What's a Winner?

I need your help. Maybe you can explain something to me.

Why do we need winners? I'm not talking about sports and such; I mean with A/V gear, movies, video games, etc. How many articles and forum posts have you seen that proclaim one object the winner over another?

What is behind this desire to declare a winner when there's no competition being fought?

I'm not talking about deciding one item is better than another - of course that's going to happen. I'm talking about making that next step and saying that the claimed "better" product is going, somehow, to defeat or lessen its competitor. That I don't get.

Let me explain, using an obvious recent example. Leading up to the launch of the Kindle Fire, there were (and still are) countless articles about how it was going to "beat" the iPad, an "iPad killer."

What? Why? Why would anyone other than Amazon and Apple care? In my opinion, these are barely comparable products. What constitutes a "winner" between these two? By extension, how is either a "loser?" If they both succeed in their design goals, and are a great product, aren't they both winners?

A better example. Take movies. Any discussion of a movie invariably recounts its box office success. How does this have any relation to quality? Why should anyone other than the studio care how much money it makes? If you release some steaming pile into 4,000 theaters, each half full, won't its gross be higher than a movie released into 1,000 theaters that are always packed? Which movie is better? I have no idea, there's no correlation. It's even worse these days, with the meaningless price increase of 3D included in the totals. Avatar made more money than The Dark Night, and if you argue Avatar was a better movie, I'll assume you're a mental patient.

While we're on about money, the vast numbers of people and dollars involved in the gaming industry has caused more than its fair share of this "winner" fixation. Two recent and similar titles - Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - have caused heated discussions, with the opposed camps saying one will "crush" the other, or that one "kicks the ass" of the other. Huh? What - and again I'm not being sarcastic here - does a winner look like in this scenario? I think BF3 is a better game, possibly the best of its type ever made. But where does that opinion convert to it "beating" CoD? If something is better, does that mean it's winning?

Maybe I'm just missing a subtle semantic distinction. Maybe people are conflating "better" with "winner." I have no problem with people saying something is "best." I do it all the time. This projector is the best for this, this TV is the best for that. But to imply that the success of one will cause the diminishment of another seems oddly anthropomorphic. Quality isn't a zero sum game. If two things are good, in what way does one have an effect on the other? It seems to me it's only monetary, which as mentioned, should be irrelevant to anyone other than those making the money.

This was blatant when Pioneer pulled out of the plasma TV business. I can't tell you how many articles and threads I read claiming LCD had "won." Pardon? The only competition I see is Panasonic vs Samsung, or LG vs Sony, or Toshiba vs somebodyorother. Between companies, sure. Between technologies? When was the last time you saw a technology stand up and pick a fight.

Let's turn to Dictionary.com:

win·ner noun [win-?r]: a person or thing that wins; victor.

I get that if something is provably better than another, then it's the "winner." But in what we cover here, what's the metric? If two similar things are good, but for different reasons, how can one be the victor? Apples are more popular than pomegranates, therefore, do apples win? Are they better?

Maybe my confusion stems from my near-total lack of interest in sports. Maybe if I was more in tune with organized competition, I'd be looking for a winner in everything. I'm sure, in some way, it relates to my Haters blog post. Honestly, I don't know.

Any ideas? What do you think? Why do you think there's such a desire for a "winner?" 

 

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