When I was growing up, I played a lot of different sports: baseball, soccer, hockey, and basketball. It was good exercise and I met a lot of friends. But best of all, it was fun. One of the great things about playing sports at a young age was the lack of seriousness and competitiveness amongst the players. Sure, kids are competitive to a certain degree, but not at the level of professional, college, or even high school athletes. To me, it seemed like the higher competition got, the lower sportsmanship went. I can remember at the end of every game, us kids would always line up and high five the other team after a game no matter what the result. What changes with time and age that sportsmanship becomes irrelevant or unimportant?
What is sportsmanship?
Have you ever fallen down, but someone helped you back up? Or made a mistake, but rather than berate you for it, someone encouraged you to do better? Sportsmanship kind of looks like that, although it involves both action and attitude. Inherently, sports pit people against each other. This competitive confrontation can lead to strong emotions and impassioned play. Competitors might get frustrated by their own performance, their team’s performance, or the other team’s performance. But just because things are emotional doesn’t provide an adequate excuse to be uncivil all of a sudden.
Sportsmanship is maintaining respect for your opponents or teammates no matter what the circumstance. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are winning or losing. It doesn’t matter how poorly you or a teammate is performing. There is no justifiable reason to be negative towards another person. In fact, it really only can hurt rather than help things. Yet, we see it happen all the time. Sometimes we applaud it. More often than not, we abhor and condemn it. Why is it that we see sportsmanship lacking not only in today’s modern sports, but also in gaming as well?
Why has it seemingly died?
Wouldn’t it benefit all players to play with a positive attitude, actions, and words? Seriously, how do some players have such a negative attitude when participating in such a carefree activity as gaming? Truthfully, it’s not a question that can be answered by pointing to one single thing, though I do have my suspicions as to why it happens.
For one thing and most simply, it is easier to be negative than to it is to be positive. To put it another way, when things are great, they are great. But when things are bad, they are really bad. People have a way of taking the littlest agitation and blowing it up into the most antagonizing and negative thing they can think of. For example, if someone goes afk (away from keyboard), people go absolutely ballistic. Now, for all we know, that player could have a reason to have left the game in such a hurry, that they didn’t have time to leave the match. Maybe their parents asked them for help or they had to go to the bathroom. On the flip side, maybe they just went to get food or are intentionally not playing so as to leave their team at a disadvantage. The point is, players do not play with a level head, but erratically according to their emotions at a given moment.
Second, because gamers don’t physically face our teammates or opponents in an online environment, they are not as apt to truly consider our words or actions against them. It is much easier to berate someone thousands of miles away than someone within shouting distance. Often times, gamers try much harder to restrain themselves when they are in the presence of their teammates or opponents seeing as they will be able to respond in a much more immediate way than people who are far, far away.
Third, the people gamers meet online are often times people they don’t know. Unlike their family, friends, and peers, gamers are completely unaware and oftentimes insensitive to the backgrounds and feelings of people they are meeting for the first and likely only time. However, even in real life when we meet someone new, we wouldn’t treat them vilely or with disdain. So why treat fellow gamers that way? There is no reason gamers can’t treat other gamers, both friend and foe, any different from someone they know in real life.
Why sportsmanship is still important
For all the reasons that sportsmanship seems to have gone away, there is still reason gamers have to strive to be good sports.
While difficult to be positive rather than negative, positivity is readily received. People are much more likely to listen to kind words than mean ones. Positivity also defuses stressful and emotional situations unlike negativity which only adds to the fire. If a gamer wants his team to perform better, he should encourage them and be instructive, not berate or speak destructively. Like the old saying “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” so too can gamers play better if they are spoken to positively rather than negatively.
Next, though distance separates, gamers ought to act like the people they meet online are just like people they meet in real life up close and personally. Though they are likely never going to meet a person they play with online, it’s cowardly to use distance as a shield from confrontation. Gamers ought not to use distance to hide behind poor character and attitude. Rather, they should recognize the diversity and expanse of online gaming and use it as an opportunity to meet and engage with new people. It’s truly amazing to know that the people you play with are from all over the country and, sometimes, different parts of the world. Think about that before saying something negative.
Lastly, gamers need to get to know the people they are playing with. Or barring that, they need to treat them like any other person they don’t know: with respect and dignity. Rubbing a win in someone’s face only makes them despise you more. Likewise, being a sore loser when you lose fair and square only gives people on the other team more reason to dislike you. At the very least, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. But if you are going to speak, do so genuinely and with respect as you would for any person you would meet in real life. No reasonable person hates a compliment.
Sportsmanship has always been vital to the atmosphere of any gaming community. Without it, gamers turn on each other and ruin the gaming experience. Not only do the perpetrators ruin games for themselves by being negative, but also for anyone else who is privy to such negativity. And while gamers may never meet in real life, there is no reason to treat people any differently online. Every person, no matter who they are, deserves to be treated with respect. Win or lose, friend or foe, it makes no difference. Sportsmanship transcends all circumstances. Truly, the best players in games are the ones that get along with fellow gamers, not spurn them.