Sunday, 29 July 2012
Sunday Sermon: The Olympic Spirit
Yes, even my bloody Blog is going to be infected with a touch of the Olympics. Right now here in the UK you can't bloody take a breath without somebody trying to sell you a product based off of the fact they've sponsored the Olympics. Coke being the official 'drink' of the Olympics and McDonalds being the official 'restaurant' of the Olympics does bring a wry smile to my face. I have to be honest I was more than a little bit cynical about the Olympics and the rampant commercialism that seemed to come along with the biggest show on earth... perhaps it's P&G announcing every 10 fecking second on my TV that they're proud sponsors of moms that finally did it for me. Do they not know what the word sponsor means? I mean if the person you are supposedly 'sponsoring' is having to pay you for your products that's not sponsorship! They've been doing my head in for months now, and that's the last thing my head needs right now. So I sat down to watch the opening ceremony, wandering what new and wonderful ways my nation would find of embarrassing itself...
And yeah OK Danny Boyle's 'extravaganza' didn't make that much sense to even us Brits, and at times I found it utterly bewildering and yes, cringe-worthy, but you know what... there was one part of it that made me sit up and take notice. No it wasn't James Bond with the Queen... I found that rather odd. Nor was it Sir Paul singing Hey Jude, no, after all the fireworks, the shamelessly socialist overtones, 50 foot Voldermort's and glowing beds (WTF was all that about?) came the athletes pledge or oath. If you didn't stop up to watch it, and I can't blame you if you didn't, it's reproduced below:
"In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams."
I do wander just how many of the athletes who will take part in the Olympics this summer will honestly live up to those ideals embodied in that oath. They are quite pure and noble ambitions, and in my experience very little of humanity is pure and noble.
But I like that those are the standards to which, we will hold our competitors. Realistically that for me was the only part of the Olympic opening ceremony that caught my attention. There is something noble about the individual athlete trying to do their best, to go faster, further or to be stronger or more accurate, to try and push the boundaries of what the human body is capable of. Pierre de Coubertin said this of the games:
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
Now, it sounds to me a bit like loser talk to me, but he had a point. Jesse Owens once said something like the 'only victory worth anything is the victory over yourself', I can't quite remember the exact quote, and I don't really have the time to find it as I've already been sat in front of the computer writing this out for too long... however, Jesse was a smart cookie and one hell of a competitor and if he believed that, then you know what the rest of us should sit up and take notes. He believed it was about getting better and personal achievement, about always trying your best and pushing yourself, and I admire that mentality.
So where am I heading with all this? Well I've often heard gamers talk of the implied contract between us when we play our games. I've often spoken about it with my friends, most of us are relatively competitive, but for us it's party about the journey you have with a game, your own personal improvement. Well what would a gamers oath look like? What ideals would we hold ourselves to? What things are important to us as a community? What is important to you? I've been thinking about this a lot lately and the Olympics, and that oath just brought it sharper into focus. I've said on countless occasions that our hobby takes at least two to tango, and I believe therefore it is an almost collaborative event when a game takes place. Even if we are both aiming to wipe the floor with our opponents. There are ways of doing it and maybe sometimes some of us forget that at times, we forget we're both meant to have fun and that yes there is a competitive element, and I wouldn't want it any other way, but there should also be a bit of fair play. We should also acknowledge that there are other ways of playing, narrative games, campaigns and that these are just as valid as the straight up pitched battle. So if you were writing a wargamers oath what would it look like? I'm going to put my version up next Sunday, but I'll be interested to see what you guys come up with in the meantime. Peace out!