NBC News – Why Board Games Bring Out the Worst in Us

Image from nbc.com

We all have seen at least one instance of it. You finish a game and somebody who didn’t do so well as some of the other players gets mad about it. Perhaps they get up and leave in a huff. Maybe some bad words are said. Or maybe they literally flip the table.

NBC reports that there may be a psychological and physiological reason for that. We are hardwired to be competitive, and subconsciously may not even realize that “it’s just a game.”

“‘The human brain never evolved a mechanism to separate a game from reality,’ says Don Vaughn, a postdoctoral scholar at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. ‘If a lion was chasing one of our ancestors on the savanna, it was real, every time. There were no movies, plays or simulations. Modern neuroscience has revealed that just thinking about imagined situations activates the same brain regions as the actual experience. So when you have to pay $2,000 to your sister for landing on Boardwalk, your brain is really experiencing loss.'”

This may be news to those gamers who are able to leave the results of the game on the table and give a hearty handshake and a “good game” at the end of a hard-fought defeat, but it would explain how some people can’t seem to handle losing.

The article goes on to mention how some games can put somebody like the most intelligent heart surgeon on the same level as a their young child, giving the child the great feeling of beating Mom or Dad at something. However, “having this rare chance of role reversals may be rewarding, but as Dr. Trivedi notes, it tends to make some of us ‘more aggressive in our approach.'”

Finally, the article gives possible reasons for why some people become hardcore gamers while other people look at games and can’t see any reason why we would play them, as well as some tips to avoid letting “the worst of you” out during a holiday game with your family.

Hopefully you never come across a gamer like this.

But if you do, now you know why they are the way they are.