How Not to Win Her Over This Valentine’s: Throwing Games

My Disenchanting Magic: The Gathering Losses

Once upon a time, in 2001, I was seeing a girl. While we shared some of the same musical and movie interests, her love of anime far exceeded my own. We watched show after show together, OAV after OAV. At some point though, yearning to game, I taught her how to play Magic: The Gathering.

We spent many pleasant hours playing the game. Since I taught her and we were restricted to my selection of cards, the games were relatively even in deck building, with the advantage going to me of experience. I don’t build powerful competitive decks; I tend towards weenie decks without the cards to even level the field (like Wrath of God or Armageddon). I love building empires of Thrall tokens or Saprolings. While she never quite adopted my fondness for creating armies of tokens, she also would delay the kill in favor of drawing more cards.

All of our Magic playing though came crashing to a halt one day when I revealed that I had thrown a few games. I don’t recall why I felt it neccesary to reveal that fact,. Most likely, my ego was wounded. The effect was immediate and chilling: no more MTG games for us. Most of her victories were legitimate. The relationship eventually ended, though I really don’t think my Magic blunder was the source. I didn’t turn her off of Magic: The Gathering entirely. She emailed me months later revealing that she’d bought her own cards and now kept a Serra Angel of some sort in her wallet.

Why did I throw the games? My overall aim in losing the few games I deliberately lost was to make Magic more enjoyable for her. She would be more likely to play if she won more often. This seemed to be verified by her increased interest in playing after she had won. In my experience, very few people have the mental stamina to constantly lose games and quickly want to move onto something they’re better at. There is a large philosophical debate as far as game demoing goes as to whether you let the person trying your game out win or not. Most demo teams side towards letting the newbie enjoy the thrill of winning because they’re more likely to get into the game that way. When I’m playing a demo game, I want the opposite: the full experience and intellect of my opponent against me. Yes, victory is nice, but I need to see how challenging the game will be.

History Repeats Itself: Heroclix

Fast forward a year or two and I was playing Heroclix with my eventual wife. We played fairly often, even bringing some pieces and a map on a trip with us. After one loss to her when she began to gloat, I let it slip that I had let her win. It was the truth. I had wanted her to remain interested in the game. She would only beat me 2 out of 10 times and was showing signs of disinterest. Overall, my decision to throw the game (and reveal this to her) was a horrible strategy. She and I have not played Heroclix since.

Old habits die hard. Whether with a love interest or just a friend, you may want to think twice before deliberately losing in order to win him or her over. Or just keep your mouth shut.