Why do we play games? We play them to have fun, of course. Games are meant to be entertaining. However, sometimes our competitive nature gets the best of us and games cease to be fun. If the game itself is so poorly designed that it is more frustrating than entertaining only compounds the problem. But sometimes factors come together and games manage to transcend obstacle and become a little piece of joy. I call that gaming zen.
One example of this was when I was playing a boardgame with some friends one afternoon. The game was called Broadway, which is a rather clever twist on Monopoly because every player has the potential to own a percentage of every property on the board. Because of this, everyone has a stake in the success of the properties that they own a substantial percentage of. When a property is failing, there is a lot of interaction between the players to try and keep it afloat until it can start delivering profits. The game ends when the last property closes and all of the funds are divided among the players. Then folks count up the money to see who won.
Except, when I was counting up the money, I discovered I didn't care who won.
I realized that I'd had fun and winning didn't matter to me. That's not to say I've never felt that way with other games - I have. But that was certainly the first time I realized that you could play a game for it's own sake and just have fun. I've made it my goal to try and give that experience to everyone who plays one of my games.
I'd love to hear about your own experiences with gaming Zen. Let me know.