I approach gaming with what I would like to call “good sportsmanship”. What I mean by that is basically this: When I play a game, I’m going to play as well as I can. I’m going to seek every advantage I can find. I’m going to play to win. At the same time, I don’t really care if I win or lose. That might sound like a contradiction, but let me try to explain.
What I really enjoy in a game is the challenge. Testing my mettle against a challenge, whether it comes from the game itself or from other gamers, is what makes a game exciting and fun for me. If a game challenges me, and I play as well as I can, I’ll be satisfied whether I win or lose. Winning just means I need to look for a better, or different, challenge. If I lose then at least I have the satisfaction of knowing I tried my best. Hopefully, I also learned something from the game and I’ll play better next time.
Now, while that is generally my default approach to gaming, I don’t approach every game in that way. There are exceptions. For example, extremely random games, such as We Didn’t Playtest This At All. That card game is so random a player can be out of the game before they even get a chance to take their turn. So there is no point in approaching the game with any serious thought to skill or strategy. It’s just a great game to play with a bunch of friends and laugh at yourselves, because some crazy stuff is going to happen and you’ll have almost no control over it.
Another type of game that I approach differently is the party game, such as Say Anything! To me, a game like that is simply for getting to know your friends over a lighthearted game – finding out what they think is the greatest movie of all time, or whatever.
The third type of game that I approach a bit differently is role-playing games. Role-playing games present a very different kind of challenge. To me, these types of games are more about mutually entertaining the other people involved in the game. This is especially true if you’re the Game Master. If you are, you can throw pretty much anything you want at the other players, so there is no point in trying to “beat” them. It’s just silly. The challenge instead comes from trying to entertain them – with how you role-play side characters, or with the scenarios you invent for them to explore. If I’m not the GM in a RPG, my approach might be closer to my default setting, because I expect the GM to challenge me and my character, and I’m going to try to rise to those challenges. But even then, I think to some extent, I still have more of a mindset of trying to entertain the other players – as much as I’m trying to overcome in-game challenges – through creative role-playing and storytelling.
Because of my general approach to gaming, there are two types of gamers that I don’t mesh well with. But, my intent is not to criticize either of these approaches to gaming. If you find that you enjoy gaming in one of these mindsets, that’s perfectly fine if that’s how you enjoy games. It just might cause me a little bit of stress at the gaming table.
First, is the extremely casual gamer – someone who couldn’t care less about playing well. This type of gamer takes away some of my enjoyment of a game, because they’re not likely to offer much of a challenge.
Second, is the extremely competitive gamer – someone who gets emotionally invested in a game, and will be upset if they lose. I only play games with my friends, and I don’t want to see any of my friends upset. So, when it becomes apparent that someone is getting upset because they’re losing, I find myself torn between playing as well as I can or going easy so as not to upset them. And that makes the game a good bit less enjoyable for me.
So, that’s my approach to gaming in a nutshell. I enjoy a good challenge. I play as well as I can. I won’t be upset if I lose, nor will I gloat if I win. I don’t approach every game this way, and there are certain types of gamers whose play-style won’t mesh well with mine.