In an age where gaming communities are either growing more casual, more juvenile, or more elitist, are there any who still cling to the hope of sportsmanship in online gaming? Are players who are both skilled and kind truly mythical creatures? Where are these benevolent adepts?
These players respect the game, their fellow players, and the spirit of competition. They play not only for the enjoyment of winning, but also for the incredible moments that can only come from a match between two equally skilled opponents with a deep understanding of their craft.
They know that victory and defeat are the only objective measurements of skill, and that any excuses or justifications are neither valid nor accepted. These players allow only their game play to speak for them, and are neither ashamed nor boastful of their abilities, because they also know that if the game is just, it will reward their skill and effort with victory, and punish their pride and over-confidence with defeat. They understand that there is a simple elegance in this, and are united in this understanding.
Before a match begins, the players may be friends, rivals, or strangers, once the game begins, however, they are nothing less than enemies. They understand that they must utilize every legal tactic that they can think of, no matter how ruthless, to achieve victory. To do anything less is to cheat themselves, and their opponents, of everything that makes the game worth playing. But when the game is done, when victory and defeat have been fairly arbitrated, all pretense of animosity and resentment must disappear.
Just as the binding spirit of the competition must force them apart during the contest, it must bring them back together after. If you were friends before, only friendship can remain. If you were rivals, only grudging respect can remain. If you were strangers, then you will find that you are strangers no longer, because there is a bond that grows between players in competition, and there is little more revealing about a person’s character than insight that can only come from competing against them, and seeing how they respond to victory, defeat, and the feelings of power or anger that can accompany them.
But those true to the craft have little use for such feelings, and revel only in the thrill of the fight, as well as the resolution, and mutual respect, that comes after. They understand that as long as both sides sought, and could reasonably achieve, victory, while only the better side could find it, the game was worth playing. They understand that for winning to mean something, for it to be worthy of respect, there must be a loser who had a very real chance to win. They know it is right to feel both pride in their successes, and disappointment in their failures, but are gracious in both victory and defeat.
They understand that when the game is done, there is no need for platitudes, excuses, or shame, as the players have exchanged items of equal value. The Loser has given the Winner the pleasure of victory, and the Winner has given the Loser the motivation and knowledge needed to improve, and, eventually, to win. There is no better teacher than defeat, and no greater reward for learning than victory.
Likewise, there is no greater place to learn than among these players, who constantly seek to better their skills, as well as those of their friends, teammates, and any that come to them who are both willing and prepared to learn; no better place to learn, than with these players who value not only skill, but also sportsmanship and community.