Tales of a Married Gamer – Losing at Losing

Greetings and welcome to another Tales of a Married Gamer.  Around the time you are reading this article, I will be standing in a room in a hotel in Seattle talking about the economics of sport along with many of the great minds from my field.  I will also be taking in several Mariners vs Cubs baseball games, where the big question will be what happens when two horrible teams clash?

In my last Tales of a Married Gamer, I discussed the concept of how to lose at a game without displaying to others that you are losing.  After my wife read my article, I detected something in her mood that she seemed to be hiding.  So I pushed her on the topic, and she openly admitted that she will often change her tactics in how she plays in accordance with how people behave.  I was curious, so this article will actually focus on the discussion my wife and I had on this subject during our eight hour car ride.

sore-loser-300x195First, we talked about the concept of losing.  In some sense, she said that she doesn’t try to lose on purpose, but that she will focus on playing at the level of the other people at the table.  As an example, she noted that I had won the last two games of Settlers of Catan.  At this point, I felt like driving off of the highway, as I had thought I had won these two games fair and square.  As I straightened the car out on I-55, I asked her to explain in more detail.  This is what she said to me:

“You can tell a lot about a person’s personality by how they start playing the game.  Some people will be tentative and watch others carefully to try and understand the game.  Others will come out and try to be aggressive right away.  If someone is careful and trying to learn the game, I will hold back and let them play in a way that the game is enjoyable for everyone at the table.  If they have a good attitude and are friendly, I want to return the favor.  However, if they are aggressive, and have a bad attitude, I will try my hardest to beat them.”

At this point my wife paused, and I asked for an example.  She continued:

“For example, consider the last two games we played with person’s A and B (names withheld).  They are nice people and are not focused on blocking or attacking people when we play Catan.  Rather, they trade openly with others, and seem to want to have a good time.  Thus, I am readily willing to keep the game going and not try to beat them by blocking them.  On the other hand, do you remember person C (an individual we are no longer friends with).  When she started playing she would purposefully block and attack certain people that she did not like.  I realized the first time we played Catan with her, that she was very aggressive and was focused on just giving people a hard time.  Because of that, I played to combat her aggressiveness and not let her win.”

I thought for a moment, and realized that my last two victories had come because of my wife being nice to our guests.  At that moment I was not sure if I was a big jerk for winning, or a fool for thinking I was good enough to beat my wife twice in a row.  The concepts she brings up are interesting.  In some sense, when I had lost on purpose before I had done so because of a lack of interest.  When my wife had lost, she was doing so because she wanted to improve relations with others and let people have a good time.

I’m sure that some readers will disagree with the tactics which my wife used.  However, considering my last article, I cannot fault her for this type of behavior, as I myself have used similar tactics.  So my question to the readers this week: “Do you ever lose on purpose (or hold back when playing games), and why do you do so?”

Thanks for reading, and if the feedback is good I might continue with more discussion with my wife on our gaming life.

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