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Monday, February 27, 2012

Winning, or, "Two sides of the same coin"

When it comes to competition there are two distinctive schools of thought when it comes to what counts as a “win” and what does not. They don’t have distinct names per say; both have been dubbed something negative by their opponents and something more positive by their proponents.  

The first is the idea that the only thing that counts as a “win” is defeating your opponent due to pure skill at the act. To proponents of this school of thought a win is only true if it was achieved without any external aids. A pair of chess players unable to see each other and only playing based on the moves on the board would be an example of this. I call this school of thought “narrow winning”; a player who truly believes in this means of winning does not want any competitive advantage aside from their own skill; external factors taint or invalidate the success.

The second school of thought, to put it simply, views any win as a valid (within reason). In this school of thought any additional skills brought to the game are valid. To use the previous example; if the two chess players can see each other and one is staring down his opponent, offhandedly talking to him to throw off his game. The cunning used by the player is an extension of his skill at the game and thus success through it is valid. There are lines of course; generally for the win to still ‘count’ they must stay within the rules, but anything not explicitly stated is more or less fair game. I’ll call this “broad winning”.

To Narrow winners, the Broads are borderline cheater. Their victories are made lesser by their apparent need to bend the rules, and in the mind of the Narrow the Broad only do so because they can’t win in a “Fair” competition.

On the other hand, to the Broads the Narrows are simply bitter because they can’t win, due to their placing unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions on their performance.

The first thing one has to understand that neither is completely right nor wrong. There is a grain of truth in both philosophies. The perspective of the Narrows, in truth, does gauge the skill at the activity in question on a pure level, but it also checks the skill in an unrealistic way for in reality there are no situations aside from these simulations where the skill would be checked independent of other factors. The viewpoint of the Broads checks the skill at a global level but does not show a person how good they are at the skill in particular.

In real life they are in constant battle; the Narrows make as specific of rules as they can to limit the playing field and the Broads push them to their limits. In gaming, due to the limitations of computer programming the Broads often have the advantage; they can “metagame” in many ways not foreseen by the creators (and in some cases the creators can’t stop them without hindering the game).

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