- Youíre not a loser if you have no social skills, live in your parentsí basement, are smelly, disgusting, ugly, and/or complete devoid of any reasonable signs of a personality.
- Youíre not a loser if you have given up on life, ambition, passion and desire and now just sit and rot from day to day, busy in your mindless life of banality, which you donít recognize as banal and justify through some random pearl of self-deceiving wisdom.
No, none of those definitions apply. Or, at least, Iím not the one judging people based on them.
With that said, the greater lesson was dealing with what type of loser you choose to be. In the original article, I described a ďcycle of victoryĒ that some people get caught in, which I largely attributed to the rise of video games in our culture. People get used to beating the computer. People get used to winning all the time. They start to forget what it is like to lose. And then they have trouble accepting their losses. But perhaps video games are not the only perpetrators here. Allow me to use a different example to demonstrate how different Magic players may get stuck in a cycle of victory.
Usually, in casual groups, there is one person who has either played the longest or is the most dedicated to improving his skills. When he gets together with his group, he pummels them mercilessly. Heís not doing it to be spiteful or to show everyone heís better than them. He might be a genuinely nice guy and the group might enjoy having him around, despite how frequently he wins. But when he leaves the group of his friends and signs on to his MTGO account, itís a totally different story. As dedicated as he is to Magic, he still considers himself casual. So he only plays in the casual decks room. And in the casual decks room are a lot of players just like him, playing very good decks. So if he starts playing and only wins half of his games, heís going to start getting mad. Heíll win 90% of the time in real life and he expects to do the same online. A natural reaction might be to blame his online opponents. After all, his real life friends donít give him a hard time like this. What he needs to do is accept the fact that losing happens and that itís not a bad thing.
One of the misguided responses to my article seemed to imply that I was trying to attack competitive players and made an effort to defend them, stating that the most competitive players in Magic are the most mature and can accept defeat honorably. Honestly, I wouldnít know. I donít play against the most competitive players, but I certainly understand why they would act like this: Because it makes sense. When you decide that you are going to be a highly competitive player, in order to challenge yourself, you must play the highest level of competition. So of course, playing the highest level of competition week in and week out will lead to numerous losses, no matter how good you are. This should provide plenty of time to realize that losing is not a bad thing, nor does it necessarily mean that you are a bad player.
Another comment questioned my logic when I said that you should always congratulate your opponent and offer them a good game and a handshake. I honestly do believe this and I try my best to live by it. Itís not about being the bigger man, though. That implies to me that you are doing it because you feel that would somehow make you a better person than your opponent:
My opponent is acting immature. I will act mature. Then Iím not a loser, right?
Wrong. You lost the game. Youíre a loser.
Donít be courteous because it helps you feel better about your loss. Donít extend your hand and say, ďGood GameĒ as an empty sign without meaning it. Do it only because you truly mean it. Do it because you honestly believe that Magic is a good game and, by extension, every game of Magic is good. Do it because you are an intelligent, conscientious human being, capable of understanding the importance of a game and having the knowledge that you can lose and enjoy yourself at the same time. If you canít do that, if you canít understand that losing is a part of the game and if you take your losses personally, then donít say anything at all. Just walk away. The worst thing you can do is contribute to the cycle of hate that infests our game so much.
My goal when I play Magic is to alleviate this cycle of hatred that runs rampant in the game, most especially on Magic Online. If youíre playing someone in Magic, and they are a total oinkhole, call you names, trash talk and generally act like they need their diapers changed, then go ahead and hate them. Hate them for being a horrible person. Hate them because they havenít learned any manners or because they are socially inept. But donít hate them because they beat you. Donít hate them because they are better than you at Magic. And donít hate them because you donít like the deck that theyíre playing. Losing at a game is a terrible reason to hate someone.
I understand that some people need a serious lesson in how to behave, both during and after the game. But donít tell them off after you lose. Tell them off when theyíve moved on to their next game. Tell them off after you beat them. Tell them off while youíre playing. But please, donít tell them off after you just got your butt handed to you. They will simply write off your words as hatred, simply because you lost. Theyíll continue acting like miscreants because they will only hear about it after a loss. Consequently, theyíll start sounding off on their opponents after every loss, thinking that it is acceptable, even expected, to criticize an opponent after a loss. And so it continues.
We need to stop. We need to accept losing as a part of the game. We need to accept responsibility for all losses Ė even the ones we have no control over. We need to establish Magic as a game that can be played between two mature human beings who are playing because they enjoy playing. If it were up to me, Iíd make sure every single Magic player knows how to accept a loss and move on with their lives. Obviously, I canít just go and expel every whiner and flamer from the game, but I can attempt to lead by example.
My hopeless sense of optimism tells me that every time I get beaten by a tier one deck in the casual decks room on MTGO, and I come back and say ďGood Game,Ē that maybe my opponent is the type of person that doesnít handle losing well. And maybe he gets a lot of rage thrown his way, too. And maybe, just maybe, he will see my message and think about how much more pleasant it is to be a civilized person, even in defeat. Probably not, but maybe. At the very least, I like to think that out of the dozen or so people that read this, at least one will learn to accept losing and perpetuate the positive aspects of losing gracefully, even though he didnít before.
So I suppose that was my primary motivation in the initial article. But I also wrote the article because I had to write the article. Another message in accepting defeat is to alleviate the whining that goes along with defeat. In fact, whining goes along with almost everything these days. People love to whine, but they donít like to actually do anything to improve the status of the things they whine about. They become a part of something either without fully understanding everything involved in it or without the motivation to actually try to change it.
Take sports fans, for instance. If youíre going to gain an active interest in sports, you must accept the fact that your team is going to lose. You must accept the fact that your team will get some bad calls, that your players will make mistakes and that the coaches will not always do the best job. And if you donít like it, then quit your job and try to fix it yourself. Get really good and try out for the team if you think you can do a better job. Or start coaching. Or get rich and buy the team. Or become a referee and make all those bad calls go the other direction. And if none of that is practical, then stop rooting for the team, because your whining isnít helping them win.
So if you donít like something that you fully have the ability to change, you have two choices: Crap or get off the pot. Donít like losing at Magic? Accept it and keep playing because you enjoy the game or stop playing. Donít like your job? Accept what it entails and make it more enjoyable or quit and find a new one. Donít like any of your friends? Accept them for who they are or go out and make new ones. Donít like what I have to say? Write an intelligent rebuttal, accept what I have to say or stop reading. The choice is yours.
Thatís what the last paragraph of my previous article was trying to convey. This is the only place where I change my definition of loser. Allow me to refresh your memory:
So put out your hand, congratulate your opponent and move on with your life. And if you can't, then don't come crying to me about it. Because that just tells me that youíre a bigger loser than me.
If you canít make a choice, youíve already lost. If you canít accept defeat without whining about it, then you are a loser. If you arenít trying to improve you circumstances, then you are a loser. Not a definition 1a loser, but a definition 2b loser. Not just in Magic, but in the greater scheme of things.
So now, I suppose, itís time to whine. Itís time to throw another log on the fire of hatred. Itís time to tell me how wrong I am and how terrible I am for calling you out. Itís time to take my message personally or out of context. Itís time to write another response without any thought or support. All that Iím going to do is sit here and smile and thank you for your time, because I just like to play.