“Why aren’t we rolling sixes? If you love me, roll a six!”
“You can block my city but it’s going to be a waste of your roads.”
“I really hope this move doesn’t end our marriage.”
“Overheard” but for the board game, Catan
During the pandemic, I played Catan with a fiercely competitive millennial couple, who were so passionate, that tears of pain were shed and at the end of the game I thought they would file for a divorce! Thankfully, divorce did not happen and hopefully, they still play Catan together, minus the verbal threats. I played with new couples recently and again I witnessed that friends and lovers can become fast enemies when they play games.
Why though? It’s just a game. It’s supposed to be fun. Right?
I grew up playing games. And I mean, a lot of games. My family played, Oh, Hell, also known as Up and Down the Ladder, Shanghai Rummy, Hearts, and later on, Wizard and Mahjong. Croquet, ping pong, pool and badminton were always played during holiday gatherings and game nights. Learning new rules, adapting quickly and being competitive felt natural and healthy because I was playing non-stop. When my friends would join a family function, they would complain that they needed a break, wanted to just sit and talk and that they had never played this many games in their life!
Games helped me learn as a kid. My mom taught me how to count by making a game out of counting steps. She helped me learn my multiplication in the ocean; every time a wave would come, she would test my times tables. To this day, when I am struggling with a project, I’ll call my mom and she’ll remind me to make a game out of the situation. We play games because it’s fun. And as an added bonus, playing games teaches team building, communication, cognition and resilience.
New York Times’ game designer, Sam Von Ehren wrote “Playing a game is an act of exposition” and the choices we make while playing a game “reveal who we are and how we think.” Consistently playing games can train us to bounce back from failure, to keep on exploring and to win gracefully. The more we play games the more we can grow to be resilient and have mental fortitude. Resiliency is fostered by having social support, so playing games with other people can help develop and strengthen it. For example, planning a game night with friends is really fun, I just had one. I cooked and served baked ziti and had black and white cookies for dessert while we played Catan. I was having so much fun that I didn't even realize that I won the game!
As the American sportswriter, Grantland Rice would say, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Or, is it easier said when you win the game and don't feel any vengeance towards your lovers and friends?