Video games and competition in modern society

The days of old had heroes and heroes competed with each other. They upheld certain ideas and were looked as, well, heroes. They had arete, the means and sense of excellence to them, a virtue if you will. These heroes tried to achieve to the highest human potential possible, and would not stop until they either died or achieved it. Beside arete, these heroes carried valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character and worth on their shoulders; they carried virtus.

Agon is where heroes clashed. Agon by its nature is a conflict, and in this case we can assume it to be Olympic contest. Heroes met each other as rivals in these the Olympics or any other kind of contests and competed to become and be better than any other. They rivalizated each other; they had someone to contrast their own skill at and someone that pushed their own limits further and further with the goal or prize in sight. They competed as heroes, won as heroes and lost as heroes.

Sometimes there wasn’t rivalization in the competition, but there was perfectionism. A hero had a reason to become the very best, to become perfect example in the competition, to be the best for the value that the hero himself has. He competed with himself to win. He held the virtues high and became the best due to perfectionism.

Naturally, rivalization and perfectionism do not exclude each other.

Competition in the old required to be have good virtues. It wasn’t enough to win, but you had to win with heroes’ virtues as well so that the victory could be respected. A louse could win any competition with underhanded methods; a hero strives to win every competition with virtues.

Modern society handles competition the same way as older society, with the exception of near extinction of arete and virtus that old sport gentlemen had, as such it could be argued that the virtues a hero has to keep up is absent from modern competition. However agon is still there as the basis of competition all the time via rivalization and perfectionism, which to an extent do not exclude each other, at least when it comes to video game competition. Modern winner is merely a winner without the requirements of being a hero, and that’s the largest difference between competition of modern and old.
In video games competition supports the modern view of competition outside the game world. For example, the world competition on arcade game Donkey Kong supports both rivalization and perfectionism in that all contestant can be considered rivals, but only the top head of the players can be considered as the true rival, who then promotes each player to play better and better. At the same time each player is aiming for a perfect play, where the player aims to achieve the highest possible score outside the contest as well. It’s another question whether or not we can find any hero qualities from these players. Most of these players rarely have the same qualities a hero of old, only applying the modern view of competition in their contests and plays.
Record keeping in competition is an old habit, which still exists in modern competition in form or another. Donkey Kong is one example of this record keeping via High Scores and nicknames used in these scores. This neither promotes or goes against the modern view of competition, but for the sake of argument we will say that it promotes competition as a whole without touching the hero or hero’s qualifications.

However, within the video games themselves the players’ avatar may be this persona with qualifications of a hero. Most sword & sorcery fantasy games allow, or rather make, the player avatar to be a virtuous being that is meant to become the champion of the people by competing with the antithesis of hero, the evil mastermind. In the Ultima series of games, namely the fourth entry in the series, the player literally is the Avatar, creating a whole religion on the Eight Virtues which are Honesty, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Sacrifice, Honor, Spirituality and Humility, virtues that can be easily applied to the hero qualifications overall. It could be argued that the game itself supports the creation of hero in real world as well through actions the player takes as the Avatar.
As games affect the player, it can be argued that games that promote the hero qualifications of competition go against the modern view on competition and this promote the older view on competition and heroes. If the player is invested enough into the game itself, the player will most likely begin to assimilate some of the actions and virtues the player character reflects to the real world. With Ultima the player is the character Avatar, while the player is merely controlling another character which ultimately is not the player; Jumpman.

If we take account that games’ own worldview and how it may affect the player’s behaviour and world view, we can say that a game can promote the older view on competition rather than the modern of, thus going against the modern view. However, if we merely look at games as they are, as tools of competition without what they hold inside, we can say that games promote the modern view of competition as a whole, be it rivalization with another player or perfectionism as a single player.


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