Suffering And Acceptance In Video Games (aka CALL OF DUKKHA)

I play Call of Duty online multiplayer. Maybe more than I should; perhaps any COD online is too much, as the game is the opposite of what I am trying to cultivate in my mind. No, this isn’t a military violence thing, rather it’s an acknowledgment that shooters like this are twitch-based games. They are about reflexes and reactions, and I am trying to train my mind to respond more slowly, not more quickly. I think they make me kind of jumpy and amped up in a not-great way.

Maybe I’ll kick the habit, but in the meantime I was playing this morning and noticed some serious dukkha happening in the game. Not to me, although I do notice my own suffering sometimes when the game isn’t going my way. No, I saw it in another guy who was ranting and raving about the other players, whom he was calling the kind of slurs that I as a straight white man cannot repeat.

The guy had a bad case of sore loser-itis, which you see a lot in these games. People come to take out their frustrations on the multiplayer and then they get further frustrated, and so they call the other players trash or complain about their playstyle. Listening to this guy whine – “Fuckin’ bouncing betties! Get off your belly! Campers, hiding in the corners!” – I heard the kind of suffering that we all experience when we simply will not let go of what we want. When we won’t accept what’s happening.

When we talk about acceptance of the world people often jump to the worst – “Oh, so I should just accept that Trump is caging thousands of children at the border?” Well… yes, but not in the way you mean. Acceptance, in a spiritual sense, carries no connotation of liking the thing. It simply means accepting that the thing IS.

So let’s take it back to Call of Duty. This guy is mad because he believes the proper playstyle for this game is to run around the map shooting people as you see them. That’s how he plays. When other players do it differently – when they hide in shadows or lay down in tall grass to hide and shoot him as he goes by, when they set up explosives that are triggered by his passage – he rages. They are not playing the way he wants them to play. He gets angry. He yells at them on the mic. He rage quits. He doesn’t have fun.

Acceptance would go a long way for this guy. Accepting that some people are camping, or placing bouncing betties at strategic locations, would mean that he could keep that in mind when he played. He could adjust his playstyle to counteract the playstyle of the other people. He could rob them of their advantage.

But he doesn’t do that. He just keeps banging his head against that wall, getting more and more upset that the game isn’t being played the way he wants people to play the game. He demands that the other players conform to his vision of what the correct Call of Duty match is, and as a result not only does he lose, he’s miserable the whole time he’s losing.

Now, accepting that people camp and place explosives doesn’t mean he has to like that people do those things. And he doesn’t have to camp himself. It just simply means that he needs to accept that this is the circumstance in which he finds himself, and that if he wants to keep playing he’s going to have to adjust how he plays. That’s it. He’s not condoning the other playstyles, he’s simply countering them. When he doesn’t accept that people are playing this way, he loses.

This is something we do in life all the time. Things don’t go our way, people don’t behave the way we want them to behave, situations don’t unfold how we want them to unfold, and we get angry and resistant to reality. Rather than respond to the situation as it is, to the person as they are, we keep going back to our preferred version of reality and complain “Why can’t it be this way?”

It doesn’t matter why it isn’t that way, it isn’t that way. When we accept that we can then begin making choices that will allow we to counter the way it IS, and perhaps bring it closer to the way we would like it to be. But we cannot start doing that until we simply accept things as they are and proceed from that clear-eyed understanding.

To bring it back to the military theme of Call of Duty, here’s a quote from Satanic agent Donald Rumsfeld that is actually quite wise: “You go to war with the army you have—not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” Seeing your situation rationally and clearly allows you to take the right actions at the right time, not to get caught up in the suffering of aversion, of wanting it to be another way.

Like all spiritual advice, this is easier said than done. It’s hard to let go of the attachment we have to our view of how things should be, especially when our view is righteous. But it’s vital to our happiness, and to our ability to make actual change. Until you accept that these motherfuckers are camping, you’re not going to be able to compete with them properly in a match.