Terms of Victory

By Ron Scopelliti

Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. I just wanted to point that out because there’s apparently some uncertainty about the fact. If there wasn’t any uncertainty, then why would he mention his victory, his perceived margin of victory, or the success of his victory celebrations in practically every speech he makes?

But anyway, my purpose isn’t to criticize our so-called leader. I only mention him because his ongoing, postelection end-zone dance ties in with a concept I’ve been thinking about recently: victory.

The subject came to mind when I was listening to an NPR interview with New York magazine writer Frank Guan about the relationship that adults have with computer games. One of the points he made is that computer and video games give adults a chance to experience victory – something that he notes is very hard to find in real adult life.

It’s sad to think of a life devoid of victory. Imagine what it must have been like for the Washington Generals, losing every game (except one that I heard they accidentally won) to the Harlem Globetrotters for 63 years. When they were finally replaced in 2015, I’m not sure if that counted as their ultimate defeat or as a victory, because they could finally stop losing.

As somebody who’s been playing computer games since the seventies, the NPR segment naturally resonated with me. For the most part, however, the games I play aren’t so much about competition as they are about achieving goals and enjoying the gameplay, so I don’t usually think about them in terms of victory and defeat. But I’ve always recognized that sense of achievement, and for the past few years I’ve been trying to work that aspect of video games into real life.

Most computer and video games involve some sort of “level” system. You complete one level and you move onto another one with a different layout and opponents. In role-playing games, your character completes a certain number of tasks, and “levels up” by gaining new or stronger abilities.

I’ve really taken the “leveling up” concept to heart, and I’ve been working it into real life through what I call “life-leveling.” It involves learning new skills, exploring new places, and pursuing new experiences to enrich my life, and doing it all with the sense of fun that you get when playing a video game. When I learn to use a new computer application, ride a tougher mountain bike trail than I’m used to, or discover a new bookstore, those are my real-life victories.

Lately I’ve been breaking it down more and more, to acknowledge the little day-to-day victories. For instance, I consider it a victory if I can clean out the litterbox without dropping a piece of intestinally-reprocessed cat food on the floor. I consider it a further victory if the cat doesn’t immediately start refilling the box as soon as I tie the trash bag shut.

I consider it a victory if I can get through a day of driving without any road rage. I try to be very forgiving when drivers make honest mistakes, because I make my fair share of them myself. But it’s the flat-out ignorance of some drivers that pushes me to the edge. Like when a driver on Rte. 295 decides to move into the right lane to pass a line of traffic even though there are cars merging onto the highway in that lane, and the left lane is open.

If I can see that without blasting my horn, making a variety of hand gestures decipherable only to fellow Italian- Americans, and implying a canine component to the driver’s maternal lineage, I consider that a victory. It’s a bonus if the offending driver gets so bogged down in merging traffic that everyone re-passes him.

I’ve been writing on deadline almost continuously since 2000, and every time I meet a deadline I consider that a victory. It’s a bigger victory if I’m not insecure about what I’ve written. Even if I’m iffy about what I’ve written that defeat is offset by the victory of a paycheck.

Lately, after I meet my monthly deadline, I tend to unwind by questing via computer with Lord of the Rings Online, or by using my PlayStation to subvert Nazi plans for world domination in The Saboteur. So I’m celebrating my real-life victories by pursuing virtual victories, which inspire me to seek more real-life victories.

Given this cycle, maybe it’s time for my own victory celebration. I’ve met more than enough deadlines this year to pay for the long-overdue upgrade from a PlayStation 3 to a PlayStation 4. No need for a rally in Florida – the upgrade will be my version of “winning bigly.”