THE PCG Q&A
Losing isn't usually fun, but some games more than others bring out the saltiness in us like an overcompensating chef. Whether it's because they enable particularly cheap tactics, or squander our time with overlong doomed matches, or encourage the kind of community that turns on each other like starving rats, some games do feel like they're rubbing it in when they hand out a loss.
Our weekend question is this: What game feels the worst to lose at? Especially when it wasn't your fault because you were definitely carrying the team. Definitely.
Robin Valentine: League of Legends
I spent years obsessed with League of Legends, but in retrospect I only ever enjoyed it when I was winning. Something about its complex web of interactions creates this toxic formula where every win makes you feel like you absolutely crushed it and carried your team to victory, and every loss feels completely inevitable, out of your hands, and probably your support's fault. Compounded by the fact that losing takes such a long time in LoL—you could easily end up miserably fighting a clearly doomed retreat for half an hour or more, and you can't even leave the match.
Playing with friends especially was always the roll of the dice - a couple of wins and we'd have a great night, but if we started losing we'd be grumpy and frustrated and even start snapping at each other. At the point that you're falling out with your mates over a game, you know it's time to walk away...
Tyler Wilde: Rocket League
The two competitive games I mainly play are Rainbow Six Siege and Rocket League. I'm new to Siege and matches can go pear-shaped for tons of reasons, so I usually don't get upset about it, though I've been known to say "that's fucking bullshit" after being headshotted by a peeker.
It's Rocket League that really tilts me. Every error is in full view, whether I was out of position, missed an easy save, over-committed, or double-committed with a teammate. (We call that a 'meeting of the double committee,' and they meet every night at 11 pm. The triple committee typically meets a midnight when we're all worn out and making more mistakes.) And in some matches, it's just bad luck that wrecks us—one fluky goal against and then a bunch of great shots at a tying goal that don't pan out. It's one of the few games where taunts from the opposing team raise my blood pressure. Luckily we're pretty good at recognizing when the night's going poorly and switching to a different game.
Morgan Park: Overwatch
You'd think Rainbow Six Siege, my main game, is the one that grinds my gears the most, but nothing annoys me more than Overwatch. It's still great fun, but I get salty when matches are determined by which team uses their ultimates better. Basic combat feels like theater when a good play can be completely undone by a well-timed press of Q. The thrill of outplaying enemies with clever use of an ability or pulling off a tough shot is deflated by Lucio suddenly boosting the health of every enemy and hands the advantage back to them. I don't want to schedule my fights around whose ult is up or down. I just want to have fun firefights, like in Siege. I get frustrated when I'm reminded that the "Ult Economy" is at the core of Overwatch, and that will likely never change.
James Davenport: Fortnite
The more I play and the better I get, the clearer it becomes that I will never be able to compete. That skill ceiling for building stretches far beyond my aptitude. And so when I feel like I learn a new technique or use a new item in a clever way to get out of a pinch, only for a 14-year-old build master to make a joke out of me, it hurts. It's why I don't really play the battle royale mode anymore, opting for the big team modes that let me screw up and show off in equal measure.
Steven Messner: Hearthstone
Hearthstone is a nightmare of a game to lose at and the cruelest card game I've played. A big part of that is because each of the top-tier meta decks and the game mechanics that they exploit are just not enjoyable to play against—but a lot of fun to use against another player. I get that a large part of this probably stems from me being a filthy casual who refuses to study the meta and learn all the proper counterplays, but Hearthstone more than any other card game makes me aware of the fact that I'm basically flipping a coin that'll determine which deck comes online first and obliterates the other.
When it's my deck that's spitting out all the right cards, I'm having a great time. But when it's my opponent's deck, I'm pulling my hair out in frustration. Part of this is also due to the fact that Hearthstone is impossible to play without metagaming and using decks that have been theorycrafted to hell and back, and if you don't fall in line and do the same you're going to get punished.
Lauren Morton: League of Legends also
Like Robin, for me it's League of Legends. Unlike Robin, I spent about two weeks playing it, not years. I've never been one for competitive games and was only talked into LoL years ago because a younger me wanted to impress a man. Don't play games for boys, folks. Unfortunately, I just didn't have the aptitude for MOBAs. I even played poorly in practice matches against bots.
My biggest complaint, like Robin mentioned, is that it takes around an hour to lose. During that hour, I felt like I was staring my impending defeat in the face the entire time. Being stuck in a match I knew I was in the process of losing made learning to play better seem like a steep, thankless task. I gave up after a couple weeks and went back to my RPGs. On the flip side, I've only ever won a single PUBG match and still quite enjoy playing.
Andy Chalk: Sea of Thieves
One of the reasons I like Sea of Thieves is that even an oldster like me can compete. My dimmed vision and decrepit reflexes make me easy prey in online shooters, but Sea of Thieves is all about planning and execution: Think ahead and play dirty, and odds are you'll do quite well. And if you just want to be left alone, that's generally even easier, because most trouble is easy to see and avoid. But that also means that when I do lose to another player, I can't blame it on the freakish reflexes of some rotten 12-year-old, or an obvious wall hack, or just plain bad luck. I lost because I repeatedly failed to manage the situation: I got too close to another ship, I didn't take advantage of the wind, I didn't watch to ensure I wasn't being boarded, and when I did get boarded I panicked and whipped out a coconut instead of my gun.
And because it all happens so relatively slowly, it gives me time to really marinate in my own stupidity, which I can further contemplate during the lonely ride back to the world of the living, and a brand-new, very empty boat—an ever-present reminder for the rest of the session that, yup, I blew it real good.