Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Fun and Games

Recently I've been bombarded by games and my attitude to games.

My writing group played games during a recent trip we took to a house by the sea. We didn't play many games, most of the time went down like this and like this, but we played enough to bring back all my complicated feelings about these things.

Then a few days after this my niece and nephew (and their parents) dropped in for a flying visit. This visit was too short and late in the day for a game. But they tried to fit one in anyway. They love playing games.

And then today I listened to this episode of The Dork Forest.

Also some months ago I was at a stag do where we were expected to play Monopoly and Risk. I think that I managed not to play either game. And the alcohol, in that instance, took the edge off the whole thing. As did my current strategy towards playing games which is: "I will not recognise the validity of the game. I will treat winning and losing as equally invalid states. I will try and play the game morally and ethically correctly."

Yes. This technique gets me through it. But it essentially makes me the most annoying person to play against. Well actually the 2nd worst. The worst is me when I don't do this. The me that storms off in a flood of shouting and tears.

Indeed, I am not a fun person to play with. Sorry about that.

I heard recently that monopoly was invented to demonstrate that by becoming a monopoly you cripple everything, no one can carry on, and so no one wins. But we've relegated that message to the subliminal level if we pick up on it at all. People think that becoming the monopoly means you win. I've found over the years that this game will cause me to hate my closest friends. I cannot separate "game" morals from real ones. Which is strange as I have no problem with this in fiction, and I count computer games as fiction. But I cant get lost in an imaginary world when it's represented by pieces on a table top, or a bunch of cards, or a pencil and pen.

So part of my problem is I cant suspend my disbelief. Or maybe that's not quite right, I am somewhere in between belief and disbelief. I know I'm playing a game but I take it seriously. Monopoly means reminding myself how horrible capitalism is. Risk reminds me how horrible imperialism is. And when playing with friends this implicates them in these actions. I hope they wouldn't fuck people over that way. But they are happy to in a game.

The other problem is that I'm really really competitive. But I find competitiveness to be repellent. So playing a game means wrestling with myself and hating myself. This is especially problematic when it comes to things like 'unfairness'. I don't think I'm particularly clever and I definitely have bad coordination. I also don't think these things are valid ways of saying people are better than other people. I don't like meritocracy. I don't like systems that judge and rate people. And that is what games are. I hate both myself for being crap and the structure for making me feel crap. And on the few occasions I win I hate the nasty feeling of being "better" than other people. It's worse because my instincts are to be a right wanker about it.

I tend to be an all or nothing person. I'm not happy unless I either get top marks or I fail spectacularly. By opting out I'm trying to create a narrative where I'm the hero, partly because I'm scared I'll lose, and partly because I'm scared of what I might become to try and win. But it is still, on many levels, trying to prove myself "better".

Games and guilt are synonymous in my mind. I like computer games better because they are immerse and everyone has their own clearly delineated individual narratives.

One real world game I like is Chess. I like it for its elegance and the intense, almost meditative process where you are sketching out an idea of how your opponents mind works. Really it's about understanding the other person. It's intimate and one on one.

I also like Scruples. But then for me it's a game where winning or losing are actually immaterial. You get into the minds, the emotions, the morals, the life experiences of the group, you get into the big ideas. That's what I like to do. Similarly the game Pancakes verses Waffles that my friend Liz taught me is great. We played a short version of this last week and got it down to Hope verses Love. On that night Hope won incidentally. The majority would get rid of Love if it came to the choice.

I also like what I call judgemental Guess Who. Where the only questions you can ask are judgements: "Do they look depressed? Are they gay? Would they steal something?" In this game mostly no one wins as both people (or teams) judge differently. But it's fun. Well it is my idea of fun.

We played Apples for Apples last week. This is a similar kind of game to the above. I thought it was okay but I felt the group should be able to vote on whether the persons definition of a thing was right. I missed the democratic element of a game like scruples.

Surprisingly I won that game. Making my stance the opposite of subversive. "I'm winning but I don't accept the validity of winning." No one wants to hear that!

The last problem I generally have with games (apart from the few mentioned above) is that I find them really boring. But I also feel bad about knocking someone else's idea of fun. I also worry that I must not be fun to be around. And so another cycle starts. Everyone seems to have a higher capacity for these things than me.

But then I have a higher capacity for talking endlessly about big ideas and emotions than some, for many people that quickly becomes boring.

I'd play Scruples all the time if I could.

Sadly I forgot to take it last week.

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