When Games Matter is a weekly exploration by Drew Dixon of meaningful moments in games. Operating under the assumption that games do in fact matter, Drew seeks to highlight those moments that have much to say to say about who we are and the world we live in.

Every Monday night my neighbor comes over and eats dinner with me and my wife. Sometimes other friends join us. Recently, every Monday night, we have been playing Dominion, a deck building card game. These matches have become pretty competitive and Dominion is probably the most interesting card game that I have ever played. Consequently, I find myself looking forward to Mondays.

As these game nights have become more and more competitive, they have simultaneously become more fun and more frustrating. Games are not fun when players are not engaged and invested in their outcome. Games, however, can be devastating when winning becomes our sole focus. As I became more and more skilled at playing Dominion, I found myself caring more about victories and taking my defeats harder. This would manifest itself in complaining when it became clear early on in a game that my strategy was not working or sometimes more subtly in sighs and grunts. My wife and my neighbor are nice enough to laugh these behaviors off and continue playing. In one such moment it became clear to me that the very night I had been looking forward to was disappointing me.

Perhaps the most common and misguided response to being confronted with sin is to merely change our environment. It makes sense that if when playing Dominion, I sometimes become grumpy and unpleasant, then I need to stop playing Dominion. Such a response, however, amounts to cleaning the outside of the cup while leaving the inside full of greed and wickedness (Luke 11:39). The problem is not primarily with Dominion, the problem is with me. I am called to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15).  Too often I refuse to apply the Bible to the “little things” in life–like card games. So the last few game nights, I have been thinking about how I am to rejoice when my friends outwit me in Dominion and mourn with them when their strategy falls to mine. To be honest, our Domion matches are so close that any other attitude would make playing the game an unnecessary chore.

When we started this game night with my neighbor the goal was to bless each other and build a stronger friendships. Despite how petty I can be, I think we are doing that. I am grateful for the “small” lessons I have learned playing each week and am thankful for Dominion in helping me identify and deal with personal weaknesses. Truth be told, I love my wife dearly and I love my neighbor–I want them to succeed, to be happy, and to grow. If I really want those things for them, then I have to want them to succeed in all areas of life–even card games. I think I am doing that now and I am having a lot more fun playing that way.

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