As a kid, I played games just like most people do. I played peek-a-boo. I played games that I made up with whatever I happened to find out in the yard or the woods. I played games with boards and cards and plastic pieces as a pastime for when I was enjoying the company of family and friends. In high school and college, I played plenty of video games, PC games, MMOGs, and of course the occasional drinking games. I got very good at every game I played. I have a natural aptitude for games. But I’ve gradually lost interest in all of them. It isn’t that I dislike games or have consciously decided to abstain from them; I just don’t care about them anymore.
This is a bit of problem. You see, a vast majority of human interactions are instances of gameplay of one kind or another. If I want to move up the corporate ladder at work, I have to play the game that allows people to advance. I happen to think that the game is bullshit and that people should be promoted based on actual competence and performance rather than simply on how they present their competence and performance. Silly me, I know.
Another good example of the human experience as gameplay is romance. Just about everybody seems to view it as a game, maybe even THE game. If we participate in the game, we end up playing people in much the same way we play cards. We want to have the winning hand, to get what we want out of the situation and then fold and leave when enough of the chips are ours and the other person is left with little or nothing. If the stakes weren’t so precious, it would probably be a much less painful game than it so often is.
I know that playing games in childhood is what prepares us for these games that we have as adults, these sometimes vulgar and sometimes dignified dances of pretense from which some emerge victorious and others may not emerge at all, having lost themselves in the game.
But I have to wonder. If we stopped preparing children to play the games of life and instead taught them how to solve real problems and build honest relationships and live a life of integrity, would they need to play those games? Would they even want to play the games we spend so much time and effort participating in? I doubt it.
Games only work when there are players. To end the game, all we have to do is stop playing. We created the game, and we can destroy it. It’s the one chance we have of truly winning.