Last week I attended a party for a friend’s birthday and had a conversation with another friend with whom I had not spoken for some time. During that conversation, I asked him how his work was going and he described a recent occurrence with some of his employees where he felt that he was taken advantage of and went on to explain how he handled the situation. He grew his business from the ground up and has had to endure some hardships and disappointments. He explained that it was his inner drive that saw him through. I realized that this point has come up quite a bit lately in my life, both in terms of my own drive and that of my friends and family. I thought it a good idea to discuss what it means in life and what it means in gaming.
Games are all about achievement. Whether the goal is to reach the top, drive the fastest or kill the most enemies, games require players to be committed to the mission in order to win. Some players take this very seriously and spend untold hours playing and replaying to get the highest score, reach the highest plateau, etc. Check the scoreboards on any game and you will see that whatever your achievements, there are players worldwide who are vastly superior and have the high scores to prove it. Many will quickly denounce these people as losers who obviously have nothing better to do with their lives than play games. They must not have girlfriends or wives or families or even real jobs. To spend this kind of time playing any game is unhealthy. What kind of person prestiges ten times in Call of Duty? What I find amusing is that if that person were playing tennis or football or swimming and achieved a similar rank we would applaud their dedication. Their commitment would be seen as something to live up to instead of be embarrassed by.
Drive in life is not that different. We all have friends that we could label as having little drive and we see them as a bit sad. How can they expect to get anywhere in life with so little effort on their parts? Many of us probably have friends whose drive has propelled them to lofty heights in the business world or within whatever sphere they may be involved. We traditionally think of them as specially gifted and set them as examples to live up to. There are certainly many cases, however, where an individual’s drive is unhealthy and destructive to themselves and those around them. We do not applaud the serial killer who hunts his victims for years while evading capture yet it must take considerable personal drive, however insane, to keep their actions undercover and moving forward. So when is drive healthy and when is it not? We don’t have to go to extremes to see the difference either. At the gym you can see people who take it all too far, work out to extremes and think that they look great. To the rest of us they look a bit freakish. Even those with healthy drive need to find balance in their lives – need to balance the needs of their career and their family, need to find balance between commitment to their work and their personal views, etc.
As I have mentioned in the past, I am a huge Formula 1 fan. This last weekend, the second race of the 2013 season, the Malaysian Grand Prix, was held in Kuala Lampur. The winner was Sebastian Vettel, which may not come as much of a surprise to those who follow the sport and know the talent of the young German who is the current world champion and has won the title the last three years. But it is how he won that mars the victory and his career. Here is a quote from Joe Saward’s brilliant F1 blog (http://joesaward.wordpress.com/)
Sebastian Vettel has probably not read much of William Shakespeare. Perhaps he should have done. If he had, he might have known about Mark Anthony’s celebrated speech at Julius Caesar’s funeral, which relates that “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”.
So let it be with Vettel. Sebastian is a highly intelligent and hugely talented racer and until Sunday the worst one could say about him was that he did not give enough away much about his real character, and thus came across as rather bland, despite the odd petulant outburst. He has made some mistakes in his career, but he was never really unsporting in his behaviour. He seemed an honourable man. After Malaysia there is no doubt at all that he is willing to go beyond the acceptable to win races.
What happened is a good example of drive gone awry. The Red Bull Racing team was leading the race with Vettel in second place behind his teammate, Mark Webber. In F1, there are two championships to be won, the driver’s and the constructors. The constructor’s championship is won by the team that earns the most points over the race season. In order to accomplish this, they need to have both of the team’s cars finish as high in the order as possible. F1 is a complicated sport with many rules and technological aspects to juggle. Tire degradation is a key factor as is the fact that cars must finish with at least one liter of fuel or they are disqualified. Because of this fact, the Red Bull Racing team management ordered both drivers to stay in position, in effect giving the victory to Webber. Vettel brazenly disobeyed this order and took on his teammate and eventually took the lead and won the race. At the end, over the radio was heard from the pits “Good job, Seb. Looks like you wanted it bad enough. Still you’ve got some explaining to do.”
After the race, Vettel explained that he had not heard the order to turn the engines down, but few believe it. He apologized to Webber, who was clearly angry and is currently considering his position within the team. His anger clear in his post-race interview when he said “After the last stop the team told me that the race was over and we turned the engines down and go to the end. The team made their decision. Seb made his own decision and he will have protection as usual.” Vettel’s actions not only created further tension between the teammates, but also undermined the authority of the team management, which undoubtedly will not go without further action.
Drive is critical, yet balance is key. It is said that power is nothing without control. So perhaps drive is nothing without balance. I have been considering my own position lately and wondering whether my drive to succeed in gaming is greater than my drive to succeed in my career. Perhaps games fulfill the void that my ego feels towards my moderate career accomplishments. I am not sure if those who are at the top of their game in business, for instance, feel any less of an impulse to beat opponents in other spheres, or perhaps they feel it even more so due to their success.
My wife is one of those who achieves the balance between work and family admirably. She manages to excel in her career while never doing so at the expense of her commitment to her children or her husband. I am not just saying that to keep in her good graces (although it should help). Her parents made sure that they instilled a strong urge to excel in all she does and she is doing the same for her children (with my blessing and help). I asked my wife to review this post before I pushed it live and she thought that I was being too hard on myself.
So before you think that I am one of those underachievers who spends way too much time playing games like COD Black Ops 2, please keep in mind that I have only prestiged four times. 😉