“Playing games” is one of those hopelessly ambiguous terms that all daters use but rarely ever know how to define. Like love itself, it’s just one of those things that you know once you see it. It’s the chase, the courting and the mind games that make dating a mess, but whether we like it or not, playing games makes flirting all the more fun, too.
Playing games means deliberately withholding attention with the intention of simultaneously annoying and enticing your love interest and gaining the upper hand in the relationship. The games elongate the courting process, which we fondly refer to as “The Chase.”
Neurobiology senior Claire Jordan said that while playing hard to get, one of the most popular forms of “game playing,” can be fun at first, it can also be a sign of insecurity.
“It’s fun to let mystery remain at first, but there comes a point when you have to let go of your ‘hard-to-get’ mentality; otherwise you will never find a meaningful relationship,” Jordan said.
In case the Backstreet Boys didn’t explain the concept in enough depth in their hit song “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart),” here’s an example: A boy and girl make plans to meet at a party, but the boy sends the girl a casual text saying that he won’t be able to make it after all. An hour later the boy strolls into the party like he owns the place. He struts over to the girl, places his hand on the small of her back and whispers into her ear, “Happy to see me?” And the worst part of all is that she kind of is, because she spent the whole night wondering why he wouldn’t want to see her. Right after she comes to terms with flying solo for the night, he miraculously turns up, surprises her and she sees him in a whole new light: he’s no longer the jerk who stood her up, but instead the sweet guy who went out of his way to see her. And just like that, he wins. Boy: one. Girl: zero.
But guys aren’t the only ones guilty of game playing. Keeping with the party scene, as it makes up a large part of the college dating scene, say the same boy and girl get in a fight. Consequently, the girl saunters over to a new boy and strikes up a conversation about nothing she is truly interested in. She throws back her head in a fit of laughter and locks her hand on the new guy’s chest, all the while shooting searing glances at the first boy.
The girl is telling boy #1, “Fine, you want to get in a fight? That’s cool. I’m totally desirable anyway. How’s standing by yourself in the corner working out for you?” Suddenly, the power has fallen back into her hands and just like that, she’s back in the game and it’s tied for the win.
Radio-television-film senior Alex Anderson said that playing games is the double-edged sword of the dating world because while daters may get frustrated with the challenges of the chase, they would never date someone who they considered to be “too available.”
“The most unattractive thing is trying too hard or seeming needy,” she said. “I think it’s natural for people to play games, especially in the beginning.”
When someone says they just want their love life to be simple, they’re lying. Simple is too boring. We all want a little pain. Society and romance novelists have told us you can’t have a timeless love story without a little torture up front. If we know playing games has the potential to ruin a relationship, why do we continue to do it?
Because no one ever wants to be forgettable, and playing games gives us the chance to complicate a relationship into a tangled and heart-wrenching love story worthy of a Shakespearean comic romance. It makes each potentially replaceable relationship one-of-a-kind. And maybe that’s all we really want: to be remembered.
Printed on Friday, April 27,2012 as: Couples play games for power, pain, passion