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Competition only makes you stronger

It’s true what they say, that competition only makes things better. To end what has been a pretty exciting year, my friend Jared and I competed in an all-day video game marathon. I ended up winning big but I owe it all to my opponent.

This is a one-side account of the day so my views might be a bit skewed, but I’ll try my best to be fair.

A day of video games and Red Bull

The first annual Four Score and Seven Pongs Ago tournament went off quite well considering it was our first attempt at organizing any sort of game day. I lugged my Xbox over to Jared’s house in what would be a seemingly endless day of playing the same games over and over to try and claim a title of best arcade gamer, as well as take home a golden joystick trophy.

After everything was setup, we each watched while the other played through the set games so there would be some sort of baseline. We both knew which games were our strong ones and which were our weak. Going into the day I expected Geometry Wars, Pinball FX2 and Street Fighter 4 to be the ones that would challenge me the most, I knew they were Jared’s strong games. And for a while it followed those lines as one might expect…but then it kicked in for me, competition. The desire to throw scores back in his face.

When you have no choice but to get better

The final scoreboard
The final scoreboard

It’s amazing how being trapped inside a house and forced to play games all day against a good opponent can really improve your game. It’s one thing to sit on your couch and try to beat leaderboard scores, it’s another thing to try and perform well within a given time period while you know your opponent is doing his damnedest to make your gaming life a living hell. Over the course of almost 12 hours, we both upped our personal games considerably. Each of us set new personal high scores on several games (several times even) in what can only be called one of the most impressive displays of arcade gaming we’ve ever seen. I don’t consider myself a very competitive person by nature, but when it comes to games…something I know I can do…I become driven to go above and beyond. I knew I could beat Jared, it’s just a matter of time, but that’s the one thing that was limited.

We played the new X-Men table in Pinball FX2 and I set a first score at 20 million and some change…respectable but easily beatable. Jared tossed down a score of 30 million of which I responded back with 33 million. Then Jared started to take things a bit more seriously and before too long charged back with a score of almost 62 million…a personal high for him to boot. Sixty-two million points in that game is tough, let me tell you. It was a daunting score to try and overcome. I admit that I didn’t think I’d surpass those numbers…but then my competition overdrive kicked in and I zoned in on playing pinball. It took a while but after several “quarters” and lots of swearing, I somehow managed to put up a score of more than 92 million points. It was a hard score to believe, even I barely believed I reached that score but that’s what happens when a worthy challenged appears in front of me. I’m pretty sure Jared thought he was safe with his 62 million, and I don’t blame him as I would have as well, but being the true competitor he is, he charged back into battle to try and exceed my obscene high score…but both his high score and mine remained until the end.

While the pinball game had the biggest scores of the day, the most dramatic action happened with Geometry Wars 2, a dual-stick shooter that was good and fun but also extremely difficult, especially for me. I knew this was one of Jared’s favorite games and one he knew really well. We went back and fourth all day with me first putting down a pathetic 3 million to his more than 6 million retort. I strapped in and responded with just a bit more than his 6 million. I knew I wasn’t safe with that score but it gave me some time to focus on the other games for bit. Before too long Jared struck back with an impressive 13 million that not only had doubled my high score but served as a personal high score for him. At the time I was leading in all the selected games so I had only Geometry Wars to focus on, although I didn’t expect to even come close to his 13 million with less than an hour to play. I once again went back to my console, grabbed my controller and settled in for my final challenge. It took many games to even come close to Jared’s score but in the zero hour I somehow managed to squeeze out a new high score of more than 25 million. I think that was pretty much the nail in the coffin for Jared. It was his last hope and by that point in the day we were both exhausted, eyes bleeding (and in my case, so was my head). We finished up with the fighting games and that was it. I had laid the law down in every game. A sweep.

True motivation

We had both pushed each other to scoring realms neither of us thought possible. Even though I had one the day and the trophy, we should both be proud of our performance. It is hard enough to put up numbers on your own, but it’s even harder to earn scores when you have an audience watching and an opponent breathing down your neck (and taunting you). I won not just because I love playing arcade games but because Jared does the same. When you make two people with a passion for playing compete, wonderful things happen in the form of ridiculous high scores and crowd-pleasing action. Yeah, Jared lost (and I won’t let him forget that) but I know when he finally decides to pick up a controller again, he’ll his high scores from the day on his personal leaderboard and it will feel good. But my name and scores will always be nagging him from above.

I think it’s also safe for me to say that this full day of gaming filled quota for quite some time. I don’t care if I never see these games again, frankly. I’ll have nightmares of geometric shapes chasing me and pinballs beating me in the head. It was a good way to end 2011 and not just because I won but because it was a lot of fun.

Jared made it possible for me to be a winner but everyone else on hand helped make the whole day a lot of fun. Daphne, Erica, Alison, Miranda and Lindsey all did their part to keep scores up to date and the tweets flying. Everyone set a high bar for next year’s Four Score event!