Operation GamerWife: The Desire to Win
It’s been some time since the last report on Operation GamerWife. Time to check in and report on progress. All things were looking nominal – that is, until I brought out Takenoko. Light strategy, fun theme, low spite, and great components should have made this an easy win for OGW. But instead there was frustration. In fairness, though, it had nothing to do with Takenoko. After a further play, the game went over much better with her. Instead, it seems the Wife has become more competitive now that she’s exploring more boardgames.
Up front, I want to clarify that competitiveness is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s essential to a good gaming experience. When I play, I definitely go for the win. I’ll use every opportunity the game and the rules provide in order to achieve victory. But, at the end of the game, whether I actually win or lose is largely insignificant to me. What’s fun is the challenge and play of the game. Win or lose? It’s really beside the point.
Lately, though, the Wife has been very concerned about winning. Not just striving for the win, but actually being the winner at the end. While she still enjoys games like Rivals for Catan, she has noticeably more fun while winning than when losing. I think the trouble is that when she makes a mistake in the game, she views it as evidence that she’s “not good” or “dumb” or some other negative adjective. When, really, it’s a simple mistake. I make tons of them! And, when she loses, I think she tends to see it as being “less than” her opponent. I’ve talked before about how the game itself is fun, not the winning of losing and she agrees in the abstract. But in practice, it’s a bit different.
I got out into an early lead in Takenoko thanks largely to the fact that I’d played the game a few times before. So she tended to feel that she was “losing” from early on. She never really recovered and I don’t think she had much fun at all. In fact, I do believe the phrase, “I hate this game” was muttered near the end. Once the game completed, I complimented her on her score (which was 32; pretty good for a first play) and didn’t announce mine. We talked about it afterward (like civil people do) and she admitted she was in a bad mood anyway and actually wanted to try Takenoko again when she was feeling better.
In the end, it was actually a fairly positive experience and we had a good time playing it a second round through. But it seems that the challenge of Operation GamerWife has changed. No longer am I breaking down the resistance to trying and enjoying boardgames. That beast has largely been subdued and the Wife has several games that she enjoys and even asks for. Instead, now I’m making a foray into gaming etiquette. Now the challenge seems to be to get her to have a good time even if she ends up losing. I will strategize, implement, and report back.