Hayley's Story - Connect 4 Managed to Connect Two: Why Love & Games Go Hand in Hand

A Gamer Story by Hayley Opoka

When historians of the coming centuries talk of this time, surely they’ll credit us as “the age of the app.” Need food? A vacation? Perhaps a guided meditation? No problem - we’ve got an app for that. And if there isn’t one yet, give it a few weeks and check back. This surge of connectedness through applications hit one particular facet of the human experience pretty hard. So much so, it leaves many wondering how we survived before. I’m referring of course, to dating applications. In the age of the app, love is found online.


References to “swipe left, swipe right” have become commonplace phrases. As a twenty something female living in an urban center, you better believe I’ve been on a few dating apps in my time. Each preaching to be better than the next or unique in some sense, but for me, all of them bared a similar undertone. As you click or swipe or like, as the screen lights up for a match or a message, I couldn’t help but wonder - why did every dating app feel like a game?

When thought of in the spirit of playfulness and good sportsmanship, this concept isn’t so unnerving. Why not think of dating as a game? It involves strategy, reward, and overall, aims to promote connectedness. However, not everyone plays fair. In every game, there are players who enjoy the play, but also ones who keep their eyes fixed firmly on the podium. They play to win, and it would seem this analogy applies to the dating application nation as well.


There are a few ways to look at the conundrum dating apps have left us with. Certainly, one option is to let our new electronic road to romance dampen your faith in humanity. From tinder nightmares to “Catfish”, there are people who abuse the system. There are people who abuse every system, but why do we think this is? If you dig deep enough at the “why” here (and I have), could it be dating apps click for us because humans just love a good game?


The takeaway here does not have to be cynical; games are meant to be interactive, engaged with - played. If you’ve never considered yourself that into games, but you’re searching for love online, maybe you just haven’t found the game for you yet.  Maybe a bit of playfulness could go a long way here.


I dated for what felt like a long time, because mating is an especially lengthy game in that respect. But with any level worth beating or prize to be won, it’s bound to be a windy road to the finish line. While I have now found the man of my dreams, I didn’t find him until fairly recently. If I can extend one piece of advice to anyone hanging out in the current dating pool (especially those feeling frustrated or skeptical) it would be simply: you need to make this fun again. Try incorporating a game into your dates, in whatever way you feel comfortable.


The striking similarities between gaming and dating don’t just make for an interesting metaphor - it tells us something about the human experience. Enjoying a game is perfectly human - it’s universal and a brilliant method to foster potential bonds. Don’t let dating be you against them, or him against her; play the game together. Be competitive but lay out the rules and level the playing field. See how you connect then.


For us, it was Connect 4. It was sitting in a bar known for their plethora of board games. If you’re city doesn’t have one of these, no sweat. Get a game to play in the park, on the beach, or in a cafe. We met through an app, but while our swipes had aligned, I was skeptical. To go for another drink, to ask the same questions, I already wanted to change the record. There was a need to go off script, but still find common ground. And even when the notion of heading to a board game bar came to me, it didn’t automatically click. But it was the best idea of any that popped into my head, so off we went.


He chose the black tiles, I chose the red; Connect 4 got us going. Simple rules, simple concept, but a clear need for strategy. We sat for hours going back and forth, trying to outsmart the other, but we celebrated each victory the same. We learned we were actually a fantastic team, even if we were on opposing sides. He was so proud of me when I won, and I genuinely smiled regardless of the outcome. When I think about the rest of my life, I want it to feel like that all the time. 


Some other favourites of ours turned out to be Scrabble and Guess Who. How should you decide on a game to play? There’s no secret answer to that. Could be the one your mom used to play with you or the one in the most colourful box - talk about it. Figuring out how and what to play is a hell of a defense against awkward silences. Now, we love returning to this spot. We’re happy to revisit an old favourite or try something new. It’s one of the first memories we made as us. The games we play are slowly turning into a sequence of memories, and hopefully one day, these games will bring us together even as we expand from just us two, to three, or four, or five.


I’d never thought of “gamer” as a way to identify before. While I’ve let Candy Crush take over my life for a few weeks and have a strong affinity towards Mario Kart, I don’t know that I’d ever mention those two facets when asked who I am. But when I reflect on the connection I was able to mold over a game, I really hope I am a gamer. My view on games, gamers, and gaming changed as I spent less time thinking of those who play to win, and those who play to play. I hope I never lose the ability to come together, set the stage, and enjoy. Games are not just a pass-time, and certainly not a waste of time. They come in all shapes, sizes and skill levels - there’s something for everyone. And for me, once I surrendered to the play, they helped me find my someone.

Have table top games been an important influence in your life? Share your gamer story here!