Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Five Games You Need To Play To Live Well

"The unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates
The right games give us moments of self-examination about the essential activities of our life. Games are a distillation of life's choices in concentrated form.

We utilize skill and chance in all contexts of life, such as trading on the stock exchange, deciding where to go to college, or figuring out what to wear.

When you play games, you focus and reflect on essential activities. You take control of actions you use all the time and, by doing so, learn to live more deliberately. If you miss these opportunities, you will have missed out on understanding a part of your own life.

1. Role Playing

All people role play.

We turn in one moment from arguing with our spouse to graciously greeting a guest. We can be coy and demure in one situation, and brash in another.

Role playing is an essential psychological activity that helps us examine the roles we play through contrast. By deliberately assuming personalities different from our own, we come to know more about who we are.

You can role play in a psychologist's office or group therapy, but it is more fun and more accessible to role play using a game (not to mention less expensive).

The classic role-playing game is Dungeons and Dragons, which sounds like it's only for geeks, but it isn't. Although the source books present a fantasy theme as an example, the system can be used for any type of situation with any type of characters, such as role playing super heroes, trauma victims, or even cats.

There are many other good systems out there, or you can simply play a free form system of your own devising.

2. Gambling

Life is full of risks.

Being able to evaluate risk, take a chance on the unknown, and limit your losses, are crucial elements of life.

Some of us are addicted to chance; unfortunately, it is usually those who can't grasp when they are in a losing situation facing bad odds. Some of us won't take any chances, even when, with proper preparation, we have much to gain and little to lose.

In the context of a game, we can learn to evaluate, dare, win, lose, and rebuild. We confront our faith in ourselves and in higher powers. We gamble all the time; some time spent understanding how gambling really works is a good lesson for making better choices in other areas of our life.
"If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss; ..." If, Rudyard Kipling
Gamble in a safe environment and with a friend. If you may be addicted to gambling, don't play for money; use poker chips.

Gambling games include Poker, Backgammon, and dice games.

3. Abstract Board Game

We live in a haze of confusion over where our own desires end and other's begin.

Many of us simply walk around tending only to ourself, without remembering the Other, except how frustrating it is that they don't seem to be doing what we want.

Nothing refocuses our sense of Self and Other, our personal boundaries, like an abstract board game. With a few pieces, some simple rules, and a clear head, you remember that the dance of life is one of mutual cooperation and competition.

A two-player abstract game is a zero-sum experience. Everything that helps you harms your opponent, and vice versa. There can only be a single winner.

But, win or lose, both players will have experienced all the aspects of communication necessary between two people: how to treat the Other respectfully, how to persevere, how to overcome, how to lose gracefully, how to win gracefully.

There's no better game for this than the classic game of Go. But if you're overwhelmed by this game, you can just as easily play any other abstract game, such as Memory, Rummy, Checkers, or Chess.

4. Negotiation Game

Where abstract games help you to learn how to negotiate with the Other, multi-player negotiation games help you learn how to negotiate with groups.

Group dynamics can be chaotic; you are no longer necessarily the center of attention. Two players can talk to each other and gain against you. You must learn the importance of speaking to different people with different needs and the art of successfully advancing mutual benefits.

You will learn that good personal skills can turn a losing position into a winning one; and bad skills can make you isolated and ignored or even attacked.

You have to learn how to not hold personal grudges, as the results of one game must not carry over into the next.

The classic negotiation game is Diplomacy. It is a tough and harsh game of political promises and backstabbing. Too harsh for some people. Also, it takes seven people and a good few hours to really play well.

But any game with meaningful interaction can teach proper negotiation skills. An excellent choice for players of all ages is Settlers of Catan.

5. Party Game

Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed.

Too often we get caught up in the process of surviving to remember that there is a reason we do all that work: to relax with friends and enjoy each other's company.

Also, it is good to take some time playing in an environment where winning is not the ultimate goal; where everyone, no matter what age or with what skill, can contribute and enjoy him or herself. Where we are all accepted.

A good party game is the catalyst for a good social event. A game such as Cranium that provides opportunities for all types of play is a good choice for this type of event, but any party game, such as Charades, Pictionary, or similar also works.

Games are not an escape from life. They are a distillation of life. There is no one too young, or too old, to play games. Find time to connect.

It's time well spent.



Gerald McD said...

Excellent article! I enjoy your blog every day.

Yehuda Berlinger said...


And I enjoy having you as a reader, every day.


Karlo Licudine said...

This is a very interesting read.

I was expecting games like computer games and such but your post was even better than those things.

The one about gambling is what caugght my attention. I never thought that a person needs to gamble in order to live well. After reading your side, I finally came to realize that you may be right. Also, the phrase "Life is full of risks" is nicely put.

Such a nice read. A worthy read!

Thanks for your post.

If you have time, why don’t you drop by my post:

It’s also an entry for the problogger top 5- group writing project. ^^ Goodluck to us all!

Anonymous said...

I was skeptical when I clicked on this link from Pro Blogger's contest. What an unexpected surprise! Your post is so well written and thoughtful. I love to play games, but I never had a good way to validate that. "They are a distillation of life." I'm going to borrow that!

Anonymous said...

You forgot soccer! It is the beautiful game, and the game that has made many friends out of people that don't even speak the same language!

Eric Franklin said...

Brilliant! This is something I've been trying to share with my family and co-workers for a while. I think I'll send them this direct link.

Jack Steiner said...

This was excellent.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

karlo, electric: I'm glad you liked it. But, from your comments, I'm thinking my title wasn't specific or appealing enough, or perhaps too unbelievable, to attract many readers.

jdj: You're absolutely right that a sport or exercise is a critical part of living well.

gametyme, jack: Thanks for the love!


Anonymous said...

In our family we play games when we gather at holidays, but not at other times. And I have rarely played games with friends, other than sports, which are different. This is a terrific blog that has me thinking more about games and their place in both our relationships and our inner selves.

Anonymous said...

Nice Post. I especially like the part about gambling. So many people hide their head in the sand at any mention of risk. It really is an important factor in many aspects of our lives.

Anonymous said...

This was and Excellent post! Love your play on games and life! Great read!

Anonymous said...

Very Nice. I enjoyed this post and it was great to discover your blog. I will be an avid reader from here on.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

katie: Your experience is typical of most families. I find that a game is the best way to connect with all people of all ages. You can even get those would otherwise be hiding in front of video screens or televisions, if you get the right game.

Of course, there are other good choices, such as sports, drama, and so on, if you can swing them.

harry, kristen, hobby guy: Thanks for your comments.

By the way, I will also be writing a write up of my favorite posts from and an analysis of this latest writing project a few days after it is done, as usual.


Anonymous said...

Very nice article! the games that we play are actually based in our everyday lives, I've never thought of that up until now