Over the weekend, the love of my life (I'll call him M) and I began playing a game called Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn. Yes, it is a game where you battle each other with decks of cards. I've never played a game like this before, mostly because card games are for nerds? Just kidding. I've never played a game like this before because it just didn't appeal to me -- why fight each other with cards when you can play a fighting video game, mash a bunch of buttons and get the instant satisfaction of hearing a bunch of realistic punching sound effects? It didn't make sense to me. Also, these kinds of games require strategizing, and I'm just not a strategizing kind of gal. I like to just run into things blindly, windmill my arms a bit, and see what happens.
But M was so excited about this game that I couldn't say no. I promised him I would take it seriously and really try to play, strategy and all. I picked a character with a deck that seemed awesome, and one of my first moves was to conjure a blue jaguar. It's a pretty powerful card that can take out any of your opponent's cards without using any valuable resources. I felt pretty good about myself -- I'd conjured my jaguar, decided to have mercy on M by not exercising Ms. Blue Jaguar's power just yet, and planned to make shit happen on my next turn.
And then M killed my blue jaguar. He killed her without even batting an eye. I was pissed. I didn't crack a joke for the rest of the game because I was so f'ing mad. I successfully held back my rage tears and managed not to flip the table over.
And then I thought, "Oh my god. M is marrying a sore loser."
This isn't new. M first found out about my sore loser tendencies when he kicked my ass at NCAA Football on the Playstation 3. I rage cried. It was not a dignified moment for me (obviously). M was shocked, but still proposed to me a few months later. Thank god.
The last thing I remember playing with my brothers was MarioKart. I don't think I ever won, and the whole time I just screamed obscenities at the tv and my brothers' gokart characters. Anyone who knows me in real life would probably be shocked, appalled, and maybe amused to hear the filth that came out of my mouth while playing MarioKart with my brothers. We're a foul-mouthed bunch as it is, but my vocabulary was extreme, even for me.
The thing is, I play games as if they're real life. In real life, I weigh my decisions. I make my next move thinking about what's best for me and what's best for the person I'm dealing with. I make my real life next moves thinking about gains and losses, what I can live with, happiness, compromise, love.
After M killed my blue jaguar, I realized that I can't play games as if they're real life. Unless I'm playing a co-op game (those are my favorite), I have to make decisions solely on what's best for me and only me. And that's a huge shift in thinking for me.
It's also liberating. Because for the three hours that I'm playing M in a game of Ashes, I can be ruthless. I don't have to be fair, and I don't have to keep anyone else's welfare in mind. I get to make decisions based solely on me, what I want and what I need to win the goddamn game.
Unlike real life, I can exact revenge on my opponent. Unlike real life, I can plan ahead a couple moves because I know the resources I have and I have a vague idea of what my opponent has at their disposal and what moves they might make.
This is not to say that I secretly wish I could be ruthless and make real life decisions based solely on self-interest. Hell no. The revolution will not come from acting on self-interest. Social and reproductive justice will not come if we each act for ourselves.
In real life, I try to be mindful and heartful. Rather than blindly react to stimuli, I try to act with compassion and thought and a firm hand if I need it. In tabletop game life, though, that shit won't work.
I guess what I'm realizing is that looking out for myself in a card game gives me permission to look out for myself a little bit in real life.
What I'm talking about is self-care. Again.
Looking out for myself and taking care of myself on the regular is not bad. It's not selfish. It gives me the tools (rest, energy, nurturing, self-love) to continue the work I do. If I don't look out for myself, I will burn out.
(I had to work not to write that previous paragraph with "we" and "our." A reminder to speak for myself and let y'all speak for yourselves.)
I swear, I didn't mean to end up at self-care again. I just wanted to explore why I'm such a sore loser.
I might be a sore loser because I don't look out for myself in game play. We'll have to see if I continue to be a sore loser. However, with my new game-playing philosophy, I should only be winning.