The drive to win

Scrabble – a game I prefer to play,
because I’m better at it

Part of our holiday was, for me, a journey of self-discovery (as opposed to the journey of sheep-discovery that was required to get to the house we stayed in) (I’m not calling it a holiday cottage, since it was a house by anyone’s standards, and one that you could have fitted two of mine inside). Self-discovery, in my experience, is not much fun, so to be avoided when you’re supposed to be on holiday. Of course, it is also true that on holiday, you get the chance to depart from the norms enough to discover yourself in the first place, but I digress.I am fiercely competative. I didn’t know. Did you already know that? Because I didn’t. I naturally assumed that since I’m not remotely ambitious, I wasn’t competative either, but it’s not true.

Example 1: we played several games on holiday, and I was rubbish at them. I was rubbish at the dictionary game, in which someone picks an obscure word from the dictionary, we all make up a definition, then vote for the most plausible one. You get a point if the majority of people vote for your definition, and you get a point for voting for the correct definition. Everyone else was giving their vote to the funny ones, in order to bestow a point to the originator as a demonstration of their appreciation. I was voting for the most plausible, because I wanted to win.

Example 2: we also played a game called Take Two. It’s a variation on Scrabble, using the pieces but not the board, and it works best with between two and four players. You each take 7 pieces, and attempt to arrange them onto one interlocking grid, using only valid words. As soon as one person had done so, they call, “Take Two”, and everyone takes two more pieces, which can be a lifesaver, or can throw you into complete disarray. The winner is the first to form a complete grid once all the spare pieces have gone. The thing is, skills-wise, it’s completely different to Scrabble. You succeed with being able to arrange your pieces into small words, quickly. I’m rubbish at doing things quickly (and with the meandering pace of life that Daisy and I lead these days, I’m getting worse), and I never use a small word if three large ones will execute the task with an acceptable degree of adequacy. I was dismal at Take Two, and the humiliation was it’s a word game. I have two degrees in English, Kevin should not be able to beat me with ANYTHING that uses Scrabble letters.

Take Two, logically enough, I much preferred when it was one-on-one – the pace of the game was slowed, so I had a little more time to use all my pieces in a 12 letter word. I’m a linguistic show-off who hates to lose.

Risk, when we played it, I enjoyed much more because whilst I didn’t win, playing with Mission Cards means that the winner usually does so suddenly, and I felt like I was doing well right up to the end.

Now I’ve come face to face with this rather unattractive personality trait, I can quite see that it’s always been there. My sister hated me when we were children, because I derived immense satisfaction from beating her into the ground at any competative game we played, and when that didn’t work, I would hit her over the head with my superior vocabulary (the ultimate fall-back of many an older sibling). At school, I developed an intense dislike for a friendly, personable, and fairly attractive boy called Jonathan Thorpe, because he was always, always, always two points ahead of me in class, making him top, and me second. I didn’t want to be second. I wanted all to bow down to the mighty intellect of Ruth, and for as long as he kept doing ever so slightly better than me, nobody would.

I suppose it’s a variation on perfectionism – the idea that if you can’t guarantee to win a game, there’s really no fun in playing it, though where that leaves the poor souls who are supposed to play against me, for the sheer statisfaction of being thrashed, I don’t know. Quite what I’m supposed to do about this alarmingly self-absorbed competative streak… well, I don’t know that either.

5 thoughts on “The drive to win

  1. I saw it ruth, but as a fellow competitive person I would. Once made richard stay up until 3am until we played through a game of monopoly I could win and also stayed up till 3 as a student when I was supposed to be revising as I couldn’t sleep until I ‘beat’ the expert level on mine sweeper!

  2. I once had a boyfriend who insisted that the best way to determine what a person was *really* like was to play backgammon with them.

    The relationship didn’t last long 😉

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