Running the Human Race - and Losing

Richard Thomas | 8 Apr 2008 12:17
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After returning from the daily grind of the workplace, what better way to relax and unwind than by picking up a copy of Turok and having a go? Oh, no. Our competitive drive will not disappear that easily. With online capability comes the dreaded global ranking system, evoking the horrible curse of the global leaderboard. What could be worse for your competitive drive than to acquire a quite reasonable score at a game, only to find 100,000 people better than you on the global leaderboard? It's even worse when you find your friends above you. Global rankings are terrible, like trying to pick up a girl in a bar in which every breeding male in the world hangs out. Rankings based on experience points are worse still, because you can't spend 17 hours a day on a game, like some of the gentlemen with which you're competing. What could crush the competitive drive more? It fills your heart with apathy to know your mightiest efforts are an insignificant speck of ice at the bottom of the great slushie of life.

On the other hand, what happens if you get a score that near the top - say within the top 50 or so? Think of that: the top 50 of the entire connected world, a level previously restricted for Olympic-level athletes. How can any self-respecting human walk away when he's so close to the top spot? Think of the fame! The riches! The adulation of being the world's best, well, anything. We as a culture value the best and the brightest because we're hard-wired to.

Our tribalism has gone global and has left us with more ways to compete than ever. The internet has become the ultimate proving ground; it's placed everyone and their achievements on display and forced young males up against more and more competition. Our culture has evolved with us. In an age when everything you do ends up on a leaderboard somewhere, you have infinite chances to prove your worth. It beats the old days, when we threw rocks at mammoths to reach the top of the heap.

Richard Thomas is a freelance contributor to The Escapist.

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