Lately it seems like every board game forum I read has a post about sore losers, learning to lose, or hyper-competitiveness in games. That topic is always going to be relevant when talking about games, but everyone seems to feel like talking about it now. Some of us are openly competitive and love to win. Others lean back and profess that they are in it purely for the enjoyment of the game, regardless of outcome.
I feel like there's a lot of moral judgment that comes along with these conversations. If you're not competing, you're soft. On the other hand, why do people care so much about "just a game"? I've even seen fellow gamers suggest that a poster's defeat-hating fiancée get counseling!
There has to be middle ground here. First, let's all admit that we when we play a game, we want to win. The entire point of a game is to try to win, either over other opponents or, in the case of a co-op, against the game itself. If you "don't care" about the outcome of a game, why are you playing one in the first place? Obviously the challenge attracts you.
At the same time, it's not cool to want to win "too much." I admit I struggle with this—I love to win, and while individual losses don't bother me, I do get annoyed if I lose too many games in a row. I especially hate it if someone trash talks me when I am on a losing streak. Usually I am content just to play well, even if I don't pull off a win. But note that I want to feel competent—not like I am floundering around and destined to fail. No one wants to feel stupid in front of an audience, in any context. Even if it's "just a game."
Losing only hurts when other people are watching. I lose solo games all the time, and I never think anything of it. Of course, there are no witnesses. (None that survive...) I log both wins and losses in an app, which still doesn't carry the same sense of shame. But fear of looking stupid? That fear affects me so much that I hate struggling with a video game level while my boyfriend is watching. I don't know why I care—lord knows he isn't with me for my mad gaming skills—but there it is.
There is probably a perfectly good explanation for this. I have been a huge nerd all my life, and my identity is very much tied to my intellectual prowess. I like to feel clever. And in board gaming, a hobby full of nerds, I am sure I'm not the only one who is wired that way. Defeat itself is tolerable, if I feel like I was able to put up a good fight. Defeat AND intellectual dishonor? I can't stand it.
My name is Liz, and I play a lot of games. By day, I am a teacher. By night, I am an avid gamer.