Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Gamer

I love to play games.

Not in the bad way you might be thinking. I don't like to manipulate people's emotions, or play pranks, or sit in front of a television or computer with a controller, or any of the other possibilities that spring to mind when the term "playing games" is mentioned.

I'm talking about an old fashioned, requires a card table, needs multiple players and a pen and paper for keeping score, GAME.

I've been an avid gamer since I was a small girl.

I have early memories of Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, and Sorry. After that are memories of Clue, where my dad devised a number system for my sister Joy because she wanted to play but couldn't read well enough, and one of my all time favorites, Columbo. (I am betting no one has even heard of that game, but my siblings and I could play it for hours.) Of course there are also the usual suspects; Monopoly, Life, Mouse Trap, Parcheesi, Scrabble, Risk, and Backgammon. And card games; Canasta, Spades, Hearts, Rook, etc. When my dad left for a missions trip to Africa for two weeks, he gave my brother and I each a deck of cards, and told us he wanted us to know how to shuffle by the time he got home. (we were 9 and 7 at the time) We practiced every day, and you better believe we knew how to shuffle when he walked in the door, stinky and tired and bearded, two weeks later.

When my daughter, Faith, was really little, I began passing along my game-love to her. She, I am proud to brag, could independently play Guess Who and Memory as a three year old. And she won with surprising regularity, even when I wasn't LETTING her win. Although, to be honest, I always let my kids win at Memory. Just last year, when Nate and I were playing a round of Memory-Superhero edition, I turned over a card with the Hulk on it, and then missed revealing the match, turning over Wolverine instead, and my sweet son, in his attempt to help me, shook his head and sighed. "Mom, you're not very good at this game. You have to REMEMBER where the other cards are if you want to win." (he was 5 at the time) I wonder how many year it will take him to figure out I was leaving the Hulk match for him to collect because I know Hulk is his favorite.

Faith is now 11, and she can play any game we pull out of our large, full to capacity, game closet. Clay is 9 and he can play almost all of them too. We frequently have "Martin family game night," and its one of our favorite things to do as a family.

You get the picture. I like games.

Its very competitive in our house too. (with three boys (well, four if you count my husband) how could it not be?) Faith is a typical first-born, and always wants to win, because nothing else is PERFECT, and I can hardly fault her for that, since I feel that way too. Although I will say, as a mom, its more important that we have a fun time playing than that I come out the victor...but only when my kids are playing against me. If we are on the same team, I want us to crush the competition, and when its a game with other adults, I definitely want to be the winner. I'm pretty good at games too, if I do say so myself. Not because there is anything special about me, but mostly because I've been playing games for my whole life, and practice makes perfect-ish.

The one person I almost never, ever, win against, is my dad. I don't remember when I was really small, if he 'threw' games for me or not, the way I do with my kids, but I do remember as I got older, knowing from the very beginning that it was a battle for second place on our Bausum family game nights.

He crushed us in Scrabble, and Monopoly, and especially Risk. And in Spades too. He is just good at games, which is partly because he, too, has been playing them his whole life, and partly because he's just really awesome. Somehow we never minded losing to him (well, not too much) because he was always a gracious winner. In fact, I remember one hand of Spades, when I was 11 or 12, where Daddy bid zero, and my brother and I both threw out small cards, causing him to take a trick and thereby lose points. "Man, you set me!" he exclaimed in surprise. Honest-to-goodness, I wanted to take my card back and play something else. He was just so sweet and accepting and not mad at all, and I, suddenly and only for a moment, wanted him to win.

Once, when I had strep throat, Daddy and I played a game of Axis and Allies. (a much more complicated version of Risk, complete with World War 2 war strategies and multiple hours of battling and maneuvering) This particular game is one that my dad excels at. Strategy and clever maneuvering are his forte. He almost always wins, no matter his opponent. In fact, shortly after Heath and I got married, we were playing it one Sunday afternoon, and I couldn't figure out what to do, so I called my dad on the phone (its important to note that I was in Indiana and my dad was in South Carolina at the time). After a few minutes of describing the board to him, he gave me the strategy I needed to eventually win the game. That was the last time Heath permitted me to call my SC home during a game. Anyway, back to the game when I had strep throat, I don't know if the antibiotics gave me extra super-luck, or if my dad was taking it easy on me because I was sick, but I beat him that day. I was 13 or 14 at the time, and that was the very last time I ever played Axis and Allies as an opponent of my father. It was 20 years ago. Might as well end on a high note, right?

By now you are probably wondering what this blog post has to do with anything, and where I am headed with all these game stories.

Last week my dad came over for supper (my mom is out of town) and we decided to play a game afterward. It was me, Daddy, and Heath, and the winner of both games we played was...

ME!

After the first game, my dad shook his head and said, "She thumped us!" And after the second game, he offered me a high five of congratulations. (I may or may not have floated around the house in sheer joy for the rest of the evening. That is how rare it is for me to win a game against him,) He came over for another meal a few days ago, followed by another game. He had never played that one before, and after we taught it to him...he beat us soundly. Sigh.

Winning against my dad is just as great as losing to him, because he's a good sport either way. And this is a lesson I am now attempting to pass along to my kids.

Still waiting for the moral of this story?

There isn't one. I just wanted to have it made public that I beat my dad at a game, TWICE in one night.

And, also, I wanted to say that bonding over a game is way more memorable than lots of other things you could do with your kids. I remember SO many family game nights from my childhood. My siblings and I are still avid gamers, and I wouldn't trade a single moment of Monopoly or Scrabble or Clue, despite the fact that we all lost every single game to my dad...

Playing a game together strengthens your relationships with your kids, or parents, or siblings, or friends, and it makes a great memory, as well as a mediocre blog post.

Challenge for the day: Play a game with someone in your life. Just don't invite my dad if you want to win. Or my daughter, Faith. She is ruthless, no matter how nice she may seem.

I, for one, am planning to lose a few rounds of Superhero Memory after breakfast.

Happy gaming, and not the bad kind!

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