Posted by: Sean | October 28, 2008

Theme Week Human: The Psychology of Victory

Mr. E sent us a comment regarding a theme of humans he’d identified; that humans are always second best. His reasoning was: The dwarves and gnomes are better with technology. The high elves were better with magic, and the draenei are now. The humans are jack of all trades, master of none, and so how do humans cope with the inferiority complex that comes with it? He posited that it’s this neurosis that’s driven them to become over-achievers, a race of people constantly feeling they need to do more, do better, and catch up.

But to be honest? I’m not going to answer that question, because I think he’s dead wrong. It’s quite the reverse: Humans are a race who believe they’re masters of everything. They believe they’re winners, they’re the best at anything that counts, and if they’re not the best at something, then it doesn’t really matter. And y’know what? It’s this that has made them drive to greater and greater heights, to push forward to victory over and over again.

The metaphor here for me is sports, and the psychology of sports champions. There’s some complicated thought on this (believe me, it’s a well researched field) but the upshot is this: Sports stars who think they’re not as good as others out there, who believe they always need to prove themselves; they’re the ones who die. Seriously. The truly talented ones may make it into the top leagues, but if they get there, then they don’t go far. They certainly don’t get over the final hurdles and become winners. The classic example here is Michael Jordan. He is probably the finest athlete in human history, to be frank. And he reeked arrogance. On the court, he taunted his opponents and played with them. But he did the same everywhere. On the golf course, he was just the same way. And his well-publicised gambling problems came out of a similar impulse: He didn’t believe he could lose.

Similar comments could be made about pretty much every other sports champion in history. There may be some exceptions, but they’re few and far between. Frankly, winners don’t question their ability. They assume they’re going to win every time they step onto the field, perceive their victory as nothing short of manifest destiny.

As a contrast? Australian politician Kim Beazley (who I quite like, as a side note) lost so many leadership battles that Australian satirists suggested he write a book entitled, “The Collected Concession Speeches of Kim Beazley.” Kim Beazley was a tremendous politician, who lead a federal party, twice, and commanded a lot of respect. But he could not lead his party to victory, and when he retired, the consensus opinion was that in the end, he lacked the confidence to do so. He was an introspective person, ever aware of the possibility that he might be wrong. As such, he hedged his bets, tried to hedge his bets and (as such) failed to convince people of his strength.

Now, much like the above examples, this is a generalisation. You will surely find people within humanity who doubt themselves, who worry about the future, and such. Of course you will. I have a hunch you’ll find more people like that in the Scarlet Crusade, actually. But overall? Humanity is far more arrogant than neurotic. Not in an overblown way. Not necessarily in a cocky way. But they radiate that same confidence, the same sense of manifest destiny. They have a buff entitled, “The Human Spirit”, after all, and it’s not an idle joke. (Unlike that stupid ‘Fall of Man’ twittery that has emerged. For goodness sakes, pay fricking attention, Blizzard.) Humans really do have that resilience to strive forward again and again, and they do.

It is true that, from a detached perspective, that humans are the jack of all trades, master of none. They surely do lack the uniqueness of other races, which (being less Hodgemany) is why many perceive them as dull. But it’s crucial to understand when playing one that they don’t see themselves like this. They see themselves as the rightful inheritors to Azeroth. And this is why they bounce back after every setback. It’s why they felt entitled to forge the Alliance, and did so. It’s why, and I mean this, if all the races in Azeroth went to war, I’d back the humans to emerge victorious. Humans are an overly confident race, with a highly inflated sense of self-worth and self-importance.

It’s why they win.

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