game theory

About a year ago we had a good stretch of time when the kids were into playing checkers and snakes and ladders and go fish. They’d sit down after school and play for ages while we delighted in their wholesomeness and cooperation and general fabulousness.

But something has changed. Now, more often than not, board games end with one child flinging a small and un-findable (but obviously irreplaceable)  piece of plastic behind the bookcase with tremendous force while screaming “Fine! I’m not playing! You’re a cheater!!” I’d either ignore it or go investigate to find that no one had cheated but that one child’s legitimate setback in the game was deemed to be the result of underhanded tactics by the other.

Finally I relented and played with them myself – an invitation I decline on principle while pointing out that that’s why I made two of them. Akka and I played a for a few turns; then I had to get up to check something on the stove and asked Malli to take my turn for me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see them whispering, shooting me glances, and counting game pieces. Finally Malli made a decision and played my turn. They both erupted in giggles that brought me to realize that the other pot on the stove also needed a good long stir. And perhaps the inside of the cupboard needed another long glance. Malli continued to take my turns for me and they continued to delight in fixing the game so that I would lose. When I wandered back to the game I was dismayed to find that Akka had accumulated almost all of the pieces and was about to triumph. Never mind. I didn’t scream. I threw nothing. We had an immediate rematch and once again the pots on the stove urgently needed my attention after my first turn.

They played on. Game after game. Making me the loser made them both the winner even though Malli was working to sabotage my side of the board. No one threw pieces behind the couch. No one screamed “cheater!” (although perhaps I had the right to). I lost very gracefully and tried to conceal the fact that anything unelectronic that keeps them engaged and relatively quiet is a huge win in my book.

Conspiring to make me lose evolved into them playing against each other the next morning. So far no shrieks or projectiles. Shhh. I win!!  I totally win!!

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2 responses to “game theory

  1. Yep, you totally win.

  2. I have very fond memories of beating my mom at board games. It definitely took the sting out of losing to an older, gloating sibling. As I got older I assumed she had been throwing the competition but watching her play with my kids now, it seems she genuinely is unlucky on rolls. It’s kind of fascinating. She doesn’t let it bug her and prefers to save her good luck for winning odd contests that allow stuffing of ballot boxes and of course a new generation is having the blow of losing cushioned (but not by me as I am apparently weirdly competitive at things that don’t matter).

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