7 Jan 2012

Thoughtfulness In Playing Games

Submitted by Stephen Winters

On the first Friday of each month we open our home to our friends, neighbors and people from church who want to come over and play table games. Last night was game night at our house. Our living room and kitchen were filled with food,  tables, chairs, games, and people. It was a lot of fun.

During the earlier part of the night I had been playing another game. After that game ended, I looked around at what the others in the room were playing to see if there was some game I could join. 

For much of the night many people played a fun game called "What am I?" In the game you had a word written by someone else taped to your forehead. Then you'd ask other people in the game yes-and-no questions so that you could guess your word. For example, some of the questions might be similar to, "Am I a living thing?" or "Am I an animal?" or "Am I larger than a house?" or "Am I in this room?"

This game caused me some concern. In the game many of the people had very common words, such as apple, key chain, and horse on their foreheads. Three of the words (amoeba, Butterfingers, and bunion) concerned me because they were either uncommon or hard to guess. I wondered if the writers of the words had given any thought about how the people guessing the words would be affected. For example, how many people would even think of an amoebe, let alone know how to describe it. Then we have "Butterfingers", the name of a specific candy. Think of how many kinds of candy are made. Once a person might eventually guess "candy", how much longer would it take to guess the name of that specific candy. Lastly, let's look at the word "bunion". Who uses this word nowadays in regular conversation? How many people can clearly explain what it is? I had to look up the definition in a dictionary. Now let's think about the affects of the words upon the players. If a person receives a word that is very hard to guess, she might have that same word for the entire night and never be able to guess it. How would that make her feel?

When I saw those words on three heads, I suggested to the group they have guidelines about what type of words that they use. My thought was to use common everyday words (instead of very little used words like amoebe), words that are generic rather than specific (such as candy, rather than Butterfingers), and words that most people can guess in a reasonable amount of time. Some thought should be given to the words, rather than just the first word that comes into one's head. However, one of the men spoke out, "It is fine, we are just having fun." Since no one else said anything and I wasn't involved in the game, I let it drop. But I've been giving it a lot of thought since then. This brings me to the thought of having rules in games.

Some children and people often like to play spontaneous games with no clear rules. They don't want to define the game in advance. But, every game, even an impromptu game, has rules. They are either known or unknown, spoken or unspoken, thought out nor not. Without thoughtfulness, these rules can be fair or unfair. When they are not clearly stated in the beginning, then they are often dictated by the most dominant personalities within any situation. ******

When multiple people play a new game that only has vague rules, each person has a general sense of how the game should go, even if they haven't thought about it. In other words, each person has a subconscious set of rules that govern their sense of what is right and wrong. In a game with no apparent rules, there are still rules which haven't been clarified or expressed. This type of game may often follow the inner rules of the most dominant and outspoken person in the game. This person may control the flow of the game. If he is immature, then he may (subtly or obviously) direct the course of the game to his liking or to his advantage. The seeming "lack of rules" (which are actually hidden rules) can and often does cause injured feelings and damaged relationships.

Some games, such as this "What am I" game, seem to be governed by whatever gets the most laughs. There is nothing wrong with playing games that cause people to laugh a lot. That is a lot of fun. However, often times the things that embarrass others gets the most laughs. Those who are laughing sometimes don't think about how their laughing may affect other people. This may be caused by a lack of thoughtfulness.

Thoughtfulness is the act of giving advance thought to one's actions or behaviors. Consideration is the act of considering how one's actions will affect other people. To be kind to others, even in a game situation, we must thinking about how the flow of the game affects everyone in the game.

When people play a predefined game, such as a card game or a board game, (hopefully) the rules of the game have already been thought out and written in a way to be thoughtful and considerate of all the players.

In human interactions, such as playing games, advance thought should be given to what we do and how others would be affected. This would prevent or minimize wounding those around us. But, more than that, we need to think about how to bless others in all that we do.

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