Hate the player, not the game

 House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., a close ally of President Donald Trump, arrives at the Capitol as his panel prepares to meet with White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, one of Trump's closest aides and advisers, in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., a close ally of President Donald Trump, arrives at the Capitol as his panel prepares to meet with White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, one of Trump's closest aides and advisers, in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

To those who do not know me personally, I am huge board game collector and hobbyist. While taking time to play the games themselves, I have often heard phrases akin to “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” It is not the fault of those who take advantage of rules, but rather the rules themselves for not closing up any loophole or unfair strategy. If something is not explicitly disallowed, some believe that it is reasonable to do it, regardless of how unfun or unfair it makes the game.

In the context of board games, there is little more to do than just the rolling of eyes and futile pleas of not using such a strategy. I play board games to have fun, and so I am not a fan of such degenerate plays. Instead of actively stopping the loopholes, though, I have found it more effective to deal with the strategy and an unfun game in the short term, and then house rule or suggest a banning of such unfair strategy for future plays.

It seems as though some politicians have taken a page out of board gaming’s book, although to much more serious consequences. Such examples pop up all over the place, but a prime example came last month with the release of the Nunes memo, in which Devin Nunes and other Republicans rallied behind a memo suspicious of the validity of the Mueller investigation. Although old news at this point, the Nunes memo was exaggerated, and politicians abused the secrecy before its release to rile up the media into wasting time talking about it for days. In a move that some have called “trolling” the media, Republicans effectively seeded doubt about the Mueller investigation despite having no evidence to back up their claims.

This behavior is not exclusive to Nunes and his cohort, nor is it exclusive to just Republicans. Many politicians routinely lie or withhold truth in order to push a message to news outlets. Even when they are proven wrong, the damage has already been done: the message has been spread, skepticism or belief has taken root, and the people have been misled. In the age of instant communication, this presents a kind of Catch-22 for reporters and the media. Surely, they cannot wait the days or weeks it takes to prove or disprove information, but they also cannot expect everything politicians claim to be true anymore.

Of course, just as there are explicit rules in a board game detailing what can and cannot be done, there are laws that dictate what people can and cannot do. There is no analog, however, to the house rules that can be implemented in games. The nearest is the social contract, in which people implicitly agree to give up certain freedoms or choices in order to receive the benefits that society provides. This theory, along with general mannerisms and accepted cultural standards, explains why people tend to do things that are not stated in the laws themselves. I would argue that these standards are apparently not enough, given that they allow such aforementioned lying.

If unfair strategies in games can be banned in board games, perhaps it is time to ban unfair behaviors from media attention. The fact that people like Nunes and his cohort can be so dishonest and withholding is ridiculous and should not be tolerated. It is well within a person’s (even a politician’s) right to lie, but by doing so, they break the social contract of news and media. In this way, they should be punished accordingly, revoking their privileges to spread future lies.

And so we arrive back at the phrase, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Exploitation, it claims, should be accepted as a necessary evil to test the rules of engagement. In rebuttal, I posit that we should be able to have reasonable trust in the words that come out of the mouth of a so-called public servant. I want the “game” to improve through house rules and informal bans, but I do not hate it. No, the only ones deserving of hate are the “players” who attempt to twist the rules of said game to their own benefit.


Peter Fenteany is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at peter.fenteany@uconn.edu.