Losing is damn fun. That’s the sort of thing I’d say if I was desperately trying to get you to disagree with me, and then slowly, through my wondrous skills of argument, turn you around to my way of thinking. However, this time I’m not going to do that. I’m going to say that losing is sometimes rather fun. Maybe even better than winning, in certain circumstances. Maybe.
Before I even start this put singleplayer games out of your mind. Unless there is a game doing something I’ve never heard about, losing in a singleplayer game is really rather annoying. It requires loading and repetition, and no one really enjoys repetition. I’m here talking exclusively about multiplayer games, and the wonders of losing spectacularly in them.
For me, there are three levels of loss. They are as follows;
- The Steamroller:
This is the match where you lose terribly. You never have a chance, every time you respawn you’re dead in the water, cheaply killed without a second thought. This is not fun. Not even one bit. You’re essentially just a moving target for the other team, and no one likes that.
- The Sure Thing:
This isn’t much better than the Steamroller, but at least you have the semblance of a chance. From the beginning of the match you’re struggling, and with every moment that passes you’re slowly making a victory further away. By the time the game ends, you’re tired, beaten and bitter. You feel like you were beaten by a team that was better than you, but that doesn’t make it feel any better.
- The Fight For Every Inch
This is it. This is the spectacular defeat. This is where both sides are evenly matched, and the whole thing is up in the air for the entire round. You are constantly struggling, but you’re struggling because you know you can take them. By the time the final whistle sounds you’re tired, yes, but you’re satisfied. You were bested today, but it could just have easily been your day.
It’s that sense of satisfaction derived from defeat that I love. The idea that you just gave your all and while it was not quite good enough, it was still a wonderful thing. In any of the Battlefield series this is a thing that regularly happens, as the maps are so large and hard to defend there are constantly counterattacks and struggles going on. Similarly, Team Fortress 2 matches can go on hours if the teams are evenly matched, constantly retaking control points and holding in stale mates.
However, there is one more type of loss that really only comes from Co-op games. These, I like to class as cinematic defeats. This is when you’re so royally destroyed that the only option left to you is go out all guns blazing. Of course these can happen in player versus player environments, such as Counterstrike or even Call of Duty 4, but they work far better when it’s just you and a bunch of mates against the inevitability of a computer mind.
Left 4 Dead seems to have utterly nailed the idea of the Cinematic Defeat. Constantly you’ll find yourself overwhelmed by zombies, on the ground with your pistols blazing, knowing that you’ll probably not make your way out of this alive. Of course the excellent score and voice work only adds to this, making you feel like these people really do want to take down as many of the enemy as they can before they croak. I’ve lost count of the amount of times a Tank has ambushed the survivors and we’ve all been taken out one by one, left firing away until the last thing we see is the over-sized knuckle of the adversary. It’s really something.
So that’s my argument as to why losing can be glorious. All it takes is losing well, rather than badly. A close run thing is all the difference you need for a satisfying game session as opposed to a frustrating one. Remember; if you’re beating a team with a steamroller, let off a bit, make them feel like they might be able to win, and everyone will enjoy it much more. I’m sure those steamrolling don’t have nearly as much fun either.