I was playing with my grandkids, who, at that time, happened to have that very problem – separating out the fiction of the game from the reality of play. So, we played with only two baby frogs: the “Happy Frog” and the “Sad Frog.”… No one “owned” either of the frogs. We were like gods, cheering for the Happy frog when the Happy frog won. Cheering for the Sad frog when she got to move.
From Bernie DeKoven’s latest blogging. What a fantastic way to skip the heartache of competitive failure! And even better, by attaching personalities to the game pieces instead of relating them to the players themselves, it turns the entire exercise into a little story-making machine. The Happy Frog has fallen behind! Will he still be happy? Is the Sad frog no longer sad? Maybe they’re both happy now and they can be friends!
I wonder if this kind of twist on competitive gameplay can actually reinforce healthy direct competition later on as well. Where by “healthy”, of course I really mean the sort of competition I prefer – where no one takes things too personally, everyone tries their best, and the fun of exploring the game’s strategies and mechanics makes even losing to a well-played game enjoyable. (I’m sure people who prefer to dive headlong into high-stakes, I-will-be-upset-if-I-lose competition think they’re being perfectly healthy too, but they sure do seem to make it harder for me to have fun.) Anyway, maybe teaching kids how to detach themselves from the direct personal connection to winning and losing early on can help that healthy sort of competition to come out later in life.