Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The easy conversation facilitated by analog games makes them a great activity to do with a date. The game takes the pressure off making small talk – if you have something to say, you can say it, but if you don’t, you can turn your attention to the game. This makes for a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. 

     Every day we have choices. Our choices reflect our interests, our ability to focus, our biological, emotional and intellectual needs and our desire for love and belonging. Some people have no choice about their leisure activities, as they are in the mainstream and their work dominates their time. When they have time for leisure, their decision for play is often based more on their needs than their desire to play.  For those of us who are retired or who are not in the working world, we can choose any “play” activity we want. The only deterrent might be financial if we want to ski or race cars, for example.

     A close friend was asked to be a substitute in a card group the other day. She is not a game player, and certainly not a card lover. After three and a half hours with a group of “nice-enough” ladies, she got home and was aghast at all the time she had spent playing with not one but five decks of cards. My immediate reaction would conceivably be labeled “snob,” but I thought to myself, “Why would anyone spend all that time playing a game?” There’s no physical exercise benefit, in this case, no intellectual challenge, no sunshine and fresh air reward, no sense of accomplishment—it’s just putting cards here and there according to the rules and chatting with the people present in between. Why not just get together and chat and forget the cards? 

     Now Bridge players would strongly disagree, but Bridge is a whole other animal—in fact, in my humble opinion, as a former bridge player, it’s a cult. Bridge players play for the intellectual challenge. Many play to show off how smart they think they are. Some play to prove they can still remember the cards. Others play because they think it’s a status symbol. In my experience, the result of our social bridge parties almost ended two marriages and gave me indigestion from the tension of stupid leads and dumb bids. Our group changed to a Gourmet Dinner Club, and everyone went home fed and happy.

     But back to the basic board and card games. Psychologists have studied the reasons people enjoy playing games. They are as follows:

  1. to relieve stress
  2. to compete
  3. to socialize without the tension of awkward pauses
  4. to combat boredom
  5. to feel like you belong to something
  6. to win money
  7. to avoid loneliness
  8. to have power over others
  9.  to bond

      I cannot imagine sitting inside someone’s house playing a game when the sun is shining and your feet still work. Why not go for a walk, a run, a hike and try to remember where you went. Go with a friend. You would reap the same benefits of socializing but you could enjoy mother nature as well as getting fit.

     I avoid people whose only goal in life is to one-up or to win. Usually these people win so they can brag to others about how smart, how talented or how clever they are. I can’t stand braggarts. Very often these people are so intense and so driven to win, they take all the pleasure out of the process, and the socializing is a joke. Ask anyone who has watched an angry husband give his wife a dirty look for bidding the wrong suit. Do I like to win? Yes. Is it the most important thing about participating in an activity? No. How about playing for excellence, for fun, for bonding with your fellow human?

     I have found that, in retirement, many people are lost without their identity. Those who used to be CEOs, big shots, company presidents, business owners don’t know who they are without that power and status. These people love to compete in any game or activity where they can assume their previous role as “boss,” to hold onto the feeling of “best” or “all powerful.” This is a total turn-off to me. Get over it. We all lost our identity. Do something to better the world or give joy to others instead of feeding your own pathetic egos.

     Now just because I am not a game player, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think people should play games. If that’s your thing, go for it. Who am I to judge? Hmm. I think I just did. Shame on me.