Finding the Play (in Playing Games)


For most of my life, I have loved playing games (board games, card games, etc.) but I a while ago took a bit of a game playing hiatus when I realized I wasn’t playing the way I loved to play.

I love playing games when everyone has fun and the deeper intention behind the game playing is spending time and connecting with the people playing.

Yes, I like to win – it is exciting, but having fun throughout the game is much more important to me. The collective level of enjoyment is key.

Over the last five or so years, I’ve been playing games with more competitive game players, and about two years ago, I began to realize that I wasn’t having as much fun – hence, the hiatus.

One factor behind my lack of fun was a game frequently played amongst my friends called The Settlers of Catan. In this game, I felt like one person was always left having a crappy time because the dynamics of the game left one player with very little opportunities to make moves. And, whether this person was me or not, I felt the collective level of enjoyment was seriously impacted.

A second factor was feeling like the “play” aspect of playing games was lost when people would get mad at other people for moves they made and when players would take 10-15 minutes (or more) to agonize over strategy before making their move.

And, a third factor was taking on the focus of winning myself and feeling my self-esteem take a hit every time I lost. Was I not smart enough to win? Did I not have the intelligent to play strategically? Am I dumber than everyone else?

I have recently been getting back into playing games, and late last fall, I had an epiphany around my game playing.

I was playing Puerto Rico, and in one turn, I had two possible moves – both were of the same benefit to me, but one of the moves made it so the player after me wouldn’t be able to move. I was leaning towards the move that allowed the other player to move because not being able to make a move sucks!

But, just before I moved, there was some rustling amongst the other players – trying to draw my attention to the opportunity to block the player after me. I realized that they thought I didn’t see it – and they were right. I didn’t see the opportunity to block a player; I saw the opportunity to let another player play.

In that that moment, I clearly saw how my game playing is different. There isn’t a lack of awareness or intelligence; I simply move from a different place and look at things in a different light.

Gaining this understanding led me to a place where I feel more connected to my motivations and intentions, and I am more confident and joyful playing board games because I am consciously playing in a way that honours what I value and believe in.