When the pandemic quarantine first began in the United States, a game came out called Call of Duty: Warzone. A year later, and I’ve put over 300 hours into the game.
Call of Duty is a franchise of first-person military shooter games. You typically play soldiers on one of two teams online, completing objectives or trying to get more kills to win a match. There’s even an entire esports scene centered around the franchise, where people play professionally for money.
The franchise was like that for nearly twenty years, until Warzone changed the formula. Warzone embraced a battle royale format, where 150 players all fight each other on one large map, with the last player or team alive winning the match.
I fell out of Call of Duty around 2012 because the old multiplayer format was uninteresting and not competitive enough for me, but Warzone brought me back into Call of Duty. It required you to be far more competitive to win since in a battle royale you have a finite number of lives as opposed to the normal infinite number of lives in multiplayer.
I grew up not being competitive; competition seemed idiotic to me. Constantly comparing myself to other people and trying to outdo each other for prizes, or even for no reason at all, was not something that I vibed with as a kid. Warzone, on the other hand, has made me completely reverse my viewpoint on competition. I now believe competition is good for us because it constantly makes us improve ourselves.
As of December 2020 Warzone has over 80 million downloads. That’s a ton of players and they can’t all play in the same lobbies because of differing skill levels. Because of this, the developers of the game implemented a system called “skill-based matchmaking”. It is where players are put into game lobbies filled with players around their skill level, and is based upon their performance in matches they are put into either more difficult or easy lobbies.
Compared to games that allow the players to choose their difficulty, this system seems better due to the former getting boring with time and hindering your learning.
The system allows me to play against players of a similar caliber, and as I win and kill more I’m put into lobbies with better people. The difficulty keeps ramping up as I get better, and as I play against better players I have to improve my abilities in the game. I have to improve my aim, tactics, audio and visual settings, etc. to climb the ranks and become a better player.
This natural system of competition in the game made me enter online tournaments. By constantly competing against like-minded players I was able to get to a state where I could hold my own in these smaller tournaments.
I got to a point where my skill had begun to stagnate, I couldn’t figure out how to become better when I had put in so many hours, and my aim, tactics, and situational awareness were improving. Why was I stuck in a rut?
Jake Wilder has an article on Medium that dives into why people stop improving. He makes an interesting point about how people can put in hundreds of hours into something but still not become experts; he says “There’s no growth without feedback.”
Feedback! That’s what I and so many other people were ignoring when we became competitive. Being at competition allows an exchange of feedback between people. It allows us to see what weaknesses hold us back and what allows us to succeed, but it also allows us to understand our opponents and what causes them to fail or succeed.
Over the months of me becoming serious and competitive at the game, I hadn’t considered the circumstances around my opponents nearly as much as I should’ve. I was far too focused on what I was doing. I realized, after watching my opponents more often, a majority of them play with a mouse and keyboard while I play with a controller.
If you don’t know much about first-person shooters, know that using a mouse and keyboard allows a player to have better aim, movement, and recoil control for their guns. They had tools that naturally made them better, but I wanted to become better than them. So I’m currently making the transition to playing with mouse and keyboard, and it’s an incredibly difficult transition. Playing with a controller since I was around five years old makes it far more difficult to transition to a mouse and keyboard because it feels so unnatural. I took feedback and acted upon it because I wanted to improve at the game that I love.
The wonderful thing about embracing a competitive mindset is it started to influence my life outside of the game. Competition improved my work greatly due to me becoming more competitive with the other bartender. I constantly tried to outdo the sales of my coworker. I would push higher-end products and tell customers it would be better to get two drinks at once since they would be going into a long movie. This greatly improved my transaction sales and led to me getting a larger amount of tips consistently.
We used each other for feedback, I would tell my coworker where he could improve upon when it came to upselling drinks. He would tell me how I could improve when it came to what I struggled in: selling memberships for AMC Theatres. We constantly pushed each other to be better while trying to one-up each other. It led to an increase in sales and membership registrations from both of us, thus making us more positive assets to the theater.
Ultimately I view competition as a tool by which people can improve themselves. It can be incredibly fun to compare your achievements and progress to others and try to learn from them to increase your skills. I’m going to continue to view more aspects of my life with a competitive mindset, so I can grow and become a more highly skilled person and I hope more people do the same because I love a good competition!