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Subject: Are women worse losers than men? rss

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Mikko Karvonen
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I realise that this sounds rather controversial and even sexist, but I hope everyone can ignore that. This is actually not a question of my own, but rather one that came up in a recent discussion with a group of friends.

We were talking about boardgames and the fact that far less women seem to be interested in them compared to men. One of the main reasons the women present gave was that they did not like to play, because they knew they react badly to losing. Others were ready to mention several other examples. And we are not talking about sulking or occasional nagging here, but rather about sleep on the couch (for the husband), throwing the pieces all around the room and locking oneself into bathroom for three hours. No-one could mention any similar examples of men, so we were left a little puzzled.

What is the general take on the subject? Are more women prone to react badly to losing than men? What might be the explanation for this? Or is our little group of friends just an exception?

I think it is only fair to mention that I know several women that enjoy at least some games, so I am really not trying to argue that this is a generic or even common trait. This is just a question that was left without an answer in our discussion.

//Gargoyle
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Nasty McHaggis
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Perhaps it's the opposite? One theory would be that women do not enjoy playing games simply because they don't care about winning to the degree than men do. Generally speaking, of course. Are men genetically hardwired to relish competition more than their female counterparts?

Certainly in the animal world, males find themselves in competition with each other for a variety of beneficial reasons such as terrirtory, food supply, mating rights, dominance, etc. In our (arguably) more civilized times, could these urges express themselves in more benign venues (such as boardgaming)?

Discuss.

 
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David Boeren
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My wife claims that one reason she doesn't like playing 2p games with me is because she expects to lose most of the time. She doesn't seem to consider than the first 1-2 plays of a new game and mainly learning how to play, and not playing to win. Plus, the more she doesn't play the more experience I rack up playing other people until she is TOTALLY afraid of losing. BTW - Her theory doesn't seem to pan out very well, since the few games she likes she has a decent win rate at (Ticket to Ride, Mystery Rummy, Atlantic Star).

Also, most wives/girlfriends seem to take actions by their husband/boyfriend *VERY* personally during games. If you do something that hurts their position, it's not seen as being in the context of the game but rather as a betrayal. I see it all the time "you're supposed to support me", and then they get pissed off and refuse to play further. It doesn't matter that you were not specifically picking on them, you are expected to go OUT OF YOUR WAY to help them win or defend them from the other players.
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Randy Cox
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I should let this can of worms remain unopened, but I just can't stop myself...

No, women aren't worse losers than men. And the opposite isn't true either. Some people are worse losers than others, but you can't generalize based on gender, I think.

I've known only one person who, as an adult, flipped a game board sending pieces flying everywhere (it was a man and the game was Settlers). I've known several people who don't care at all about winning, but just love to play games (almost all of these examples are men, though there are a few women in this sample as well). I've known plenty of extremely good and 'competitive' players, both genders. I've also known a ton of people who are extremely good players and don't care about winning, but they just win because they're so damn good. Again, both genders.
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Tim K.
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Randy Cox wrote:
I've known only one person who, as an adult, flipped a game board sending pieces flying everywhere (it was a man and the game was Settlers)


How the heck do you flip a Settlers board?! One hex at a time?
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Definitely. Yes.

But more specifically, when the woman is in a game with her husband/boyfriend/lover/slave whatever. There are many exceptions to this and I've seen them more often than not. But the preponderance of poor, pissy, moody losers I have ever experienced have been women... and in every case their special someone was also in the game.

Men who are poor losers tend to loom larger in my memories because I seem to mentally lower the significance of the poor female loser because it almost always is tied to their personal relationship. The men though, all it takes for me is once for a man to pout, bitch, moan and be moody and I permenantly pass on including him in any other games I play.

That may be construed as sexist, but I think I'm giving the women a pass because they are often only playing to make him happy and I completely understand why they can and do take it personal when he is part of the reason she loses at the game.

That settles it. No more discussion needed now.
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Denise Lavely
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Well, I like to think I'm a pretty good loser, I certainly lose often enough that I should be getting good at it by now I played several games with fellow BGGer Jason yesterday, and a couple with his wife also, and in all games I was impressed with how everyone played their best, didn't try to take over-advantage of mistakes made by someone new to the game, no winners gloated and no losers fussed.

On the other hand, in my regular game group, we have two people who can get a little sore when beaten or gloat a bit when winning. One man and one woman.

One thing I HAVE noticed, that may have some bearing since as a general rule there are fewer women in our hobby - most of the people I have met who are 'hardcore' gamers are better losers than people who don't play often. I tend to suspect this is a problem of educating oneself as to 'proper gaming behavior'. People who don't play much don't quite know HOW to NOT take it personally at first. So possibly at this point, more women have that problem than men, but I suspect it is due to being new to games rather than a gender issue.
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Marshall P.
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Here’s my theory, based entirely on personal experience so it’s not worth much, women are not inherently worse losers than men (anybody can be a poor loser) but in practice women do tend to be worse losers (at board games) than men. Confused yet?

Here’s what I mean: there’s no biological difference in ‘loserness’ between the genders, but there is an environmental difference. I think the key thing to realize is that ‘how to lose well’ is a learned skill, it is not automatic. While it’s possible to learn that skill at any point in your life I think most people learn it through childhood games, specifically sports. At least in my generation more boys than girls played organized sports and while sports tend to make some people hypercompetitive they make most people into good sports (i.e. gracious winners and losers). I know I attribute my own easy going loserness to learning how to lose well as a child. Now, as an adult, I realize that losing is an integral part of competition, it’s not to be avoided it’s to be taken in stride. Losing well, I think, is an outcome of losing frequently. When there’s nothing really at stake the mind adjusts its expectations of competition. It doesn’t let itself become crushed by repeated defeats; it begins to enjoy the act of sport, or competition, rather than the result.

My wife, on the other hand, was never exposed to organized sports or games as a child. And believe me, she is not a good loser. I believe she, at some level, views the game as a reflection of the worthiness of the players. To lose a game means you are somehow not as good or smart of a person. There is no allowance for a learning curve or for experience; there is simply a judgment (the result of the game). This is one aspect of being a good loser that she has gotten better at, although I still have to make sure she wins the first few plays of a new game if I want her to like it.

The other aspect, in which she hasn’t improved, is in letting actions in the game affect her personally. Have you ever head the phrase ‘it’s just business’? Well, there should be a similar phrase ‘it’s just sports’. Play enough sports as a child and you learn not to take personally events that occurred in the context of the game. If someone ships my coffee in PR – well, it’s just a game and they’re only playing the best that they can. If I block her connection in Ticket to Ride – well, she can take it personally. It’s the inability to separate actions that occur within the context of a game from real life that can lead to poor sportsmanship. And I think the ability to put up this ‘mental wall’ between the game and real life is also learned at a young age through sports.

So that’s my theory, early and repeated exposure to sports and games as a child tends to make one a better sport later in life (there are exceptions, this is a generalization after all). And since, until perhaps recently, more males than females took part in organized sports as children; men tend to be better losers at boardgames than women.
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Greg Case
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I play boardgames as much or more with women than with men. I have noticed that some people are poorer losers than others but I've noticed no gender difference
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dboeren wrote:
If you do something that hurts their position, it's not seen as being in the context of the game but rather as a betrayal.


True! Still remember one of my first games of Carcassonne against my wife a few years ago: I placed a city tile (plus a pawn) near a city where she had her own pawn. Of course i planned to steal the city in the near future.

"What are you doing next to MY city?" was her immediate response. "Are you cheating me?"

Needless to say that game never ended... shake
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Shawn Fox
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Over my life of board gaming I've played against several hundred men and maybe 20 women. During that time I've seen three women react extremly badly when their husband/boyfriend "backstabs" them. I've seen a few men react badly but never worse than leaving before a game is completed.

I tend to agree with those who have said that the women just don't do well if they don't play games often. Many of them play just to spend some time with their significant other and haven't played enough to be able to seperate the game from their relationship.

I have played a few competitive female gamers too though who are just as cut throat as the men.
 
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Christopher Brandon
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After reading the responses it seems the view can be seen as this:

1. People who do not play games often tend to be more upset at losing
2. Men seem to play games more often then women

Note this does not mean women are worse losers than men. It is simply a matter of experience and it seems in the area of gaming, more men have that experience. I do want to say though, that if losing is no big deal, then why in the hell would you bother playing? I HATE losing with a passion-yet when I lose, I don;t flip out or lock myself away. Instead I want a re-match..maybe not even immediately, but I do play to win. Maybe it is a socialization issue-most guys are raised to compete to be #1 and most women are socialized to be accomidating. Guys expect backstabbing and cut thorat tactics, the ladies-maybe not so much. As a long suffering 3rd generation Red Sox fan you had better believe I like winning far more than losing!
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Jesse Acosta
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Ive only played with a few women, but Ive never seen harsh reactions to losing before. My best friend has gotten better at losing over the years, but at times he still gets steamed. The worst I saw him was back in grade school, we were racing pinewood derbies in Cub Scouts and he lost to me and wouldnt talk to me for a week.
I personally just like to play the game, it doesn't bother me if I win or lose at all because its just for the fun of the game.
 
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Valerie Putman
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Blah, blah, blah…nice anecdotes. But what do the studies say? According to Holt-Lunstad, Clayton, and Uchino (2001), subjects (male and female) in a competitive situation show higher diastolic blood pressure when competing against males. The study also demonstrated that males have an increase in blood pressure when losing, while women show the opposite effect. In her 1998 dissertation, Hearne studied gender-role stereotypes in women and found that women enjoy competition. In fact, Hearne suggested that the reason why there has been a false stereotype of men being more competitive than women is because most studies have defined competition in terms of winning. This study found that while women enjoy competition as much as men, they care less about winning then men.

References:
Hearne, C. M. (1998). Women's experiences of competition in different relational contexts: An analog study. Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Clayton, C. J., & Uchino, B. N. (2001). Gender differences in cardiovascular reactivity to competitive stress: The impact of gender of competitor and competition outcome. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 8(2), 91-102.
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Brian Walker
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I think I prefer the anecdotes to "gender-role stereotypes". (Can you buy these in stores?).
 
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Blue Guldal
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Fenway5 wrote:

1. People who do not play games often tend to be more upset at losing
2. Men seem to play games more often then women


Well said

Quote:
This study found that while women enjoy competition as much as men, they care less about winning then men.


I prefer the studies to anectodes as well, but it is true that sometimes studies are not as accessible to the general public (i.e. outside universities who subscribe to a billion journals!) Now, of course, one can argue that blood pressure changes do not reflect "getting upset" but merely getting excited. Also, blood pressure can drop if someone gets very upset, but then you would not expect them to be fuming but passing out. shake I am just playing devil's advocate here

all in all, I agree that the studies show that women like competition as much as men. I am not sure about "not caring about winning" part though, there seems to be a lot under that statement. That is, it seems like an interesting justification, and hence there could be more to it than just not caring or being indifferent.

 
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Josh Goodall
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statonv wrote:
Blah, blah, blah…nice anecdotes. But what do the studies say? According to Holt-Lunstad, Clayton, and Uchino (2001), subjects (male and female) in a competitive situation show higher diastolic blood pressure when competing against males. The study also demonstrated that males have an increase in blood pressure when losing, while women show the opposite effect. In her 1998 dissertation, Hearne studied gender-role stereotypes in women and found that women enjoy competition. In fact, Hearne suggested that the reason why there has been a false stereotype of men being more competitive than women is because most studies have defined competition in terms of winning. This study found that while women enjoy competition as much as men, they care less about winning then men.

References:
Hearne, C. M. (1998). Women's experiences of competition in different relational contexts: An analog study. Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Clayton, C. J., & Uchino, B. N. (2001). Gender differences in cardiovascular reactivity to competitive stress: The impact of gender of competitor and competition outcome. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 8(2), 91-102.


I hate to say it, but I think this influx of actual studies may destroy the delicate balance of random thoughts and personal opinion. But anywho, interesting stuff.
 
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surprise: Well, since I don't have much 'experience' with "women gamers" on the whole, compared to the 'guys', then I'd tend to agree with the folks that 'say' "it ALL depends upon the individuals MORE than anything ELSE!" I, on the other hand, am a 'vindictive'~player myself, and it don't matter whether I WIN or lose~"I'm gonna 'git ya' back!" I have EVEN 'caused' some sort of eternal 'rifts' between others that were 'Allied' against ME~whereby they BLAME one another and won't 'forgive & forget'-even years later! You can 'tell' when someone brings UP a prior 'incident' as "yeah, that's what you SAID 'last time'!" but we're 'talking' of long time friends & assorted 'playas' over the decades, while 'newbs' are treated courteously-although they might not 'get' the "in-jokes" without further explanations.
~the 'JUJU' = Good or BAD?
laugh
 
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Christopher Brandon
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Quote:
In fact, Hearne suggested that the reason why there has been a false stereotype of men being more competitive than women is because most studies have defined competition in terms of winning. This study found that while women enjoy competition as much as men, they care less about winning then men.


devilSo by Dr. Hearne's logic thendevil
The quote above would infer that men are destined to win more often than women at any competition in which both participate.

Competition takes place (for women according to the Hearne study quoted above)in order to achieve what end result? Only to compete. Secondly if the overall goal of the women (again according to Dr. Hearne quote above) is NOT competition to win-but competiting just to compete, doesn't that line of logic lead to an effect where men will win more often than women becuase they are seeking and competiting towards a specifc goal-to win, versus simply playing in order to play? In other words, if winning does not matter during competition to women, then they are less likely to do whatever is necessary to try and win-thus they will tend to lose more often then men...

and with that Line of logic the match strikes and the powder keg is lit...
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I play games with both genders. Call me crazy, but to me, people are people. What I mean is, some people are poor losers, some aren't. I've never seen gender enter into it. However, I've also never played with a couple who gamed together either, so my experience isn't complete.
 
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Quote:
The quote above would infer that men are destined to win more often than women at any competition in which both participate.


well, for now... as I was saying, the indifference of women to winning might be where it's at! this indifference may be coming from many different social constructs and/or upbringing that enforces "accomodating rather than competing" behaviours. As women try to change these constructs they may find themselevs caring about who wins and who loses...
 
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I resemble Valerie's remarks.

I enjoy the competition, but don't really care whether I win, even though I do my best to do so. Anyone I game with is welcome to comment but I think I'm a pretty good loser and have taken both gentle and not so gentle ribbing with good grace.

 
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Yes.

And not only with her SO. Although they will hide it better among company.

I think they grow emotional attachments to their pieces, so losing one hurts badly. shake

Actually, the worst behaviour comes out when they "ask" their SO to help them out, and he refuses (and, god forbid, tries to play a fair game).

 
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hear, hear! for vindictive gamers. As a vindictive player myself, I must say that there is nothing more infuriating than a player that just doesn't understand that if they knock you out of contention, you will make sure that you lose. Attacking is one thing, but land a blow harde enough, and you're BOTH out of the running ha -HA! So pay attention to that vindictive player in your group and make sure not to give him reason to take both of you down in a BLAZE OF GLORY(or non-glory) or you might find yourself face down in a pool of liquor at the local hippo rave listening to jungle grunge music. Next thing you know you'll be eating soap shavings and tickling yourself with your own toenial clippings. And we ALL know the road THAT leads to...
 
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As a counter point to Valerie's post, Gilbert and Thompson (1999) found that women show a significant increase in anger after performing a competitive task considered to be masculine, regardless of the outcome. No such increase was found after performing a competitive feminine or netural task. Men showed no such increase after performing any task.

So, if we presume that increasing anger is correlated with being a poor loser, we should now ask whether your average woman perceives gaming to be a masculine, feminine, or neutral task. I can imagine that in some circumstances it would depend on the game and the person's familiarity with it. I would find it likely that a woman who plays games regularly (and especially if playing in the company of other women) would be more likely to view games as being a gender netural activity than a woman who is dragged into a game of Twilight Imperium with her boyfriend and his buddies because they need a sixth.


References:
Gilbert, S, & Thompson, J (1999). Winning or losing against an opposite-sex peer on a gender-based competitive task. Sex Roles, 41, 875-899.

-MMM
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