Monday, May 2, 2011
The Games I Don't Like to Play
As a child, I loved games, especially board games. A lot of the game I played as a kid are still around – Monopoly, Clue, The Game of Life, and Chutes and Ladders, not to mention Checkers and chess.
In 1976, my wife and I were this young couple living in Houston, and I was in the middle of a mystery reading binge -- Dashiell Hammett, Philip Marlowe, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, G.K. Chesterton and his Father Brown stories, Dorothy Sayers, S.S. Van Dine and a lot more. One weekend night, we had a bunch of friends come over to play a mystery game. Now this was several years before someone dreamed up a “mystery game in a box” and, yes, I should have copyrighted the game I put together. But I wrote a mystery, worked out roles, developed clues and hid them all over our apartment. Each clue contained a clue to the next place to find a clue.
It was great fun, and people tripped all over each other (it wasn’t a big apartment). I don’t remember what the mystery was but I do remember who won – a lawyer and his wife. Everyone else ate and drank and socialized while they played the game; he went straight for the solution. It was a costume party as well, with Holmes and Watson, Charlie and Jimmy Chan, Nick and Nora Charles and a few others. (And we had prizes!)
Then, when we had kids, I played board games, card games, hide-and-go-seek games, and who knows what all else. My oldest was ultra-competitive (my oldest is still ultra-competitive) and so I had to make sure he won some and lost some. He hated losing. He still hates losing.
I’m not sure when I stopped playing or enjoying games. But I did. Perhaps it was when they became so serious. Like at work. I discovered games at work in my very first job after college graduation. I was amazed at how much some people would spend playing games in the office when they were supposed to be working. Of course, they tended to get the promotions, too. They had learned early on that games were important.
It’s a lesson I’ve never learned. Or, better said, it’s a lesson I refused to learn. About 30 years ago, I interviewed for a job in another part of the country, spending an entire day talking with the people I would be working with. When I got home, the headhunter who arranged it all called and asked me what I thought. “Well,” I said, “they’re very nice.” He pressed for more details. “I think they’re going to get their lunch eaten,” I said. “They really don’t have a good sense of who they are or what they’re doing.”
He laughed (and this was his client). “What kind of predatory instincts do you have?” he asked.
“I don’t,” I replied. “I know exactly what mean – that I could walk in there and even at my age run circles around them, and my boss wouldn’t know what hit him.”
“And you can’t do that?” he asked.
“Oh, I can do that,” I said. “I’m perfectly capable of doing that. But I can’t. I simply can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
He thought I was missing a great opportunity. He was right.
What he didn’t know was that I hated the games, and no opportunity was worth that.
To see more posts on games, please visit the One Word Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. The links will be live at 10 p.m. Central time tonight.
Photograph: Looking In by Peter Griffin via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.