Getting into this box is what's best for both of us. During your time in the box, you will learn so much, and yet experience so little. It's a wild ride, my friend, one well worth the time spent...and let's face it, you don't have much to do these days anyway.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Recovering from Gamma - Left for Dead.

Vox Day has, on his blog, detailed the importance of not being afraid to lose as an important step in recovering from Gamma:
EGA's ability to admit that he was wrong is the first step forward in the journey upon which he is about to engage, in consciously developing his self-respect and improving his status as a social creature in a social hierarchy. 
How does one learn to lose well?  One puts oneself in competitive situations where one is going to lose, regularly and frequently, until the sting of defeat disappears and the fear of failure is gone.  That is the point at which progress towards becoming a true competitor begins.  It is also why non-athletes are disproportionately represented among the gamma population; few athletes reach 10 years of age without experiencing a considerable amount of defeat.

Which takes me back a few years. Now, note that as a child, I was never very much into competitive sports, even during P.E. class. Before I got fit, no one wanted to pick the fat kid for their team, and I tended to stand off to the side when everyone else was playing. After I got fit, most P.E. classes throughout the year were aimed at preparing one for the physical fitness test (which in turn was to prepare the guys for conscription, although the girls were subject to it, too), so there wasn't much chance for competitive sports, maybe three or four classes out of the whole year.

Anyways, when reading this piece, I was taken back a bit to when I was playing a zombie apocalypse shooter game known as Left 4 Dead. Essentially, it's a first person shooter where four survivors are pitted against four player-controlled (at least, in multiplayer) super-zombies. The latter attempts to prevent the former from getting from point A to point B, and scoring is based on whether the survivors get to the end, and if not, how far they made it before they fell.

The way the game is designed is that unlike many other shooters, Left 4 Dead is highly dependent on communication, coordination and teamwork - for example, a slipping survivor must be pulled up by another onto firm ground, and many super-zombie attacks incapacitate both zombie and survivor, requiring that the zombie's teammates cover him/the survivor be rescued by teammates. As a direct consequence of the fact that a single survivor or zombie will be quickly dispatched, teams that work together will will often stick together for future matches, and over time I found a group of four friends to play the game with most nights. Over a number of matches, we fell into a set of roles based on our percieved strengths and weaknesses; I'd be point man with a shotgun, we had one dedicated sniper, someone to give the orders, and a general purpose fellow who seemed to laugh off anything and filled in roles as the situation demanded. We'd come together and butt heads against other lower-levelled teams for a couple of hours, then call it a night; I won't deny that over time our team's skills increased to some extent.

There wasn't much in the way of self-reflection amongst my team, though. Every now and then, we'd hold a small meeting to discuss some strategy or other I or my friends had found on youtube, but those were new gimmicks, new strategies - we weren't really going over what we'd done wrong in previous matches and figuring out how to fix those. What we were after was the neat new tactic that'd win us maybe another handful of games before everyone got to know about it as well.

What made things worse, was that neither I nor the team leader were good losers. When we went up against a team where we knew we were outmatched, we'd decline to play them, yet were more than willing to play teams we knew we could stomp into the ground. Over the course of the two years we played the franchise together, I've lost count of the number of times the team leader would call for a "ragequit" (essentially, forfeiting the match by walking off the field) when we were losing badly and there was no mathematical way of making a comeback, and I'll admit that many times, my thoughts coincided with his.

So sure, I didn't like losing. What I liked even less, though, was when my team was down, and our opponents would actively taunt us. Sure, no one liked it (save for that one guy on the team who would always laugh even the worst situation off), but being mocked, to me, was actually worse than merely losing, if the whiny rage the opposing team managed to elicit from me was any indicator of that.

Now, why I should care about what some fellow over the internet thinks of me, someone whose name or face I don't know and I will in all probability never see again? The fact that it was someone insignificant (to me, anyway) or that the reason for it was ludicrous didn't matter, it was the fact that I was being taunted that needled me so much - much like the emperor who can't even stand a young boy laughing at him. Today, I know that that's a common sign of gamma-itude, and while I can't always stop my heckles from rising inside me at this point, I can learn to swallow it down and see the box for what it is. The thing is not to rationalise away the insult or dismiss it out of hand, but examine the insult, see whether it has any bearing on the matter at hand or grounding in truth, and then either dismiss or act on it.

Awareness is the first step on the road to improvement. You can't escape the box if you don't know you're in one, and one's ego is one of the strongest padlocks there is.

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