All of us gamers, whether we’re casual gamers or tournament players, have probably met the “un-fun” opponent. This is the guy or girl who can’t seem to lighten up and just play the game, who either loses and rage-flips the table, or wins and rubs it in everyone’s face for the next few hours. The un-fun opponent can also manifest as a player who overthinks every move for fear of losing the game, or who quits a game when the mere shadow of defeat falls across the table.
None of these all-too-common gamer attitudes make a game fun to play for the other person. I should know; I’m one of those who quits before I lose, and overthinks far too often, and so I see how my negative reactions suck the life out of a game for my opponents. So, today, I thought I’d challenge myself and all of us gamers to try being a little more fun–not necessarily playing more casually, but making all gaming more entertaining and less draining.
#3: Dare to Smile a Little More
A simple smile at your opponent can work wonders for a gaming atmosphere. When you’re both (or all) super-focused on the game, smiles can fall by the wayside, easily forgotten in the heat of tabletop battle. But if you take the time to smile at your opponent, you’re reminding him or her that you’re human, and that this is a game rather than a life-or-death situation.
This little jolt of positive emotion in the middle of a tense game can lighten the mood and help everyone have a better time. You don’t have to tell a ton of jokes or make silly faces, nor do you have to lose all concentration on the game for a moment…just smile. You wouldn’t believe what a positive effect that can have on another player.
#2: Dare to Try New Strategies
If you’ve got an amazing, butt-whooping deck or team of figures which you love to play in tournaments and casual games alike, that’s wonderful. But don’t limit yourself to playing only “the stuff that wins.” The best gamers are not the ones who have flawless win/loss records, but the ones who try out all types of strategies to discover new ways to win, new combos that work, and new modes of self-expression.
When you attempt new strategies, you flex your gaming creativity muscle, which makes any game more interesting. No longer do you have to rely on the Internet to tell you which hot new strategy is winning everything this month (AHEM, lookin’ at you, Friday Night Magic tourneys). Instead, your strategy comes from within you, and can be tweaked in any way you personally wish. It gives you a certain amount of freedom, even within a tournament format!
#1: Dare to Lose
“WHAT?!” you’re probably thinking. But just as in life, losing in gaming can teach us quite a bit more about our strategies, if we don’t allow ourselves to stew in anger and misery first.
This might be hard for some of us gamers to grasp (it’s hard for me!), but winning all the time doesn’t make us the best human beings on earth, nor does losing all the time mean that we are wastes of space. When we win so often that it seems like a foregone conclusion, it can suck the interest out of the game, both for us and our would-be opponents. No one wants to play us in a “quick game” because both parties know how it will end; the game is no longer fun for us because there is no challenge in it anymore.
That’s why I suggest being willing to lose a little more often. This does not mean “throwing the game,” but perhaps using your old favorite strategy pieces in new ways. Maybe avoid using that old reliable combo of figures that wins the game every time, and instead rely on some of your backup figures, to see how well they perform. Maybe change out a card or two in that well-oiled deck you lovingly use in tournaments, and see what results. If you lose, so what? There’s always another game. (Plus, when you play against newbies, it’s important not to thrash them in their first game–who would ever want to get soundly defeated by an expert when you’re still learning the game?)
Bottom Line: Be Human, not a Winning Machine
All three of these suggestions boil down to allowing humanity to creep back into our gaming. We likely game among friends, so why not treat them like friends instead of opponents? We likely started playing these games because they were fun, so why let gamer-rage and overthinking take the place of fun?
I’m stepping all over my own toes with this post, because I’m still working on becoming a more fun opponent. But I think if we all really worked on behaving more humanly toward each other, we could end up having a lot more fun even at “serious gaming” tournaments. Isn’t that a worthy goal?