It’s Only a Game

I mentioned a couple days ago just how awesome last week was. In all that time, I only left the house a handful of times. And it wasn’t necessarily because I was completely snowed in. Some days, it was fairly easy to get my car out of the snow pile in which it was parked. One of those days would have been Friday, yet I ended up leaving it at the curb while I spent the day sitting in my room. This is because I turned down an invitation to come out and play a game.

LOTR TicketMy pastor, Jeff, sent me a text early Friday afternoon asking if I’d like to come over and play Lord of the Rings Ticket to Ride. Now, I do enjoy a good Lord of the Rings association and can do a spot-on impersonation of Gollum. It’s the Ticket to Ride part that I had to say no to. Don’t worry, I was honest with him. I can’t be expected to lie to a man of the cloth, even via text message. I was working on getting things ready for some important things I’d be doing for our church’s kids’ ministry on Saturday (which ended up being postponed due to more snow). But I also told him that I wasn’t allowed to play Ticket to Ride. It makes me into a not so nice person.

Not long after I began attending Northstar Church, I joined some new friends for a game night. One of the featured games was the original version of Ticket to Ride. Something came over me as I played and I became dangerously competitive. In fact, I daresay I risked alienating myself from the new found friends that I had only recently met and convinced that I was okay to be around. I remember having two separate meltdowns during that one game. Afterward I apologized to the other players. Internally, I vowed never to play Ticket to Ride again. I’ve also promised myself that I would not become involved in similar strategy board games, like Settlers of Catan or Connect Four.

And this isn’t the only instance of this often hidden competitive streak. I’m not competitive in the traditional sense. Usually, when I think of a competitive person, I visualize someone who is competing athletically. Anyone who knows me, even a little, knows that I am not an athletic individual. I don’t get competitive when I’m playing sports. Because I know I suck. On the rarest of occasions when I agree to play football or basketball or dodgeball, I go into the game assuming I will lose. If I happen to be on a winning team, it’s just a happy surprise. But when it comes to board games, video games, or trivia… look out. The quiet introvert that we all know and love disappears, replaced by a horrible person who will hold a grudge for months.

During college, one of the guys in our circle got the first X-Box. He hosted many a Halo night in his room. We would all get together to play the split screen mode, repeatedly killing each other and respawning, only to kill again and again. The owner of the X-Box did little else with his time. He played Halo constantly. Going to class became an activity that he put on the back burner while he mastered the first-person shooter. So he knew where to hide. And when we all played against him, he would snatch a sniper rifle, hide somewhere up high where we couldn’t find him, then he would pick us off one by one. We all became angry with each other. But my anger became a dangerous thing. My anger progressed from yelling to swearing to total silence. When I stopped talking to my best friends, I knew I could no longer play Halo. And I haven’t played Halo, or any of its sequels, since 2003.

And then there was the time I played Risk with some friends during the Super Bowl several years back. When it seemed that they were allied together simply to take me down, I left. I mean, I finished the game. At least, as far as I could. Basically, they annihilated me. Then I left. I can’t remember if I said good-bye or not. I’m still friends with those guys. In fact, they’re the best friends I’ve got. But I’m not allowed to play Risk with them anymore.

So, Jeff, that’s the reason I couldn’t come play Ticket to Ride on Friday. I didn’t want you to see that side of me. I love my church family too much to risk excommunication over a board game. If you ever want to break out Candy Land, let me know. That seems pretty safe… unless I get really far and then draw the Peppermint Forest card… Never mind. Candy Land is also on the do not play list. I’ll have to get back to you on this…

Also, I looked back at Jeff’s original text. It said Lord of the Rings or Ticket to Ride. I’m not aware of a Lord of the Rings game. Maybe we were going to act out scenes from the trilogy. In which case, I would have made an excellent Gollum! Bummer, I’ll have to say yes next time…

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