Winner Stays On

Every day at lunch my coworkers and I play video games.

A couple of years ago we started playing Mario Kart 8. We had six players most days. And four people were able to race at any one time. So it was decided that the top two finishers would stay on. The other two would give up the sticks.

The dichotomy of players was immediately noticeable. Some of the employees, two years later, race the same way as they did that first day. A few of us, though, started experimenting on day one. We were toying with optimal drifting and with weapon management. We were crashing into walls, falling off Rainbow Road and wasting green shells. We were losing. Sometimes badly. Embarrassingly. But we were learning.

Within a week we were winning. Within a month we were dominating.

Soon enough the three of us that experimented the most got sick of the game. In part because it’s a game that’s intentionally designed to penalize good players. In part because of the “group” decision to stop having winners stay on and to start taking even turns. But mostly because it just wasn’t fun winning all the time.

This is no knock on the people that didn’t win all the time. The reason they didn’t win all the time was because they didn’t care as much. Probably because they had better things to care about. Probably because they are more emotionally healthy than us winners.

Now the three of us play video games in a different room. We play Super Mega Baseball, NHL, FIFA and various other games. We’re competitive. We talk a lot of shit. We intentionally try to run up the scores and embarrass each other. And the winner stays on. Always. Without question. Because that’s just how it works.

I like “winner stays on” people. Not people that are obsessed with winning. But rather people who strive to be better. People who are okay sucking in the short term to excel in the long term.

Some people argue that I’m too competitive. Maybe. But why play if you don’t want to win?

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