Were Games Competitive In The Beginning?

In the article Demolishing the Competition: The Longitudinal Link Between Competitive Video Games, Competitive Gambling, and Aggression, the authors Adachi and Willoughby touch on competition in a pretty new perspective/area compared with our previous readings: competitive games, gambling or sports. In the article, their findings supported both socialization and selection hypotheses. This means that aggression and competitive games impact each other bidirectionally. 

Competition in games, gambling or sports is something what professor Michael Schandorf didn’t let our class to choose as a research project topic because of its nature of competitiveness. However, thinking of how Nelson and Dawson has questioned the existence of competition in educational settings at the beginning, back in Ancient Greece, I came to wonder what games were like in the beginning. According to Frances White’s blog article, Senet, the oldest game in the history, was played in Predynastic Egypt, dating it to around 3100 BC. This game relies heavily on luck, therefore, the winner was thought to be under the protection of the gods and this notion was why the game was named Sanet, meaning ‘the game of passing’. 

Seeing this, same with Education, I think initially, the nature of games could not have been competitive. It was rather something that people made under intention to gratify their spiritual needs. We know that competition in many perspectives is growing more and more stronger over time in the history. Going back to socialization and selection hypotheses, I think game is another thing that has grew to become competitive, regardless to its nature in the beginning. As people are becoming more competitive and aggressive, we chose to play or develop more and more competitive games – the socialization hypothesis. Also, as selection hypothesis is showing us, the more competitive games, the product we made from our growing competitiveness, is leading people in even more stronger competitiveness and aggressiveness. 

In other words, humans are self-harming by creating competition and making it ubiquitous and because of this human-made competitive environment, as @bardaravine have argued in his/her reading response, the environment encourages even more competitiveness. As least, it is harmful when, as Aadchi and Willoughby have shown us, competition makes people more competitive and aggressive.

image: https://www.forbes.com/sites/hnewman/2017/11/29/the-history-of-video-games-in-one-infographic/#26c7ea711a5c

Frances White’s blog article: https://www.historyanswers.co.uk/ancient/the-biggest-party-in-history/


  1. Thank you for your great reading response. It is a nice point here that competition will lead people become aggressive.In my personal view, even in Ancient Greece, there is a competition in a different form. Scholars compete with each other for different thoughts is a simple example here. Also in game, competition is always existing, even for a cooperative game, the player will still compete for higher score. Game will lead people become aggressive, but I think that cooperation and competition are coexist in game. In modern competitive games, cooperation is becoming a more and more important part;Teamwork is far more important than being aggressive, so I think it may be better to define game will lead people to learn cooperation and become passionate. How about you thought? Thank you!


  2. Thank you for your incite. However we see in cases of hunter-gatherer societies where they have incorporated competition with cooperation as well that seemed to have created a positive outcome for the society at the time? What do you think about that?


  3. Thank you for your article. Your opinion is very interesting and persuasive. In fact, there are still a lot of games that don’t need to compete. What do you think of them?


  4. @hzesu thanks for your opinion! I think whether competition existed or not in Ancient Greece’s education is something that can be discussed and studies further. However, what Nelson and Dawson’s is arguing in their article was that education back in Ancient Greece did not have competition.

    Interesting insight on how cooperation can be more important in cooperative games! However, in Adachi and Willoughby’s article, the authors’ intention of the study was to question whether it is the “competitiveness” in “competitive games” that was making people aggressive (as previous studies successfully replicated over time, finding the relation of aggression and playing games). As I have noted in the beginning of my reading response, their major findings to their study were that there is a bidirectional relation between aggressiveness and competitiveness. I wonder if scholars have done researches on cooperative games and its influences. Maybe they found something relevant to your opinion?


  5. @tose1028 Thank you for your comment! Back then, I definitely agree that incorporated cooperation and competition existed and I believe that is how we survived until today in an evolutionary view. This aligns with what Bateson was arguing as well, cooperation is the way to survive. To clarify my argument, as Berg has shown us, we are programmed to be competitive. However, we hide this and act cooperatively sometimes for different reasons such as to act in social norms or to survive (according to Bateson and Molina). Still, competitiveness lives inside us, programmed, but people express more and more competitiveness as time goes, even making the environment more and more competitive as business, economy, education or game industry. To add on to this, especially these days where technology is developed, people are developing and creating more competitive and more aggressive online games, to create a space to express the competitiveness they were hiding inside themselves, because online games provide us an imaginary space where it feels real, and where people can express their competitiveness very freely, regardless to social norms.


  6. @tianren123 thanks for your comment! These days, I see competitive games attract more users and popularity. They are also the ones that are taking over the gaming market, for example, pubg, league of legend or starcraft. However, there are some games that aren’t competitive and sometimes, or rarely, they are popular to users. An example I can think of is the game Minecraft. I think these are great because the developers succeeded in creating games that are as entertaining as competitive games to the users but it does not bring the negative impact to people which Adachi and Willoughby were worrying about – competitive games are making people aggressive. I wish more and more developers can develop such games in the future!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s