It's all fun and games

Today, a discussion spawned in a queer boardgaming Whatsapp group I am a member of, about the boundaries of cheating, the value of rules and about competitiveness and fun.

In general, I like to think of myself as 'not competitive'. To me this means I don't try to win in games, but to just enjoy the experience. In the discussion I shared that I sometimes make smaller moves when I have a big lead, to even the game a bit. Not everyone in the discussion liked this.

To give a bit more context: I play the game of Go and I am around 7 kyu. This means that if I go to a tournament, I have no chance of winning a top-3 position, but against someone who knows all the rules but hasn't played before, I have a chance of winning that nears 100%. That's not my style of winning.

To me, the experience of the game is just much more important than winning.

Until someone is holding back

Someone in the discussion said they found it unfair to let someone play with a handicap without them knowing it. I have never thought of my 'holding back' in this way, but I think they have a point. Players are doing their best and they expect me to play to my full ability as well. Holding back undermines the base of the game.

A story related to that: I was playing Ticket to Ride a lot with housemates and they were really fanatic about it. I could just never win: they always completed all their routes, they always went for the longer connections (those get more points) and in general they played efficient.

Then later I joined another friend group, who were already playing Ticket to Ride a lot. I joined their game and won by a huge margin, not just once but several weeks in a row. That is the kind of experience where I feel bad about winning.

But on the other hand: I only learned how to play well because the housemates did not hold back. And my friends also got better because I did not hold back in those first games. Not holding back makes everybody improve their understanding of the game.

The weight of winning

There is another part of not being competitive, which might have to do with the way I look at myself and others. In the past month, I have done a lot of reflecting on self-acceptance and feelings in general. I notice that not wanting to win also has a component of not wanting the attention that comes with it.

And it's not really attention I dislike, because I have it even more in a group I know very well and with people I value a lot. I think this is because the nature of being the 'winner' kind of places you above the rest of the group. It is this aspect I dislike.

But then again: if you agree to play a game, you agree that there will be a winner (depending on which game you pick, of course, but most games work this way). Someone has to fill that role at the end of it. For me personally, I think it would be good to explore my competitiveness a bit more, seeing what happens if I actually try to win.

Trying to win is a bit scary too, because if I actually try, there is still the chance that I loose. It is about valuing myself enough to say "yes I won, I am the best this time", as well as forgiving myself enough to say "I tried and lost, and I am still okay". Therapeutic boardgaming, I guess.