Losing sucks, right? No one sits down at a table across from friends thinking boy I hope I completely blow this. It can be frustrating, especially if you lose due to a single moment of bad luck or a tiny oversight in your strategy.
But in the vast majority of games, someone has to lose – and usually there’s more losing going on at a table than winning. So here are 7 ways to make losing more fun.
1. Focus on your successes
It’s easy to get stuck on the moments that caused your loss. If only X had gone differently. If only I had drawn card Y. If only I had remembered Z rule! Don’t forget to think back about your successes. What were some smart strategic choices you made? What decisions pushed you closer to victory? What moves felt clever or exciting or just plain fun?
2. Learn from your mistakes
Thinking about the moments that caused your loss is inevitable, but don’t just soak in the frustration of failure. Think of ways you’ll handle it next time you play. Are there different decisions you could have made? Ways to prepare for the potential for bad luck? Backup plans? Alternate strategies? These thoughts can help you learn and improve your gameplay and increase your odds of winning next time.
3. Point out other players successes
Games are fun for a whole lot of reasons, but in no small part because you’re competing directly against friends in a battle of strategy and wits. And you know what? Other people often pull off really clever moves or make smart choices. Not only can you learn from them, you can appreciate and enjoy the successful moments of other players as well, whether or not they won. Soak in the excitement not just of your own good choices, but those of the other players. That pumps up the fun for everyone, and will encourage the whole group to do the same, meaning you’ll start getting nods from other players too!
4. Congratulate the winner
When everyone is a good sport, the whole group has the most fun. Make sure to congratulate the winner for their success. Appreciate that you went up against a worthy opponent, and that they won fair and square. (If they cheated or in some other way did not win fair and square… well, that’s another conversation).
5. Don’t Worry About the Luck
Most board games have some element of luck involved in winning. A roll of the die, a card draw, the right ability popping up at just the right time. Sometimes luck even comes in the form of a player choosing between two equally good strategies for themselves, leaving the best strategy open for another player. This is overall a good thing – it makes games more accessible to players of different skill levels, allowing competition in a group where in a no-luck situation one player would always rise to the top. Leaving poorly-designed, overly-luck-driven games aside, just try not to worry about the luck elements that may have caused your loss or the other player to win. This will happen; you’ll have bad luck, and you’ll have good luck. If you made the best strategic decisions you could during the game, you did well, and be happy about that!
Also, when you can, think of luck elements in a game as risk. That doesn’t always apply, but risk is a choice with a possibility of failure. It could be your chosen strategy; it could be when or how you roll the dice. Often games provide a slower, steady route and a risky, faster path. Any risk, by definition, includes a possibility of failure outside your control. Taking the best risk you can is what’s important. If you fail, you fail, but at least you tried. Risk is more exciting than just pure “luck.”
6. Don’t make winning the most important
Don’t get me wrong: when you sit down to play a game, there should be an understanding that everyone is there to do their best to win. Most games are designed with this expectation, that player’s actions will push and pull each other to create a balance. When someone completely throws this goal aside, it can skew the game, negate strategic decisions, and hand the victory to another player in a way that just isn’t fun for anyone else.
You can go into a game with a mindset of doing your best to win, without locking yourself into a mode of “the only way I will have fun is if I win.” Winning should be your goal, but you can also focus on playing your best, making clever moves, and trying new strategies, all of which are fun and do not require you to ruin the social contract of gaming.
7. Allow yourself room to feel frustrated
I said it before and I’ll say it again; losing can be very frustrating. Especially if you lose by a slim margin, or by a simple error, or for the third time in a row to the same opponent. I don’t think you need to complete repress this feeling. Be frustrated! Just be careful how you express that to everyone else. Certainly don’t shout or snap. Don’t try to negate the other players’ successes. Take a break from the table, get a drink or a snack if you’re feeling particularly flustered. Remind yourself it is just a game; there are no consequences to losing, outside the game itself. There are consequences to verbally snapping at your friends in mean way, or by acting like a poor sport.
Maybe you’ve had a particularly rough day in your real life that’s making it hard to behave after a tough game loss. I’d recommend you acknowledge that to your friends and apologize if you do snap and do or say something rude. Most gaming groups can be understanding and forgiving if they know you’ve got other things pressing on you. Games may not be real but they can cause real stress and tension that piles up on stresses from the rest of your life. Just remember to go back to the previous 6 points.
Hopefully these tips reinforce things you already knew, but if not, put them into play at your next game night. See what happens. I think you’ll find it pleasantly surprising.