One of My Little Quirks: Aversion to Games

Photo by Doug via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

I do not enjoy games. When I play against another person, if I lose, I feel bad about myself, and if I win, I feel guilty for possibly making the other person feel bad. Logically, I realize that most people aren’t as sensitive about such things as I am, but emotionally, the concern is still there.

Funnily enough, my dad says he’s the same way. He feels his aversion to playing games is related to his Finnish heritage. He says Finns fundamentally want everyone to be equal, and playing competitive games forces you to try to be better than other people. He doesn’t want to be better than anyone else, but he also doesn’t want anyone else to be better than him, not even for the length of time it takes to play a game. It’s just not an enjoyable thing for him. Or for me. (Disclaimer: I realize not all Finns feel this way, otherwise there would be no competitive sports in Finland!)

I’ve heard people talk about how children should learn a healthy sense of competition. Needless to say, I never learned that. I still don’t understand it. And if I’m completely honest, it’s not something I want to learn. I don’t like the whole idea of competition. Why can’t people just do their best at things, without comparing themselves to others or trying to be better than others? I am just not wired to understand this.

The only game I play right now is Scrabble on Facebook. I play with my mom, and we have an agreement that we won’t be competitive or even look at scores, we’ll just use it as a way to spend time together long-distance and to have the fun of making words. I like words. The only problem is, then other people on Facebook can see that I’m playing and they try to start games with me. Every time I see that someone has started a game with me my heart sinks. I can’t just ignore it, because that might make them feel bad or rejected. They might wonder why I’ll play with my mom and not with them. But when I play with anyone other than my mom, I feel it forces me to play strategically and competitively, or else look stupid to my opponent. Every move becomes fraught with anxiety and stress. I realize it shouldn’t be that way, but it is for me.

The types of games people play at parties are even worse, because they’re usually overstimulating and require quick thinking. People get all loud and boisterous, which due to my sensory issues makes quick thinking almost impossible for me. Again, I end up looking stupid.

Board games add another level of awkwardness for me. I’m clumsy, and I’ve been known to knock pieces off boards by accident. That’s embarrassing.

I don’t even enjoy playing games against a computer though, so perhaps it’s not just about my issues with competitiveness, sensory overload, or physical awkwardness. And the role-playing games some of my friends like hold no appeal for me. To me, it just feels like a waste of time. It’s strange that I feel that way, since I have no qualms about wasting time in other ways. I guess it’s because I just don’t enjoy them. Maybe it’s the make-believe aspect that I have an aversion to in these cases. I’ve never been good at or interested in make-believe. My imagination is very limited.

Because I’m seen as a geek in other ways, I think people expect me to be a gamer, but I have no interest in all that. It’s yet another way in which people just can’t quite figure me out.

And it all adds up to yet another thing that makes socializing awkward and draining for me. It seems like people often want to play games when they get together socially, and I either refuse, or go along with it for the sake of being friendly but can’t fake having a good time for long. And I’ve noticed that other people seem to feel hurt or offended when you don’t enjoy the games they like to play. This makes me feel horrible, as I hate hurting people’s feelings!


Being Physically Appropriate

Photo by Benjamin Griffiths via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.
Photo by Benjamin Griffiths via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

There is so much to remember about my body when I’m in the presence of others.

  • I have to remember to control my facial expressions.
  • I have to remember not to position my extremely flexible fingers and hands weirdly, otherwise it freaks people out.
  • I have to remember not to move my hands when they’re in my pockets, otherwise it apparently looks like I’m doing something perverted. (I used to do this self-soothing thing where I’d stick my hands in my pockets and stroke my skin through the fabric, thinking no one could tell, but they could.)
  • I have to remember to at least appear to be mentally present at all times instead of obviously looking spaced out.
  • I have to remember to eat slowly and carefully, because my hypermobile fingers are clumsy with cutlery and I easily make a mess if I don’t. (When I’m in the U.K. and am expected to hold my fork in my left hand, I’m screwed; 50% of the food on the fork doesn’t get anywhere near my mouth.)
  • I have to remember to keep my mouth closed when I’m breathing, lest anyone laugh at me for being a “mouth breather.”
  • I have to remember not to stand too far away from people when I’m talking to them or lean too far away from people who are sitting next to me, even though I require an enormous amount of personal space to feel comfortable. (In group shots from my wedding, my mother-in-law is cuddled up closer to my husband than I am.)
  • I have to remember not to clench my fists when I walk, which I inexplicably have the tendency to do.
  • I have to remember to sit in a way that doesn’t look weird for my age, even though there is pretty much only one comfortable sitting position for me and that is cross-legged.

Most of the time, I appear normal, but it takes a lot of effort. I make the effort because I hate attracting negative attention and when I was younger I got so sick of people making negative or mocking comments when I just acted the way I’m normally inclined to act. I learned what not to do just from all the things people said to me. But it is so tiring having to constantly be aware of these things, plus socialize and converse on top of it all, and all while often being overwhelmed and overstimulated. It is so much easier being alone, or being just with my husband who doesn’t notice or care about any of these things.