To answer this question truthfully, I would probably say that I get the most excited about playing Scrabble. But it’s because I like the game, not necessarily the competition element of the game.
I’m fundamentally opposed to the concept of competition.
I mean, if you think about it, the winner is ‘good’ and the loser is somehow less good, or even bad. And that just creates this uneven power structure…I don’t like it.
We’ve all heard of the term sore loser, maybe have been one, maybe have seen one. I’ve never understood how someone could get so angry as to flip the board (of a board game) just because they don’t win. But it happens. What is this about? Ego. Fear. Insecurity. All of which are natural human feelings which we have and need to acknowledge and manage.
But when these feelings aren’t managed, and this competition escalates into aggression and real violence, interpersonally, politically, nationally…well, this is when we really need to stop and think this through.
Flipping a board game? OK, that’s manageable. Flipping a country? Not so much.
Who really wins in the end? Not me. I was also always last in gym class, in most activities, except for maybe baseball and gymnastics. I hated that it was a competition then, even if the instructors say that it isn’t, it still is. They are still grading you on a particular basis of comparison. In general, I think that this is a major flaw in our academic structure…but that is another rant for another time.
It’s easy for me to criticize the concept of competition because I’m naturally non-competitive. It’s just never really been a motivator for me, or made much sense.
(Why can’t we all just get along? We are all equal! It’s all about love and sunshine and unicorns and rainbows! And bubblegum pie! Wait…what? OK that last part was a reference to this slightly offensive but hilarious/random Flight of the Concords clip).
Anyway, while I am mostly a cheesy, peace-loving, idealistic hippie type, I also really try to explore all sides of things. I know that competition has it’s place, I know it’s a natural part of life.
I think that it can be a very good motivational and learning tool, specifically in developing cooperative and strategic (thinking) skills, along with the art and practice of play. Investigating power dynamics via games is definitely fascinating and important.
But as humans we really do have the capacity (and responsibility) to play nice.
I am trying to find some reference point that explains a sort of cooperative competition. I found the term coopetition, which is explained in a business / game theory context here (I have attempted several times to learn about the latter in more detail via conversations with Mathematicians because I find it a fascinating topic, but my mind doesn’t grasp the logistics thoroughly).
Then I looked under the explanation of competitive altruism and that’s a little too evolutionary-biology-ish for what I’m thinking of.
So what do you think? Do I even make sense? Do you know of a better word/definition for the kind of competition that facilitates real learning, cooperation, play?