Some folks really like playing games casually. Others really like playing competitively in one off games. I think, based on my experiences as of late, I rather enjoy playing board and card games in tournament format. This is a reason I seek out and make the trek down to Table Top Cafe when they put on a tournament of some sort. Sure, there are games I prefer over others, of course, but I really enjoy the challenge of playing the same game multiple times or over the course of a number of hours against multiple other people. Even if I don't perform particularly well, I find it enjoyable. And that's the thing: for me it's less about winning even in tournament play than it is about enjoying myself.
Today I took part in a 7 Wonders tournament at Table Top Cafe, and found it to be remarkably enjoyable. Sure, I didn't win or place, but that's not what it's all about. I won my last game which felt good after placing a close third a couple times. I really enjoy 7 Wonders because it's a board game where there are numerous good strategies, you don't know if you're winning or losing until the very end, and because you're realistically mostly only impacting the strategies of your neighbours directly (this depends on the size of the game too, but yes). 7 Wonders is certainly among my very favourite tournament games to play.
There's simply something about playing tournament board games/card games that I rather like. I wish I knew all of the dynamics involved because it has got to be something more than just the fact that it's established — I seek out tournaments long before playing a freestyle game or a hosted game at an event and that kind of strikes me as a bit odd. I enjoy tournament style poker over casino style poker too. I know it limits my options quite a bit when it comes to what games to play, realistically: certain board and card games are not conducive to tournament play (and I do rather like cooperative board and card games generally.
Similarly I shy away from TCGs and LCGs (trading card games or living card games) partly because of the inherent costs of participating in tournaments but also because it just seems cumbersome to collect so many cards (yes I still collect expansions to regular games that also cost me time and money and space so I'm not sure how accurate that is).
Sometimes I wonder if my desire to play board/card tournaments stems in part from my great familiarity with sports tournaments (at which my brothers often excelled whereas I was never the most skilled at sporting activities, though I was determined to do a good job insofar as I was able). I mean I'm familiar with the format — I spent countless hours at hockey arenas growing up and competed in swim meets culminating in regional and provincial meets as a kid. There certainly are similarities.
But maybe it's just that I enjoy the challenge. Or that the playing field is set up such that I might get some sort of reward for my having played. Maybe that is why I have a prize bin for folks who win games played at my place (I rather should host again sometime soon as it's been a rather long time since my last board game event). It doesn't even need to be a tangible reward usually either — the joy of having played is often enough — then again I did rather appreciate getting an alternative art card for 7 Wonders only this afternoon…