Friday, June 29, 2007

Boy, I stink at this, and golly it was fun

We played High Society again this week as a short game to cap the evening. Once again I lost. I scored no points whatsoever. As readers of last week’s column may remember, I frequently do poorly at auction games with unclear ending times. I keep pulling back from paying high prices in an auction while thinking that in the long run my thriftiness will net me some bargains. But there frequently is no long run.

But I still had a good time.

This week’s question is why we like games we are no darn good at. I can think of several games that I enjoy in spite of my poor performance. Hammer of the Scots, Imperial, Struggle of Empires, and Age of Empires III are games that I like—but have never won.

I think one reason we can enjoy such games is that we believe we could win them sometime in the future. Even though I haven’t won these games, I never thought that I was out of my depth playing them. I either came in close behind the winner, or I ended up with a good idea of what I would do differently next time.

My situation in these games never seemed hopeless—at least before the final turns. In fact, other players often seem to think that I will win Age of Empires—until Charlie comes zooming up from behind with his sneaky colonization strategy.

I contrast this with my one and only play of Age of Steam. By the second turn, I knew I had made a major mistake and that my position was hopeless. I spent the rest of the game pouting. I don’t believe I will ever enjoy a game that makes me feel stupid. I am certainly willing to try Age of Steam again to see if my IQ has improved, but games that are unforgiving of players may find that players reciprocate that sentiment.

It also helps if the games we are lousy at are short. I will happily play High Society again and again to see if I can overcome my own thriftiness streak and actually score some points. But if I can’t, I still haven’t lost more than a half hour or so of my time.

It also helps to have a sense of humor about yourself. To be amused at your own occasional ineptitude.

In fact, I’m still smiling at the though of last night’s low score. I’m up for another game of High Society right now. Want to play? I can almost guarantee I will lose.

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