In the midst of watching an intense, albeit amateur, game of Catan, I was bothered. Throughout the whole game, in between trading piles of hay and sheep, there was constant bickering between the two males in our group. One was arguing that you had to trade when it was their turn, and the other argued that it wouldn’t matter if they were going to do it anyway. On top of that, there was a growing competition to see who could have the most victory points. There was constant “one upping,” and meanwhile, I was just trying to learn the rules of the game.
After playing for two hours, the person who was winning had three victory points when you needed ten to win. It was frustrating, to say the least, and perhaps that is why I went on a long rant about the complex in the game. I started off saying, “this game has become a whose horse is bigger than whose competition,” and “we get it, you both have been playing the game since you were children, and you want to prove you know everything about the game, but in all reality, I don’t care.” To which both of them, almost in unison, said, “we do know everything about Catan.” It is sufficient to say that I remained frustrated.
What may be less obvious about the whole situation is this behavior among men is not uncommon. According to LiveScience.com, “men are like apes when competing for status… Something unique about human males is that after competition they experience an increase in testosterone if they win or a decrease if they lose…” What this means is that in order to protect ego and have dominance over a fellow opponent, human male behavior evolves to a more competitive one.
Moreover, what needs to be realized is competition is inherently bad. Alfie Kohn, American author and lecturer in the areas of education, parenting, and human behavior, writes, “competition is to self esteem as sugar is to teeth… success is possible in spite of competition not because of it, and competition breeds hostility,” articulating his discontent with the way competition has existed in the status quo. Commonly thought of as a necessity for success, competition has only caused more issues. Despite popular belief, competition creates self-doubt when one fails, and the hostility it ignites only makes tensions more polarized.
Also noticed is competition is prominently an issue in men. Women have been deterred from fierce competition for many reasons. Olin Business School attributes lack of involvement to the pressure it entails, but a study done by the Department of Economics at Stanford University notices that women are often not confident in their abilities due to the culture promoted by their male superiors.
Culture has only helped the stigma that men are better at other activities than women, and it’s simply not okay. In order to put women on the same playing field as men, there needs to be an understanding that women can do just as much as their male counterparts, if not more. And the change of culture all starts and ends around the table playing a game of Catan.