I loathe winning. Not the actual act of winning, but the concept of winning. The belief that winning is the most important aspect of [insert activity here]. When we play games as a family, it’s for one reason: to have fun. Sure, we keep score. The kids like to see who “wins”. But in our play, we are constantly flexible, changing rules to make the game last longer or to be more creative. Other than Solitaire, I can’t think of a single game that we play exactly by the official rules.
We recently had the opportunity to play a game of Scrabble with a group of good friends. We teamed up, adults with kids and nine of us sat down for a fun game. Whoops. Make that seven of us; turns out that one team was there to win and they play by the rules without exception. My kids have played “off the board” when they had a word that was close to working. We let our kids look at the dictionary before placing a word. Apparently these things are both “against the rules”.
Now, knowing that this is a very competitive family, I wasn’t surprised by their sheer determination to win. What I was surprised about is how quickly this game turned into a less than fun event for the other players. This wasn’t because the rest of us were “poor sports” and didn’t want to lose. Rather, the concept of cheering each player’s word placement was lost. Players no longer oohed and ahhed over a clever word. Their focus shifted to keeping track of points. While competitive players will likely say ‘that’s what the game’s about!’, I think it’s a shame.
It was an interesting look at two very different ways of doing things. And while I can see the drive that comes from wanting to win, I prefer to encourage the creativity that comes with playing a game for fun rather than points.
What about you? Have you ever been in a similar situation? Do you play to win? Or play for fun?