This week’s podcast, Playing to Win, is all about playing games and, well, winning. Mostly. I learned from my last post and actually took notes while listening to Robin, Ben, and Jacob talk about what drives their gaming experiences. I wanted to throat punch Robin, who says he never ever plays to win. Ben believes that “not playing to win devalues the experience of play”. Jacob is somewhere between the two. A lot of what I’m going to discuss below stems from conversation had on the podcast, so if I don’t bore you to tears below, you should give the guys a listen.
When Do You Play to Win?
This should come as no surprise to you that I am a very competitive person. What may come as a surprise to you is that I don’t know that I always need to play to win anymore. I always play my best, sure, but do I always need to win? Ehh.
Let me explain. I have two primary game groups. I game with a bunch of friends down in Massachusetts, and I game with a bunch of idiots up here in New Hampshire. Aside from these people, I game with my kids who range in ages from 2-11. So, what’s the difference between the groups? Why do I need to win with some and not the others?
I have the best time with these people. The ones I’m at the table with the most are just as sassy and snarky as I am. We can play anything and have a great time. In short, the gaming experience here is phenomenal. Robin also cites the experience as the main reason he doesn’t always need to win. Anyway. This group’s regulars are heavily into gaming, so when I win against them, I feel especially triumphant because they’ve been playing games since the dawn of time. Winning against them may be extra sweet because they talk a big game and little else feels better than putting them in their place.
Ironically, I will say that I find win stats more important with this group. Tracking who scored what, score ranges, win rates, etc. Being able to go back and see how we developed as gamers and as a group. It’s insightful despite it’s high level of nerdity.
New Hampshire Group
This group has changed a lot over the years. It started as a twice-weekly Arkham Horror group (God help me). Then, I started a meetup group, which hosted several nights in varying locations each week. Game nights were usually themed around a theme or mechanic. People came and went as they are wont to do in such situations. I was in grad school during this time, so gaming was my super escape from researching special education laws and the like. Winning was very important to me. I needed to get in, get out, and get back to writing papers. Winning let me know that I was still on top of my game even though I was playing less.
As the group stands now, I still feel the need to win all the time. There is definitely less of a rapport around the table, and I think this is the key to my needing to win. I’m mean to everyone; that’s not the problem. The other guys. I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel natural. People’s tastes are much more particular even though we try to play everything; I almost feel like this is a mistake because someone is inevitably having a bad time. Personalities don’t always mesh well. All of these things make the atmosphere less than optimal, which forces me at least to focus on the game more so than flipping someone the bird. If I’m spending that much time focusing on the game, I’m going to want to win. Winning gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the night. It lets me feel as though I didn’t waste my time.
I don’t feel the need to win against my kids, but I certainly don’t try to not win. In fact, I wrote a whole thing about why kids should be forced to lose games here.
Robin talked about something regarding teaching kids to game in the podcast that gave me pause. He said that you need to teach them how to win, but you also need to teach them how to lose. I agree. At least I thought I did. He said something about teaching them to win and it being the most awesome thing in the world, but you need to win with grace because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings (Ben said this as well – also goes for adults). OK. But, then he said you need to teach them to lose by telling them it’s “just a game”. I feel like this is contradictory. If it’s “just a game” when you lose, it should be “just a game” when you win. Right? The reasoning should be the same. Don’t be a douchebag if you win and don’t be a crybaby if you lose because it’s just a game.
A Quick Word about Backsies.
There was a brief conversation about backsies in the podcast. They all seemed to think backsies were totes legit for various reasons. They are all fools. Backsies irk me more than anything else in a game. If you win with an incessant use of backsies, you may as well put a huge asterisk next to the game because YOU SORT OF CHEATED! Especially if your backsie happens after the start of the turn of another player. Some backsies don’t technically hurt the game; I’ll give you that. It’s the principle though. I don’t even care if it’s a learning game. In fact, I hate this as an excuse for a backsie than anything else in the world. “Oh, I’m learning the game…” You’ve been playing games for a decade, get out of here with that noise! Oh, you’re new to gaming? This isn’t little league, honey. You’re going to have to earn your keep if you want to play in the majors.