I confess. I like computer games. I do crossword puzzles and play Gin and Cribbage and even the dreaded Candy Crush.
A few years ago, I played a lot of online Scrabble. But after a while, I got very frustrated with all the cheating. I knew that some of my competitors were using apps that built words for them. It annoyed me, so I solved that problem by playing timed games. If you have just 60 seconds to play a word, you have a lot less time to find answers through an app. But the timed game was not enjoyable, because I found myself stressing over the seconds ticking off on the clock. A game is supposed to be fun, not nerve-wracking. So I gave up Scrabble.
Cribbage is timed (at least the version I play), but the time is more than adequate, so not anxiety-producing, and no one (I think) has a side-tab opened telling them what to play.
Earlier this year, I found a daily “event” on Microsoft Solitaire. They have a “competition” each day, consisting of between 5 and 30 games of their various solitaire offerings. Different games, different difficulties. It’s a timed competition, but you are playing against the clock, not other people. The clock didn’t bother me too much – I just wanted to do my best.
Ah, but then. When I started to do well, I DID want to do more than post a good time. I wanted to post the best time. I wanted to WIN!
About 500,000 people play this event every day. You may ask, how in the world would you ever win against half a million people? But you are not actually playing against everyone. From what I understand, the game parameters match 100 people at a time – people who start around the same time you do. Well, a 100-person competition isn’t daunting. Everyone has a chance to do well. You might just win.
And the more I played, the better I got, of course. That is the nature of sports and games: Practice, practice, practice. From scoring in the top 50, I quickly moved up to the top 25. Now I regularly score in the top 10 – and have, on a couple of occasions, come in first, second, or third.
(Just FYI, you can find out how you fared against the entire community… but that may make you a little depressed. To come in 76,010th is not exactly ego-enhancing, so I just skip that part.)
But it feels great to come in first of 100.
And what do I win?
But I am a very competitive person, because I really love to win, and I really hate not to win. Even if the prize is Nothing.
Something interesting happened last week.
I scored well – I was sixth.
As usual, I scanned the folks who had beat me. I like to see whether 10 seconds or so would have made a difference. To see how much I need to shave my time for next time and perhaps place higher.
And what I saw confused me. The people ahead of me were a few seconds better. Not a surprise. The number two guy was better by a whole minute. Very good, Mr. Whoever!
But the guy who won? He finished in 16 minutes. That person beat me by fourteen minutes. This competition was 20 games. I finished in half an hour. – about a minute and a half per game. That’s very good. But Winning Dude? To finish 20 games in 16 minutes – just over 45 seconds a game! And there were three very difficult games that were part of the 20.
Although I’m competitive, I’m also a very good loser. “Good for you!” I always say, and mean it. (Even if under my breath, I am saying, “I should have played better – I’m so mad at myself.”)
But after being in awe of the winner’s skill, I started to have my doubts. How can anyone play that fast, when I played extremely well, and couldn’t have come near that score? I don’t mean to be a sore loser- but… but…How can this jerk have won?
And so I started doing a little detective work. I love detective work. My name is Nancy and I grew up wanting to be Nancy Drew. And Google has made good detecting so easy.
I googled: Can you cheat at Microsoft Solitaire Events?
Yes, you can.
Some folks play under more than one name. (I don’t even know how to do that – that’s how naive I am.) They play under an alias or two and learn the solutions and make notes. Then they sign in under their “game-wizard” name and play all the correct and perfect moves. And they win.
It bewilders me.
I like to win. Even if the prize is nothing.
But how much satisfaction is there in winning nothing by cheating?
I cannot even imagine getting any satisfaction at all if you didn’t play fair. I plagiarized a story when I was eleven, and I still feel bad about it. In college, a professor gave me partial credit for an exam question I totally screwed up – because he liked me. And from then on, I stopped trying to be Teacher’s Pet, because getting a grade I didn’t deserve sucked.
Oh, I understand the pleasure of sheer luck – the scratch-off lottery ticket that nets you $10. Any type of windfall is fun. A surprise that feels good.
But the real satisfaction in winning is the feeling of accomplishment. That you did something. That you succeeded. That you EARNED it. Not that you fooled everyone.
I briefly dated a guy who lied to people about trivial things, like his middle name or where he worked. I asked him why he did that, and he said that he enjoyed getting away with it. I guess he felt superior to people he could fool. I lost interest in him after that.
I am thinking that this old college boyfriend is probably the dude who is winning at Solitaire.