Games People Play

Hey, hope everyone is enjoying the blog. The goal is to keep doing it and build up readership. I’m not going to stray from the idea of varying the topics. It won’t be a specialty blog (focused on Bible study or audio equipment or whatever) but I do welcome your suggestions.If you’re reading this Jeremy I’ll get to the music genre thing, promise.

OK so I went to John Sheldon’s “gam-ing” connection group. Before anything else I want to say I really enjoyed it and look forward to next week. Thanks John, Karla and the other attendees. Funny thing though, I wanted to join an “ing” group (this summer’s groups are activity based instead of topic based) but I didn’t qualify for any of them. “Golden Corral-ing” is for married folk. “Grill-ing”, I should be trying to lose weight. “Terrorist Hunt-ing”, not good with guns or military exercises. “Marathon-ing”, can’t do 25 miles a week. I don’t even want to think about “Ninja-ing” or “MMA-ing” or “Extreme Competitive Coupon-ing” where contestants, I mean group members fight over a limited number of coupons and then make a mad dash to Publix to see who can get $100 of groceries for the least amount of money the quickest.

Next summer I’m going to start an “ing” group of my own. “Argu-ing”. Simple idea really, I bring up a divisive topic (example: Barack Obama’s brand of socialism will save the American economy and usher in the next golden age”) and shout “GO!”. Now since I’m above all this partisan bickering I stay out of it. Until the argument looks like its winding down. So everyone is calming down and kind of agreeing that the premise is kind of silly and I’ll say something like “Many people seem to think that Republicans really oppose President Obama’s ideas because if poor people get sick, no great loss. That’s what the ER and Dr.Oz’s show is for. Any responses?” And here we go again. The best part? Even if everyone in the room is on the same side they’ll argue in unison against the idea and the advocate for the idea THAT ISN”T IN THE ROOM! And they’ll assign all sorts of stuff to the ideas of the invisible foe. Pure genius.

So I joined the “gam-ing” group and I was like “games, this should be fun”. Then I got there and remembered something. I remembered being in many, many social gatherings. And at these social gatherings games will be introduced and played. When those games are being played I remember doing my best to avoid playing them. Now I’m part of a group that is based on playing games.

Funny story: I was at a “Mark Sheldon Appreciation Party” (he throws several of these a year for himself*). A person I was interested in dating was also there (like usual, no luck). Well as usual simply mingling and talking wasn’t enough, a game was introduced. I don’t know what the game was, it doesn’t matter to the story. It was a game and I wasn’t all that interested in playing. For two reasons, maybe three (that’s kind of a Proverbs joke there, poorly executed). One, I of course am honor bound to avoid games in social groups (the current group being an obvious exception). Two, the game probably required something of me I wasn’t comfortable doing (we’ll get back to that). Three, I was talking to a chick and this chick was NOT into this game (or me as it happens and we won’t mention it again, IOW we won’t get back to that). But somebody noticed I was trying not to play. And for whatever reason (maybe I’m a lovable fuzzball) they made it a goal to make sure I was playing. Here’s the thing, they invited my female friend to play and she said “no”. They understood the “no” to mean that she was in fact not interested in playing this game and they bothered her no further. They asked me to play the game, I answered something akin to :no” but my “no” was taken as a unbreakable commitment to participate in the game to the utmost of my ability. I even pointed out the discrepancy in responses to the respective “nos” but nonetheless I was roped into the game.

Actually the game was fun, truth be told I enjoyed the attention and the back and forth and it probably wouldn’t have been an enjoyable night if I chose not to play. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind playing games now.

I have another gaming story. Two if you’re lucky. A few years ago I was a part of a connection group. The group was going to visit a sick friend in the hospital. This was right before Christmas. I thought we were supposed to meet at 7. I was wrong. I get there and Mark and the group had left. But Pastor Gary and Shawn, Jacob & Cammie and Scott and Renee were there. I knew them but not extremely well. But I wasn’t going to be rude so I didn’t just take off. I sat down to a card game. Don’t know what the game was but it was enjoyable enough. Then they decided to play “spoons”. Seems innocent enough, less spoons than people, snatch them up or you are out. So we play and I guess spoons is akin to MMA as I was scratched, clawed. bumped and abused. Jacob, he’s a little dude with a guitar. Don’t ask him to get the spoons, he was rough. I couldn’t believe it. No more spoons for me.

Last game story, I remember Pastor Jolly (still going strong BTW). He was my first real pastor. My first memory of him was when he found me in the sanctuary, put his arm around me and said “We don’t drink Pepsi in the sanctuary”. Not mean-spirited, very kind but they didn’t allow Pepsi in the sanctuary (they switched to coke after the Madonna Like a Prayer scandal). My second memory of him was during a card game both of us were in. He was cheating. I call it “fun cheating” and I’ll explain. 

Before I finish let me explain something about cheating. First off I’m not going to cheat at all in our group John. Just in case you were worried.;) Second, I think there are three types of cheating. The first type is cheating. You’re disobeying the rules and the spirit of the game to get an advantage. The second type we’ll call “wink or acceptable” cheating. Yes its against the rules and if you are caught you will be penalized but its just accepted that people will try to do it. I’m not saying its right, I’m saying this is the attitude among the people playing the game. Some might call it “gamesmanship”. Baseball among most competitive sports will have disputes on this. Some view “stealing signs” (Google it LOL) as acceptable, others think its cheap. Those who think its OK will say “If you don’t want your signs stolen, disguise them better”. The third type of cheating is “fun cheating”. The cheater isn’t trying to gain some advantage and his or her actions probably aren’t getting them an advantage anyway. Its just part of the fun of the game.

Yes Pastor Jolly was “cheating”: at cards. But it was all in good fun. He wasn’t trying to win, he was trying to make people laugh at his antics. I thought it was funny and that endeared him to me. This is a guy who knows how to have fun (as long as the sanctuary is soft drink free). Another similar memory, every Thanksgiving and Christmas my mom and grandmother would play a “Lord of the Rings” matching game. They’d start off playing right, they would claim (at least my grandmother would) that they wouldn’t cheat and peak. But every year it broke down into a cheat fest on both sides. Not to win, but to have fun. Which is why we play games. I looked forward to that every holiday.

Some might say even “fun cheating” is wrong. Maybe, certainly it can lead to hard feelings if everyone isn’t having fun. But in these cases everyone was having fun, including me (playing or spectating). I never took this as a justification to cheat to win. I never thought it was OK to cheat. If you can’t win straight up you didn’t win, regardless of the score. I point this out not to make a case for “fun cheating”but to show how games can affect our lives in ways we never know. Pastor Jolly is a dear friend of mine, not because he cheated at cards but because he let me take showers at his house, allowed me and my friends to visit whenever, always acted with integrity, was a man after God’s own heart (even if I didn’t agree with him on a few of his views) and treated me as a family member. But my first notice of him was that night playing cards, I had a positive impression of him. Did it help our friendship? Who can say but it didn’t hurt.

I learned something tonight? It was obvious but somehow I missed it. The reason I avoided certain games was because I was afraid to lose or fail at something. But failure isn’t the end of the world. Tonight’s game had me (and the other players) hum familiar tunes, play puppeteer with a partner, draw with our eyes closed and other stuff.I failed at many of those things. Yet I still had fun and nobody thought less of me because I failed.

See what I did there? I went from silly hijinks to deep thoughts. Where else you gonna get that?

Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed it tell someone (if you want). Have a good night.

* Mark Sheldon actually does not throw appreciation parties for himself. The author regrets the error.

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