I’m not talking about metaphorical games, like the kind you play with people’s hearts. I’m not talking video games either. I’m talking real, literal group games.
Pictionary, Charades, Clue, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, Balderdash, Candyland – you name it, I hate it.
I hid this passionate part of my personality for most of my life, until one day a few years ago I suddenly felt the freedom to say it:
“Actually, I don’t really like games.”
“But why?” people ask, scandalized, as if I just said I don’t like babies, or I think Mussolini was a decent guy.
Let me explain this with more detail and clarity than I normally get to, when I have to stumble over my words to insist upon commiting a social faux pas:
The social world is, to me, kind of like a choose-your-own adventure game.
“Sally just asked you to join her and some friends for dinner tonight. Do you:
A. Apologetically explain you already have plans – even though your plans are to watch a movie with your cat.
B. Enthusiastically agree to join and trust you’ll feel like socializing once dinner comes around.
C. Tell her you love hanging out with her but you just need a night to yourself.”
The social world is set of rules and consequeces in itself. And when I’m not feeling myself, my auto-pilot shuts down and I have to calculate every single response to every single action.
Like a really fast really bad game of chess.
Actually, I like chess. I’m not very good at it, but it’s a slow game, that invites pondering, gives you an opportunity to be silent without being awkward, and has room for free fellowship to take place, whether with your opponent or with the poor saps who are hanging out with people playing chess.
It’s the same with Scrabble – the other game I like.
Those aforementioned board games and group games – they’re all about quick action and interaction, in a very structured way with lots of rules. Like a camp counselor or freshman orientation leader jumping up and down with a huge smile telling you how you’re all going to be BEST friends (and then you play some really awkward physical games and once it’s over you pretend you’ve never met any of the people you played with).
I don’t like rules.
I’ve accepted that social interactions contain inherent unspoken rules, with cushion or strictness depending on the situation, and at times I appreciate it. But you know what I hate more than rules?
Most group games are rules + directed small talk. They’re called party games for a reason – they keep parties from getting awkward once the initial small talk dies down.
But it’s an extra layer of people-rules. And it’s hard enough for me to deal with the people-rules of the choose your own adventure game of life.
That’s why, if you invite me to a party or a gathering where there are going to be games, I’m going to beg you to let me sit on the sidelines. Sure, I’d rather have a meandering philosophical/intellectual conversation that enables me to make a deep connection with one or two people, but I understand that people like games.
And my inner anthropologist thinks it’s just fun to watch.