Connect 4

Rob Mansfield – Connect 4 (Milton Bradley, 1974)

Rob MansfieldFor as long as he can remember Rob has written stories and played with words. Over the last 10 years he has produced successful content and, quite simply, told stories online for the likes of AOL, IPC Media and Age UK. In his story, Rob talks about his hatred of losing.

Connect 4 by Rob Mansfield

Connect 4

It’s the simplicity of it. Two players. Each has 21 counters in either red or yellow. The aim is to be the first to make 4 in a row in your own colour. That’s it. No other rules. Anyone can understand that.

The year I got it for Christmas (around 1978), I’d actually spotted the box at the top of my mum’s wardrobe in about September (my mum always started her Christmas shopping early).

Not realising it was a present, one day I asked my mum if we could play a game of Connect 4. She looked confused, telling me we didn’t have that game, to which I gleefully replied.

“Yes, we do. I saw it in your wardrobe.”

Cue anguished cries of frustration and annoyance that her ‘hiding place’ had been discovered.

I still had to wait till Christmas, though.

"No easy games in our house - you won fair and square."
Once December 25th rolled around, I seized upon the long-awaited game and started to try and master it. I identified wholly with the boy on the box – that was me taking on all-comers, no matter their age or intelligence.

I soon realised it wasn’t as easy as it looked. My family was never one of those who ‘let me win’ to make me feel better.

After all, my 16-year-old neighbour Martin had taught me how to play chess at the age of 3 – and it was three years before I beat him.

Connect 4 was no different. I had to learn the hard way. No easy games in our house – you won fair and square. Tough love in suburban Kent as a kid.

Thinking about it now, this probably turned me into the hyper-competitive person I am today.

I don’t always let it show, but I hate losing at ‘almost’ everything.

In fact, if truth be told, I probably don’t even bother taking part or entering something if I don’t think I can win – games of luck frustrate the hell out of me.

Back to Connect 4… Now, over 35 years on, I play the very same game against my own daughter. The blue 6×7 grid is a bit more rickety than it was and we’ve somehow acquired a few extra counters over the years.

The competition is still there, but not quite so fierce. My 10-year-old wants to win but she doesn’t plays as if her life depends on it.

And I don’t have quite the same mentality as my family did back in the 1970s – the playing is what’s enjoyable, not the winning. If I think she’s getting frustrated, I’ll happily lose the odd game, in order to prolong the time we spend together.

My daughter has a different personality, and now, at least where Connect 4 is concerned, so do I.

To read more from Rob, follow him on Twitter, and if you would like to share your toy story, let me know @stuartwitts.

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