I am not a competitive person. I do not feel the burning need to win a game, or a race, or a contest. Sure, it’s lovely to unexpectedly win something. But when I tell a friend – or even an acquaintance – that I am happy for them when they get a promotion, when they tell me the good news of a pending grandchild, or when they win something, I really and truly am.
For this reason, though, I have never been all that good at board games: it doesn’t matter all that much to me whether I win or lose. I just don’t have that killer instinct; that ‘go for the jugular’ that is so crucial if you plan to win.
I really just like to play the game.
I think I may have learned this during my childhood, playing Monopoly with my friends on our rickety old front porch. Enclosed with glass windows, our porch was perfect for playing board games for hours on end when it rained non-stop for days, and there was little else for us to do. We never played the game exactly by the rules: for one thing, the goal was to play the same game all week-end while ensuring that no one lost all their money and had to leave. It was raining out, after all: leaving was not an option. We would play until suppertime, and then carefully lay down our cards and our money, leaving our pieces in place and putting up some type of barrier so that the cat couldn’t get at them. And then we would all make a plan to meet up at a designated time the next morning to continue playing.
It takes a lot of cooperation and teamwork to play the same game of Monopoly for several days. It also takes kindness and compassion. The richest players sometimes had to reduce their rent if a really poor player landed on a property with hotels. Sometimes, one player would loan another player enough money to cover their debts, ‘just until they could pay it back’. If almost everyone was struggling, we agreed that the owner of Park Place and Board Walk (the most expensive properties on the board) should waive the fees altogether. Landing on either of those – especially if they included a hotel – was a game ender. Any purchases of property were carefully considered: how was this purchase going to affect the poorest players? Was it best to just leave that property for sale for a while longer? And everyone had the opportunity to improve their fortunes: any monies owed to the bank went instead into the centre of the board: whoever landed on ‘Free Parking’ got the money. Everyone cheered if a really poor player won the cash bonanza. And if the bank ran out of money, we simply made more.
I’m not sure how we never got bored playing the same game for days on end, with the same pieces and the same players, but we never did. The goal was larger than just winning: it was our chance to be together on that cozy porch as the rain beat against the window panes. The goal was to ensure the continuity of the little society we had created: to keep it strong, vibrant and united.
The first time I played Monopoly as it was intended to be played, I was in my twenties. To my shock, I was out of the game – relegated to the couch until the others had finished playing – within twenty minutes. I was so hurt: I crept into the bathroom and cried silently. It didn’t matter to me that someone else won, but I couldn’t understand why they had ‘kicked me out’. I had just wanted to play!
I know now that our version of Monopoly was a poor preparation for real life. I know that none of us became business-minded entrepreneurs, playing the game the way that we did. I know this isn’t how life works. But wouldn’t it be lovely if it were? If we all just pitched in to help our neighbour; if we stopped to consider how a gesture we are making in our lives is going to affect those around us? If we set things up so that everyone gets a chance to win the bonanza in the middle of the board once in a while?
If we all just played to play, and not to win?
Patti Moore Wilson © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com