When I was a kid, I was a sore loser. I think this is kind of innate human state for most people. Losing sucks to some degree, fundamentally; we just contain that reaction, and try to keep it in perspective. As an adult, I’ve learned to be a (mostly) gracious loser when playing games in social settings, because I’ve learned to appreciate the real value of these interactions: strengthening bonds with the people I’m playing against. The game is just an excuse for the social interaction.
If you think about the history of games, and the fact that many/most games through human history have been competitive, it’s only logical that competitive videogames are hugely popular now. However, competing against strangers online that have no identity, and who exist entirely outside of a social context, is a massively different experience from playing a board game, a card game, or competing in a sport. Amongst those, it’s fairly rare that players participate without some sort of interpersonal bond being at stake and being strengthened through the competition. To find examples of that, you’d have to look for individual sports that exist within a strictly regimented competitive structure; professional poker competitions come to mind. Certainly, most people are uninterested in doing that sort of thing. We play sports with our team; we have board game nights with our friends.
And so here we are, with millions of people spending billions of hours shooting at strangers in online FPSes. Contemporary games are beginning to address the gap, as developers realize that social features are a big selling point, and help to keep people engaged. Nevertheless, the whole thing is a bit unsavoury. I’m reminded of a father who’s only experience with videogames was watching his teenage sons play CoD online, and who decried all of gaming culture on that basis: “They spend hours in the game, getting angry, shouting curses at other players, throwing their controllers away in frustration. How is that healthy, or fun?” I’d argue it’s not. These are zero sum games. An average player will lose as often as they win, and losing still sucks. Without the social benefits, it sucks hard. That means you’re spending 50% of your time unhappy and failing for no particular reason at all.