Becoming a Better Loser

I am a gamer. I love video games, tabletop games and playing sports. I’ve played all types of games from simple games for your mobile phone to complex Euro style board games. Games are an important part of my life. I’ve made many friends around board game tables and on sports teams. Enjoying games together has been a lifetime connection point with my family and is even an important part of my marriage. So yes, I’m a gamer girl: I love playing games; they are a major part of my self-care and social life.

Photo by Evelyn
Game: Five Minute Dungeon

Despite the important role that games have in my life, I struggle with “comparing mind” that occasionally takes the joy out of the experience. I’ll freely admit that I can be a sore loser. I hate to lose but I also – somehow – struggle with winning. I often beat myself up for losing, feeling like I should have figured out some move earlier in the game or I should have prepared my game play to be ready for a stroke of bad luck. So yes, I’m a sore loser but what’s almost worse is that I also often don’t allow myself to enjoy winning. Winning feels more like a relief and less like a victory. It often feels like I’ve managed to hit the bare minimum expectation and didn’t just fail. I often don’t feel “good” when I win and occasionally even feel guilty for beating my friends or family.

My husband and I love tabletop gaming, and this habitual behavior of mine was ruining enough of our precious Parents Nights Out that I knew I had to do something about it. My issue isn’t completely uncommon. While many people either can’t or won’t admit that they are sore losers, I have seen serious board gamers adapt to their own preferences and style – including how well (or not) they handle defeat. This often means focusing on a certain style of game and for a while that’s what I did with my husband; instead of buying and playing more competitive games, we focused on cooperative games where we could work together to win as a team. (Side note: Pandemic is a great coop game and perfect for the current global situation. I highly recommend it). But, my comparing mind knows no bounds and even in the most relaxing, non-competitive games, my brain can still find something to feel sore about. I realized that I needed to shift my perspective in order to help myself be a happier winner and a much less sore loser. These are the techniques that have helped me.

Focus on the Journey

For my husband and me, gaming is a treat that we don’t get to enjoy as often as we would like. We’ve always been video gamers but we didn’t get seriously (read: starting to fill our bookshelves with games) into tabletop gaming until after our daughter was born. She was just a tiny newborn when we found Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop show omg YouTube and realized there was so much more to tabletop gaming than Monopoly or even Settlers of Catan.

For us, each game we play is an exciting shared experience. Each game is like a journey that we go on together, complete with ups and downs, moments of despair and moments of joy. Shifting my focus from the outcome to the journey really helps me avoid getting hyper-focused on the result. Just as in life, the joy is in the journey. For me, the fun of a game is in the playing, not in the winning or losing.

We are all Different and Don’t Underestimate Luck

The truth is, in 2020, there are games for every brain. We live in an amazing time of gaming diversity, there is some flavor of game for everyone these days if you are willing to look around and try a few things to find what you enjoy. We all have strengths and weaknesses that often come through in gaming. Remembering this helps me to not take the result too personally.

Losing or winning a game doesn’t have to reflect some deep truth about my life and identity. Losing a game doesn’t mean that I’m stupid and winning doesn’t mean that I’m great. Plus, most games have some element of luck and that can be the weight that tips the scale in favor of the winning player. Luck is unpredictable, it adds an element of uncertainty to a game which helps increase our enjoyment. Honor and respect the role that luck plays.

Remember the Big Picture

One of my favorite leadership mottos comes from Simon Sinek: “start with why.” Starting with the “why” behind a task helps motivate a team and remembering your “why” helps you stick to your goals.

The “why” is just as important in gaming. Why do I play games? Why do I jump on any game night invite I get? For me, games are a fun way to connect with friends and family. When I take a game too seriously and find myself feeling angry when I lose or embarrassed when I win, the joy of the experience gets lost. I get caught up in scores and outcomes and forget why I love to play in the first place. It can be tough to do in the heat of the moment but if I can remember why I love to game, it helps me see the big picture and I‘m able to soften those strong feelings.

Gaming is a huge part of my life and self-care, it’s really important for me to focus on having fun and finding joy in the moment. I’ve decided not to let myself fall into my old habit of being a sore loser.

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