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masque wrote (edited )

I feel like the author identifies a non-domination-related reason why many people enjoy competition, dismisses it for personal reasons, and then goes on to write as though the enjoyment of competition is always driven by an "urge to dominate".

I'm specifically talking about this bit (emphasis mine):

But there is something that makes me queasy about both games. They seem so spiritually hollow. All you do is kill the other person’s pieces, elaborately. Personally, I can only find this fun about four times, because I can’t be passionate about logistics devoid of values. (This is also why I could never find satisfaction working for a company that did something pointless no matter how much interesting “puzzle-solving” was involved in my job.)

The author doesn't enjoy challenge or problem solving in-and-of-itself, which is fine, but a lot of people do enjoy this. Competition often creates a unique sort of challenge in which an intelligent agent is actively striving to make your job harder. Even when not directed towards a meaningful goal, it still involves exercising general skills that could be helpful in achieving other meaningful goals. If the author doesn't personally see the value in this, that's fine, but I think it's disingenuous to ignore this and then assume that the "competitive urge" and the "urge to dominate" are one and the same.

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moonlune wrote

yeah, and to add to that; games aren't a zero sum game: losers have fun too. And if they don't, they can opt out.

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naut OP wrote (edited )

I think you bring up a great point, and I'd agree that the author's bias skews his conclusion a bit. Competition can be constructive, play can be competitive, and these are good things. I think where a lot of this discussion went astray is that like you say, domination and competition are being compared equally, whereas in reality they have marked differences.

Arguably, a 20yo conquest game with a specific set of mechanics is partly why this article is more controversial. I would give the Civ series as an alternate, of which domination is only one of five or six methods of victory. But even this is an extremely fuzzy simulation of our global society, and I share some of the criticisms of AoE in that the mechanics of Civ are more geared towards combat. This is my opinion of course, so it may also appear biased to others.

The main distinction or clarification I'd like to make is this:

the enjoyment of competition is always driven by an "urge to dominate"

My take is that for any concept, equating a neutral to an extreme is too simplistic an argument. Competition on smaller scales like most of the defenses pose, is not inherently bad. On larger scales however, in economies, wars, and politics, competition (defining it as a drive to win) is bad for society as a whole. Capitalist systems are founded in competition, and on so large a scale it becomes domination instead.

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masque wrote (edited )

Competition on smaller scales like most of the defenses pose, is not inherently bad. On larger scales however, in economies, wars, and politics, competition (defining it as a drive to win) is bad for society as a whole. Capitalist systems are founded in competition, and on so large a scale it becomes domination instead.

I kinda disagree with this. The problem with capitalist competition isn't scale, it's the fact that people are forced to compete for resources and power which necessarily creates a zero-sum situation. Arguably, claiming that a competitive urge creates the problems of capitalism is backwards; rather, capitalism creates material conditions that force people to compete regardless of whether they feel an intrinsic urge to do so.

EDIT: I guess what I think is that intrinsically-motivated competition (e.g. the desire to be really good at something or to achieve great & noteworthy things) is generally good for society, but extrinsically-motivated, goal-directed competition (i.e. competition aimed at achieving a material goal that is mutually exclusive with the goals of others) is typically bad. But competitive games mostly fall into the former category, not the latter.

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naut OP wrote

Well said, my wording around “capitalist systems are founded in competition” wasn’t the right way to describe it. I love the intrinsic-extrinsic concept, I think that really encapsulates the issue. Thanks!

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RadicalConstructivist wrote

I guess what I think is that intrinsically-motivated competition (e.g. the desire to be really good at something or to achieve great & noteworthy things) is generally good for society

I don't think that necessarily has anything to do with competition and doesn't need to take place in a competitive framework.

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masque wrote (edited )

I think a lot of competition essentially consists of people who want to be "really good" using the accomplishments of others as a benchmark for what "really good" means.

EDIT: This is not the only way to measure or inspire progress, of course, but it's one that seems to work well for a lot of people.

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RadicalConstructivist wrote (edited )

Competition can be constructive, play can be competitive, and these are good thing

I disagree. Competition is always destructive - for relationships, play, mental health and performance.

Play is not competitive - it is a fundamentally cooperative act. All parties involved are working towards the same goal: their mutual enjoyment. Even if you want to "play" in a competitive game, you are still ultimately working with the other people to achieve the common goal of having a good time. If the 'competition' within the game starts to supercede that common goal then what you are doing has ceased to be "play" and has morphed into something else. In the context of a culture that valourises competition, this can happen all too easily (see: Gamers)

Capitalist systems are founded in competition, and on so large a scale it becomes domination instead.

In a competitive framework, your goal is mutually exclusive with other people's. I succeed only if you fail - of course one of the most effective strategies is always going to be to make them fail - or better to force them to work for your benefit instead of their own - ie to dominate them. I don't see how this has anything to do with scale.

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naut OP wrote

I'll try to break down my argument a bit more, but at some point I'm going to get lost in the semantic differences we're trying to make.

Play is not competitive - it is a fundamentally cooperative act

This is where we differ in our definitions. I would argue that play does contain competition, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. What matters is the intent the parties have. I think /u/masque makes a good point here in that competition is destructive when there is no other option, when you are forced to compete.

In a competitive framework, your goal is mutually exclusive with other people's

I don't think this can be said absolutely. Even in an ecological perspective, my goal of survival would not be completely mutually exclusive to that of others. Why else would individuals work together to survive? Cooperating allows a group to succeed in a competitive framework. While absolutes are extremely useful for examining concepts, I don't think they can apply to a relativistic world.

I would even consider this debate as a form of competition on some level. We're both trying to argue our points of view, but that doesn't mean there must be a winner and a loser.

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RadicalConstructivist wrote

I don't think this can be said absolutely. Even in an ecological perspective, my goal of survival would not be completely mutually exclusive to that of others.

If there is no mutually exclusive goal, then in what respect is anyone "competing"? What is even the point in the word if you're gonna use it so broadly?

I would even consider this debate as a form of competition on some level. We're both trying to argue our points of view, but that doesn't mean there must be a winner and a loser.

"I would consider this thread a hierarchy on some level, after all each comment appears above another. And there's no problem with that. Just because they have an order doesn't mean those above must be superior to those below. Therefore, hierarchy is good."

What are you even trying to say?

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masque wrote

What are you even trying to say?

Don't act like the idea that "debate is competitive" is incomprehensible.

The parties involved presumably have the goal of convincing the audience (and maybe their opponent) to accept their own viewpoint. One participant's success in this regard will detract from the other participant's success. How is that not competition?

Sure, you could argue that both parties have the "shared goal" of arriving at the truth, but this is no different from the fact that in, say, chess, both parties pursue the shared goal of mutual enjoyment by working towards a mutually-exclusive sub-goal of winning the game. Thus, there is both competition and cooperation present.

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RadicalConstructivist wrote

Honestly this thread is the perfect example of why viewing discussions in a competitive framework is shit, it just devolves into people trying to sound or feel the most right at the expense of coherence or anything useful.

Like, what exactly are you arguing? Because it's got fuck all to do with anything I've said

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masque wrote (edited )

Like, what exactly are you arguing? Because it's got fuck all to do with anything I've said

You appear to believe that "Competition is always destructive - for relationships, play, mental health and performance," which I think is wrong, as evidenced by examples of positive competition. You seem to reject these positive examples by refusing to view them as truly competitive, which is why my other responses to your comments mostly consist of me defending the characterization of play, debate, and the "desire to be really good at something" as competitive. (EDIT: Perhaps I should rephrase the last one slightly, and say that while the "desire to be really good at something" is not inherently competitive, many competitive behaviours are driven by this desire in a way that is ultimately beneficial. Ultimately, I see "competitive" as a description of activity, not motivation)

If I've misunderstood your position, I'm genuinely interested in understanding what it is that you're actually arguing here.

I don't "view discussions in a competitive framework," but I recognize that I am trying to convince you (or others reading this) of something, and I think that this is an example of an endeavour that can be described as competitive but also not necessarily bad.

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moonlune wrote

I would even consider this debate as a form of competition on some level.

Internet debate is capitalism!!!

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ShadesPath wrote

It most definitely can be if not so from the outset. Debate can be a means of generating social capital which can turn into financial capital.

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masque wrote

Play is not competitive - it is a fundamentally cooperative act. All parties involved are working towards the same goal: their mutual enjoyment. Even if you want to "play" in a competitive game, you are still ultimately working with the other people to achieve the common goal of having a good time.

Competitive play involves both players adopting a mutually exclusive goal within the context of the game, which is why it makes sense to describe such play as competitive. And the fact that this is frequently done in a way that effectively accomplishes the shared goal of "mutual enjoyment" is evidence of the fact that competition is perfectly capable of being constructive & beneficial to everyone involved.

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ShadesPath wrote

Competitive play involves both players adopting a mutually exclusive goal within the context of the game, which is why it makes sense to describe such play as competitive.

Yes...

And the fact that this is frequently done in a way that effectively accomplishes the shared goal of "mutual enjoyment" is evidence of the fact that competition is perfectly capable of being constructive & beneficial to everyone involved.

No. In order for competitive play to work towards everyone's enjoyment, everyone has to actively work for that mutual enjoyment. Competition, on its own, is never fun but competing knowing that everyone is following the same set of rules and is actively trying to make things enough of a challenge to help each other improve and increase the quality of their win or loss is what what makes the competition fun.

If you don't believe me, think about what happens when someone cheats, makes up new rules or changes them, becomes hyper-competitive, selfish in their play, toxic, starts throwing, etc. All of a sudden, the competition is no longer fun, is it? The competition itself hasn't changed. If you're in race for example, the race hasn't changed and the competition of it hasn't, but you guys are no longer working together to make it fun enough to be worth it with the additional effect of the competition now being harmful to either one or both of you either physically or otherwise. Competition, in order for it to be healthy and positive, requires cooperation between all parties, ultimately making it a cooperative effort in and of itself.

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masque wrote (edited )

Competition, on its own, is never fun but competing knowing that everyone is following the same set of rules and is actively trying to make things enough of a challenge to help each other improve and increase the quality of their win or loss is what what makes the competition fun.

"Competition on its own" is not fun, but neither is "cooperation on its own." Competition and cooperation are both abstract categories of behaviour that only become "fun" or "not fun" in specific instantiations. If a particular activity is fun, and both competition and cooperation are inextricable parts of that activity, then why insist that "cooperation is what makes the competition fun" without also acknowledging that "competition is what makes the cooperation fun" in this instance? You seem to be going out of your way to avoid acknowledging that competition can be positive.

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ShadesPath wrote

You seem to be going out of your way to avoid acknowledging that competition can be positive

I'm not avoiding acknowledging that competition can be positive. I'm stating outright that by itself it isn't.

Your argument that these are abstract categories of behavior doesn't seem to take into account that they are in fact real behaviors that all sentient living things have engaged in. It's not abstract when animals work together or fight against each other. With that being said, the enjoyment of competition comes from places outside of the competition itself because, intrinsically, there's nothing fun about competing. It requires cooperation to be fun by its very nature. It's never vice versa because the cooperative elements in competitive games are basis for how the competition works. You can't have a fair and fun competition if everyone involved is only concerned with their own victory. In cooperative gaming however, competition is never needed and only ever added for spice because working together never requires us trying to outdo each other.

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masque wrote (edited )

I'm not avoiding acknowledging that competition can be positive. I'm stating outright that by itself it isn't.

Neither is cooperation "by itself," though. Only specific instances of "competition" or "collaboration" can be fun, depending on the specific details of the activity. So I don't see why you're singling out competition here.

It's not abstract when animals work together or fight against each other.

"Competition" is an abstract category of behaviour, which can see specific concrete instantiations, including animals play fighting or what have you. This has nothing to do with the abstract reasoning abilities of the agents doing the competing. The fact that animals do it has literally nothing to do with whether it's abstract or not.

With that being said, the enjoyment of competition comes from places outside of the competition itself because, intrinsically, there's nothing fun about competing. It requires cooperation to be fun by its very nature.

What about the sort of programmers/hackers who enjoy the ad-blocker-blocker-blocker arms race, or trying to break DRM and so on? That can be fun for at least one of the participants, despite being truly adversarial in terms of everyone's ultimate goals. Of course, the ad-blocker-blocker-blocker arms race is not really a good thing, nor is anyone involved primarily motivated by fun, but my point is that it undermines the claim that competition cannot give rise to fun in a non-cooperative setting.

I acknowledge that competition is not inherently fun, but neither is cooperation. Both can be components of a fun experience. Trying to argue about which specific component of a fun experience is the source of the fun seems like the wrong way of thinking about things.

Also, focusing on "fun" ignores other ways in which competition can potentially be positive (e.g. by helping people benchmark & clearly measure their progress in various athletic/creative endeavours, providing positive feedback that encourages further self-improvement).

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ShadesPath wrote

Also, focusing on "fun" ignores other ways in which competition can potentially be positive (e.g. by helping people benchmark & clearly measure their progress in various athletic/creative endeavours, providing positive feedback that encourages further self-improvement).

There is nothing that competition does that individual achievement or cooperation doesn't do save for excelling at creating ire between people. If you want to open up another pandora's box of a conversation, we can go into how useless and inefficient competition is but I feel like that should be saved for another thread.

Honestly though, if you want proof of my point, read this entire comment section. Being competitive in our argumentation has done nothing positive for nobody here but most definitely has negatively impacted the discourse, to the degree that OP felt like healthy discussion has been thrown out the window. Even just between me and you, I certainly won't come away from this discussion any better for it, not for any fault of yours of course but rather the nature of our discussion thus far. Like this comment was supposed to be longer to address your arguments but I realized that my tone was hostile so I deleted most of it because, by the end of the day, you aren't going to suddenly change your views, I won't, and we aren't really doing the original article any justice arguing points back and forth. I only kept the one counterpoint to transition into this paragraph.

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masque wrote

I certainly won't come away from this discussion any better for it, not for any fault of yours of course but rather the nature of our discussion thus far.

I think it's possible that, in the process of formulating arguments, one or both of us may have better clarified our own understanding of our position.

Ultimately, I just don't think it makes sense to characterize the negative outcomes of bad instances of competition as arising from "competition itself" while simultaneously denying that any positive outcomes from competitive situations come from "competition itself." But I guess the disagreement here is abstract enough to not really matter in the grand scheme of things, so I might as well stop arguing.

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