Monday, September 14, 2009

Living Among the Humans

Sometimes I feel like I have no idea how to do it.

Yesterday, Ed and I went over to the house of our couple friends to discuss some things that went on between us last week and to play some kind of a game. The discussion went really well and was very reasonable, though my feelings were still bruised from the stuff last week. Then we sat down to play Settlers of Catan. (We played one of the many extensions and we played on a gigantic board.)

Settlers of Catan is a resource-management strategy game that involves dice-rolling and trading cards and (in the extension we played) a barbarian who topples cities. There are five types of resource cards and three types of commodity cards (or maybe vice versa - I forget which is which). There are three dice, all with different import. There is a lot of trading between players. It's actually a pretty fantastically fun game that is not as complicated as it sounds.

One of the things that happens in this game is that every so often, the barbarian arrives on our (collective) shores. One of the things you can "build" in addition to settlements, cities, and roads is soldiers. Soldiers drive off the barbarian. If we collectively have as many soldiers as cities, the barbarian is thwarted, and the person with the most soldiers gets a special reward. If we do not, then the player or player(s) with the fewest soldiers lose a city (it is downgraded to a settlement).

So, at a certain point in the game, Ed and I each had a soldier, Christine had several soldiers, and Adam had no soldiers. We had exactly as many soldiers as cities, which is enough. It was my turn, and I was able to upgrade two settlements to cities! And as a result, when the barbarian came on the next roll, Adam lost a city. Had I not built my two cities, he wouldn't have lost the city, because prior to that point we had enough soldiers.

My experience with Adam is that he becomes very frustrated when any plan he had in a game is thwarted, or things don't go his way. This doesn't normally manifest at the end of a game that he's lost, but happens throughout the game. So on this occasion, Adam was upset that I caused his cities to be toppled, and he was (according to his claims) more upset because I had done this without even considering it. In other words, intentionally exposing him to the barbarian would have been one thing, but doing it carelessly was annoying.

I, of course, do not believe that in a zero-sum game I have any obligation whatsoever to pay attention to possible negative impacts my actions may have on others. At least, I don't have such an obligation to them; it of course may behoove me to be alert so that I can screw them over as much as possible.

So he griped about this a bit, and then we continued playing. And then the topic came up again (possibly as a result of another barbarian attack) and he gave me more shit about it. This wasn't friendly shit-giving of the ordinary kind you might have in a game, but to all appearances an expression of actual annoyance and anger over my behavior.

I got really upset and said, "Fuck you." I almost quit the game, but instead I basically sat there and cried (briefly). I was still hurt from the thing earlier in the week, remember. It of course became a pretty awkward moment around the table; everyone sat quietly and watched Ed's turn. After a little while, things returned to normal.

And then he brought it up again, bitterly. (He would deny that he brought it up. I think what happened was that Christine mentioned that Ed was the only one of us who hadn't been close to winning - the rest of us had all gotten close at one time. And then Adam went off on the barbarian thing again.) Of course, we argued with him each time (we being mostly me and Christine). But this third time I banged my hand on the table (causing pieces to jump) and basically stormed out of the room. (In the interest of fairness, I should report that I shouted, "I am sick of being hated all the time for no reason!") When I came back, we had an argument that eventually devolved into yelling. Christine started to cry. I left. Ed put his hand on Christine's shoulder and Adam told him, "Just go," so he put on his shoes and joined me in the car a couple of minutes later.

Sitting in the car, I was Fuming. And very pumped up with adrenaline, like exhaling very heavily and shaking. And a little blood-sugar-crashy. Ed was angry as well (at Adam, not me). I drove us home, trying to kind of calm down and chill out. At home, Ed made me some spaghetti and I continued to mostly feel like crap for the rest of the evening.

It's pretty clear to me that whining and griping about someone's completely legal and predictable move during a game is obnoxious behavior. I also shouldn't have taken it personally and flipped out, but I guess I finally reached my limit of dealing with Adam's bullshit. (I don't flip out all that often, but I wish I would learn how not to do that.)

What bugs me is that I've always basically put up with Adam doing that crap in the past, and maybe I shouldn't have. I want to travel back in time and, every single time he pulls that shit, tell him to stop being a whiny little crybaby when things don't go his way. And then just walk away, quit the game (whatever game it is), if he doesn't cut it the fuck out. Maybe coddling people and tolerating their flaws isn't doing them (or me) any favors, in general.

But how do you get along with people without tolerating their flaws? I have flaws that other people surely must tolerate in order to be in relationships with me. I generally try to assume that people are acting in good faith and working on their own shit as best they can. I don't want to become extremely intolerant and turn into one of those people who heads is all filled up with lines that other people shouldn't cross, etc.

I really do not know how one is supposed to relate to other humans.

1 comment:

Sally said...

I can discuss this more from the Adam side of the situation, since I am also really a sore loser when it comes to certain kinds of games. The key was discovering what those certain kinds of games are and just not playing them, or playing a version of them that doesn't screw me up. For instance, I am happier playing a game that has many stages / rounds / hands with opportunities for winning than a game where you put hours into it and end up losing, and have found I am happier when I don't keep score in games like gin but instead just play a lot of rounds, some of which I win, some I lose.

But even I do not get angry that I think other people have some kind of duty to consider their effects on me when they make a strategic move of their own. (For the world's most trivial example, if my opponent plays a card that blocks my play, I may feel angry because I'm thwarted, but not righteously angry that they would block me. If we are not all trying to win, many games have no point.)

Getting faux-whiny and angry about those kind of moves is utterly de rigueur in playing games with my family, so getting actually upset really screws with the rhythms of "I can't believe you would do this to your oldest and most beloved child!" etc.

Perhaps you guys need to get a version of the Ungame. :)

As for how to live with humans, part of it is probably choosing those humans very carefully. You also may not be nearly enough of a hard-ass with this guy. It may not be too late to start, I don't know.