Playing Well: Golden Rule

This is part of a series on how to play games well: Stoicly and enjoyably. Not to triumph, but to have fun.

This one is simple. Merely putting yourself in the other players’ shoes is the key to winning or losing well. Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment.

This is a very subjective rule and audience-dependent, but it’s flexibility is a feature. I’ll just give some examples of things that I find can often be off-putting and worth avoiding.

  • Taking overt pleasure in the conquest instead of the play.
  • Conversely, being angry, depressed, or obsessed about the fact that you’re losing.
  • Blaming luck.
  • Noting the cleverness of your own moves.
  • Suggesting that if a certain thing had happened differently, you would have totally won (obviously all players can construct fictional pasts where they won, but it’s not terribly interesting or helpful).
  • Similarly, the “I would have won in X more turns” argument.
  • Taking too long.

Now, these can all be done in good ways. It’s just that they can easily be unwanted.

Just think about the ideal behavior of someone you’ve just beaten. Now do that when you are beaten. Same for the ideal behavior of someone who’s just beaten you.

One interesting corollary here is that when you are doing well, it’s encouraged to note the bad luck of your losing opponent. Or if you’re doing poorly, how awesome a certain move of theirs was. It gives people the chance to talk about it without having brought it up (assuming you actually do want to talk about it :)).

Playing Well: No Stress Losing

This is part of a series on how to play games well: Stoicly and enjoyably. Not to triumph, but to have fun.

How to deal with failure? Everyone loses, but not always well.

One easy strategy is to realize that the past has already happened. It can’t be changed; period. Nor can the present really. You can control what will happen a nanosecond from now, but not what is happening this moment.

The past of a minute ago is as much a part of the historical record and unchangeable as “before you were born.” And no one sits around worrying about stuff that happened then. You just accept it as your time-inheritance.

So what’s the point in worrying about something you have no control over? Use the past to inform your future behavior, but don’t cry over spilt milk.

Don’t sit there depressed about what you’ve gotten yourself into. Just concentrate on how you’re going to dig yourself out or how you’ll do things differently next time.

In the same spirit, if someone just screwed you over, don’t stress about it to the point of ruling out cooperation in the future. Not that you should forget what happened, but dwelling on it will cause you to miss opportunities for collaboration.

One useful exercise is to imagine that you just walked into the room and took over a spot for someone that left. Then ask yourself, “Now what?” Because that’s what you do every second: take over from a younger, handsomer you.

Ideally this way of thinking about the past will make you happier. You can live in the moment and not stress about the foolish mistakes of you-from-two-minutes-ago. Though hopefully you can learn from them.