A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Discussion – An incomplete approach to my fear of failure and gaming


I have a fear of failure. It keeps me from doing some things in my day-to-day life, it drastically reduces the number of risks I take (in or out of games), and it makes me question whether or not I want to continue doing certain things once I’ve achieved a certain level of progress but feel like I’ve hit a brick wall.

Connected to this fear of failure is a big amount of stress (it’s stressful trying to avoid failure) and I hold myself to (occasionally) absurd standards that just invite the stress and the sense of eventual failure. Yay self-perpetuation, huh? This further causes a strong sense of restlessness when I just want to kick back and enjoy myself only to find that the things I typically do are filled with strategies and methodologies that are designed with an eye towards avoiding failure and sometimes I just want to PLAY without fear.

There are very few ways to reduce the fear of failure. One of them is a save/load mechanic. Seriously, I save a lot. My father taught me that a quick way to keep that soldier from dying is to save at the end of every turn and if things worked out okay by the time my next turn rolled around, save on a different spot at the beginning of the turn. If things didn’t work out, reload and see what you can do to fix it. Rinse and repeat.

Another method to reduce my fear is the game design. Honestly, if I can pick up a game quickly and it just comes easy to me, I’ve got no worries. I’m not afraid of screwing up Final Fantasy Tactics because I know the game very well (and I know when I need to prepare… Riovanes Castle SUCKS!… also, I was taught some nifty tricks that help me be prepared). FFT comes EASY to me.

I suppose when it comes to my fear of failure, preparedness helps. I keep a notepad next to my computer so that when I play games, I can jot down things I should remember. When crafting in Galaxies, I would hand write the list of resources I needed and manually go through my resources to see which ones were the best for the job at hand (and I would figure THAT out by using a bit of math that required a calculator). When playing LOTRO, I keep a list of the tasks for a region at hand so that I know what I need, how many, when I can turn them in, and when I can’t turn them in any more. I love strategy guides that help me prepare for what’s ahead with little tips like “you should make sure to purchase plenty of potions for this next part: FAIR WARNING” or something like that.

If we want to get into the psychology of it all, I suppose it’s a fear of the unknown, a fear of failure and a fear of loss that are all interconnected to bring me here. I’m a sore loser, sure, but that comes from those fears. I do what I can to face these fears in the context of games and I feel that it helps somewhat. The other day I was playing LOTRO and running a quest that took me into the Misty Mountains (a place I have NO right to be in at level 33). I was scared out of my mind, but I kept moving. I didn’t know what was ahead, I didn’t want to die and have to run out there all over again, and I didn’t want to lose progress. I pressed on, hoping I wouldn’t get screwed over by a level 43 Warg (or whatever was there). I eventually finished the quest, but my hands were shaking.

I guess you could call me a coward. I’m working on it though, slowly but surely. I also love it when things come easily to me and I don’t like to beat myself up just because I’m focusing on the easy stuff. I have a friend who refused to call Diablo II finished until he’d defeated it on the highest difficulty setting. I beat it on two of the three settings and considered it a win. I don’t understand making things hard on yourself when you’re trying to have a good time. Why wouldn’t you try to swing everything in your favor when playing games? Why wouldn’t you approach a quest at a slightly higher level with good equipment if you could? Why wouldn’t you do everything possible to ensure victory the first time around? Why would you do something that you feel you’re going to screw up at over and over again? I suppose I give up too early, but I just don’t see why I need to stress myself out over the failure that I know is coming. Occasionally I can pull a win out of a near loss, but it really scares the crap out of me.

So, I have these fears and I’m working with them and around them as best I can. I suppose that’s all anyone can really do or expect from anyone else.

Until next time, relax a bit!

– Elorfin

P.S. “But he had hardly felt the absurdity of those things, on the one hand, and the necessity of those others, on the other (for it is rare that the feeling of absurdity is not followed by the feeling of necessity), when he felt the absurdity of those things of which he had just felt the necessity (for it is rare that the feeling of necessity is not followed by the feeling of absurdity).” – Samuel Beckett, Watt

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