It’s Not A Game To Some People

, , , , , , , , | Hopeless | August 15, 2019

The weekly game night at my college was just starting for the night and one of the regulars had brought a less common game called “Betrayal at House on the Hill.” I had already signed up to play, as had a new gamer who had never been to our game nights before. A classmate of mine, who I’d only seen at our game nights one or two times before, arrived and asked to join, as well.

This classmate was, without a doubt, the smartest person in our class; he had to be removed from the grading curve of one of our tests because he did so well he threw off the curve. However, he had a severe case of ADHD and was also somewhere on the less severe side of the autistic spectrum. He never explicitly told me his diagnoses, but I could recognize the symptoms from having volunteered with special needs children for so long. His ADHD meant that he could get overstimulated quickly when excited. When he got too overstimulated he would need to take a break to calm himself by “stimming,” basically repetitive actions to work out his stimulation. In his case, the stimming involved bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet and making a loud sort of keening sound in the back of his throat. While I recognized and understood the symptoms and why he was doing it, I could understand how this stimming could grow annoying to people who didn’t understand.

The owner of the game told my classmate that the game was already full, which I knew wasn’t true. I didn’t like the lie, but he was the owner of the game so I supposed he had the right to refuse someone from playing. My classmate accepted this and, after failing to get any of us to join in the game he wanted to play, he wandered off to ask people in other parts of the room if they wanted to play with him.  

While my classmate was away, a friend of the game owner arrived and joined in to the game. Unfortunately, my classmate wandered back over a little bit later, apparently having failed to find anyone to play his game with him, and noticed the addition of another player to our game.

The classmate said, “I thought you didn’t have room for more players?”

The game owner responded, in a very gruff and uncaring tone, “Yeah, well, we found more space.”

The classmate just said, “Oh,” in a dejected way.

Then, the new player spoke up, gesturing to the game owner’s friend. “Yeah, he’s taking my place. I didn’t know how long this game was when I signed up for it. I wouldn’t have had time to finish it, so I let him take my spot. I was planning to watch for a while, but if you want, maybe we can find a shorter game to play, instead?”

The new guy had jumped in so fast, and managed to sound so honest and casual about his statement, that I don’t think my classmate ever guessed that he had made up the excuse on the spot to explain the extra player. The two wandered off to play a card game, and my classmate did seem to enjoy himself, judging by how often he got overstimulated and had to stop to take a break for some stimming. 

As for me, I struggled to enjoy the game because I kept feeling really guilty for having been witness to such rude behavior and not having done anything. I’d like to think I’d have gotten around to doing something similar, but I was still processing how cruel the owner was by the time the other play had spoken up. Either way, I was very thankful someone was able to come up with a way to prevent my poor classmate from feeling rejected on one of the few times he tried to come out of his shell to socialize.

The new player who had sacrificed his spot at the game came to more of our game nights later, so I got to know him well and became friends with him. I learned later that he had been really excited to play “Betrayal” because he had only gotten to play it once or twice before but had really loved it. He also confessed that he never liked the card game he got dragged into playing with my classmate, instead, but leaving the game was the only idea he could think of at the moment to keep my classmate from being hurt. I’d eventually help to explain to my new friend about stimming and why the classmate acted the way he did; my friend had figured that the classmate had special needs but didn’t know any specifics beyond that. I also ended up eventually buying the “Betrayal at House on the Hill” game myself — being a board game addict who can’t help buying new games anyway — just so I could invite my friend to play his favorite game with me.

As far as I know, my classmate only attended a few other game nights that semester, it was pretty intermittent when he would show up. However, whenever he did come, my friend and I would both try to go out of our way to find a chance to play a game with him so he wouldn’t feel rejected.

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