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Very thought-provoking article, Shawn. The dodgeball anecdote was hilarious. The image that came to mind was of you dodging balls bullet-time/Matrix-style!
As for competitive gaming, it all depends on what is at stake, and how seriously you take it. I don't take bowling seriously; it's just another form of partying with friends to me. Gaming, in general, is something I don't take that seriously. Monopoly was only mildly serious when I was eight years old, and is certainly not serious now.
Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy games (obviously), but I'm not sure "zero sum" (or less than zero sum) applies when the game is played in a casual pastime basis. Unless you're gambling, most games, including videogames, don't result in utter decimation of your ego or physical health. You don't have to worry about "Voit" imprinted on your face. :-) And if my opponent jumps up and down upon winning, yelling "In your face, sucker!" I'd probably just laugh, or at worst feel mild annoyance.
In fact, I think this is a clue as to why videogames are popular. Most videogames result in the domination of your opponent as the endgame. (The notable exception is the old-school "high score" videogames, which were more of an endurance test than anything.) Because the stakes are fictional, you don't suffer the humilation or physical destruction that you would if it were a real-life scenario. Plus, you can often just reload a saved game state and restart at the point before failure. It's not really "zero sum." You generally don't really lose, you just restart and try again. It's a way to game without the "sum" of utter destruction.
I think, whether we admit it or not, competitiveness is in our nature. It may not manifest itself in a game or sport or something physical, but it's partially this nature that pushes us to achieve things. We all want be be "good" at something, and I think an underlying competitive nature is partially responsible for us to work at being good at something. To feel like you're at the bottom end of a "competition" can result in insecurity. But otherwise, why do anything? For example, why try to groom yourself, work out, and look better? Better than whom? And maybe it's not about "dominating," but it might be competing just to achieve parity and acceptability.
Ok, that took to long, I'll try to answer your nine questions tomorrow.
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