People like a challenge and playing against other people is often how games provide this challenge. Competition by itself is not necessarily a dark pattern. Classic games like chess and checkers, and most sports have competition. It's when competition is combined with other dark patterns that problems arise.
Competition in games takes many forms. It could be a scoreboard that shows who has the most points. It could be a leaderboard that allows you to directly challenge and take someone's spot. It could be a match between two or more people, or a variety of other methods. The main objective for the game developer is to make a goal that two parties strive towards, but only one can obtain. The winning party will get a sense of pride and superiority, and potentially some additional reward. The defeated party will feel negative emotions and may be punished inside the game.
If there are big rewards for winning and staying at the top of the rankings, this can lead to something called Pay to Win
or "Monetized Rivalries". The more you spend on the game to have the best items, the better you will be able to maintain your rank and keep getting the better rewards. For some players this type of competition can be a strong motivator to spend large sums of money on the game to maintain their status. It may even cause players to exhibit anti-social behaviors
, such as cheating, bullying or revenge.
If the losing party is punished inside the game, they may feel like they can regain what they lost if they invest more time
. Additionally, they may feel the urge to practice so that they can get better and win more often. This is a strong incentive to play the game more often.
Games can also make you feel envy for other players by showing you all the rewards they are earning. Envy can inspire you to be like the top players and play the game until you are as good as them, or envy can be malicious and make you jealous of somebody in the game and make you want to destroy them. Either way, by allowing the game to manipulate your emotions like this you begin playing the game for reasons other than enjoyment, such as power and status.