What it refers to is when watching a TV show recently-ish some character in that show was referred to as a choker. They experienced great success to get them into the finals of a sporting competition but every time they made it to the finals they would "choke" and perform poorly. This moment in that show was something of a gotcha moment for me as it helped me to name my experiences playing games in a competitive environment. Wipeout HD is my most recent foray into this world of "choking".
I've made no secret of my personal distaste for competitive gaming and my preference for cooperative play. I hate winning and I hate losing to bad winners. The very idea of someone tea-bagging my online avatar in a game such as Halo generates nausea. That kind of idiotic male posturing helps me understand why people walk into a public place with fully loaded sub machine guns and let loose. It's not something I expect to ever do, it's just that sometimes I am ashamed of my species and can understand why some reckless individuals would lash out. That said, I've had many positive competitive experiences that are about learning, particularly while practicing martial arts many aeons ago.
This trait that I've recently managed to name has manifest itself to me through Wipeout HD where I'd been setting goals for myself to work through. Three "perfect" laps in a row on a difficult track. I realise that most of you won't know precisely what this goal is in practical terms. Assume it means something like I've set a high standard for myself that I must work very hard at to achieve. When I succeed (I'm comfortable with practice after learning piano and violin in my childhood) I cannot ever manage to take it to four laps in a row. Well not yet anyway. I choke. Some switch inside of me flicks on and I experience a form of elated surprise at my success after hours of practice followed by a grim determination to better the result "this time". All this is set upon a foundation of dread because on some level inside me I know that I will fail. I fulfill my prophecy.
I am interested in this because, now that I can name it, I have begun to explore my response to success and pressure through games such as Wipeout HD. Suddenly competitive play can be internalised into an exploration of my psyche in the light of success. I can "win" and remain comfortable with myself should I acclimatise myself to the new sensation and reject the feelings of low self-worth borne of my youth. Discovering that I can work through the four perfects barrier onto a new level of competence. Each step that I make is a leaden one. Heavily burdened with emotional baggage I'd long forgotten. Gaming in such environments offers me a chance to explore my psyche and its response to such stimuli in a manner that is far more harmless that those used by the reckless individuals of my earlier example. After reading Michael Abbot's self conscious exploration of his desire to apologise for his gaming interests, I am glad to say that gaming helps make me a better man.