Almost everyone has played a board or card game at some point in their lifetime. Whether as a child playing Chutes and Ladders, or as an adult playing Poker, it’s a natural tendency for all people to enjoy games. But, are these games more than what they seem? While the game itself may be fun, there may be a deeper meaning to game playing that you may not be thinking about. From Monopoly to Scrabble and Roulette to Chess, games may provide you with both a temporal and a spiritual insight that makes playing games – necessary!
To better understand the insight that we can gain from board games, let’s start by examining games and the religious principles of Salvation. First, what is the goal of playing the game? To win, right? But, did you notice that the reward doesn’t come until after the game is over? Multitudes of religions, not just Christianity and Catholicism have an aspect of the ‘after-life’, and its design based upon whether we ‘won,’ (ie. Heaven or a high place in a spiritual realm), or ‘lost’ (ie. Hades). There’s surprisingly little else in life that matches this format. Think about that …
Working everyday is not for the reward that comes after twenty-five years of hard labor, but the check you get as you go along. Relationships are an ongoing reward without too much concern for what comes next (depending on what you may or may not believe). Not even ‘non-gaming’ activities like hiking or biking are really about the reward afterward (which is usually being really sore, albeit feeling accomplished), but an ongoing process with little bits and pieces of reward given throughout. Is it possible that human beings modeled gaming after a deep-rooted, spiritual knowledge that we all possess?
Let’s look at a few other aspects of gaming that may give further insight:
One of the key aspects of gamine is that you’re required to play with another person (yes – even video games with human vs. machine is another ‘player’, technically). There are those few games like Solitaire, Candy Crush, Angry Birds, and others that isolate you from the rest of the world, but they all have one drawback: no reward at the end (okay … several drawbacks, like they’re monotonous, repetitive, etc. etc. etc.). The games just keep going, and going, and going until … you look up and realize that your house is a mess, you have a thousand missed calls, and your hair has grown another foot (well … for those folks who are lucky enough to have such amenities)!! These really don’t qualify as ‘games’, in the traditional sense and fall in line more with the ‘time waster’ category. In reality, multiplayer games force us to compete, in a microcosm within a vacuum.
And, we benefit from so much more than just socialization when we play with others. We learn to compete with other people without boundaries, we drop the socio-cultural barriers that we let ourselves use to separate one another (finances, race, religion, etc.), and we’re all playing as equals on the same playing field (whether we’re the thimble, or the race car!). Because, in reality, we really are all just playing the same game of life, trying to get the highest reward at the end, and we are literally faced every single day with the challenges that come from the other players (ie. driving on the road, obeying the law, performance at work and home, etc.).
Another valuable aspect to gaming with others is learning how to fit in. I don’t mean finding friends … I mean ‘fitting in’ to real life. We’re all bound by the same rules of life and death, emotional ups and downs, physical weaknesses and strengths, and so on. Yes, some people excel in one or more aspects while they fall short in others – and so do you. But, not everybody plays by the same rules when it comes to finances, culture, and politics. The same can be said for playing games. When you sit down and play games with other people, you’re constantly faced with the reality that the other player may be cheating, mastering rules, combining rules to their advantage, and hey … they may be benefiting from just pure, dumb, luck. On the other hand, they may be living their lives in such a way that makes it seem like they’re doing better … when they’re really not! This isn’t manipulation – but it is intimidating!
Gaming gives you invaluable insight into the workings of your own mind. You figure out strategies, are motivated to try new things and master new skills, and you’re forced to do so in a high-stress environment with only the hope of success, or failure, as the end result. Even if you lose with good friends … you still lose. I would argue that this fact alone makes gaming such a valuable tool in society. I would also suggest that this is the reason that games (of every kind and nature), are so pervasive in our world. Gaming provides a micro-simulator for your brain to practice extremely valuable skills that it can turn around and use in real life!
What you’re left holding when the game is done is another perfect example of how games validate our spiritual insight into a greater reward after life. Think about Monopoly for a moment … what are you left holding when the game is done? Sure, you’re the victor and to the victor go the spoils … which amounts to a pile of worthless cash and plastic houses. Wow … sort of depressing. But, there’s a lesson here and I think it has something to do with understanding that when this life is over, it’s not about the wealth you amassed or what you horded to take with you when you’re gone … it’s about how you played the game.
Did you have fun? Did the other players have fun? Are you surrounded by friends and people you enjoy being with that you can go forward to the next, big challenge with? How is that any different than what happens in real life? After you’re deceased – what have you got left? Most likely, the one thing you can count on will be the fact that the people you played the game of life with (not the board game… real life! sheesh!), will be right there with you.
And, together, as friends, family, lovers, or some other form of a relationship, you can tread forward into the next, unknown adventure with them at your side.
Isn’t it interesting that games are so amazingly close to not just ‘life,’ but a spiritual life? And, at the same time – games are an invaluable resource for training the mind to deal with real-life situations! Ever notice that when you’re playing a board game with someone and it’s not going well just how upset you get (well … not everybody, just … everybody!!)? Ever see what happens in any type of game when someone is caught cheating? Neither of these situations EVER end well! In fact, board games can be the make or break in relationships (just read this hilarious site on why playing Monopoly is a bad idea)! The same is true in real life. If someone cuts you off on the road, gets an advantage while you get shafted, or someone cheats to get ahead – you feel upset!
So, what can we take from this?
Gaming is evidence that human beings have an inherited knowledge of something to come after this life – good or bad. They are a realization that we are living in a temporal existence, trying to pair up with other players in the hopes of getting that ultimate prize. Gaming proves that where we’re going, the people we leave with, and the journey itself, are far more valuable than what we take with us! Gaming provides invaluable strategic techniques and insights on how to live, how to deal with competition, and how to deal with both good and bad players.
Just remember … we’re not talking about time wasters here – but games … real games!
So … forget the cell phone (no solitary time wasters) … turn off the XBox 360 (no computerized opponents), and invite someone to play a board or card game with you. It’s one of the only safe ways to improve your daily health and well being in a highly competitive environment before heading back out into the world to try out those skills!
Worse case scenario … you’re stuck with all vowels on Scrabble and have to figure out a way to creatively swap some of those letters … “Oh, look over there …..”
An “S” … yes! (Unless you’re one of those unfortunate people with a grandmother who has the entire dictionary memorized and can play “It” for 10,000 points while your seven letter word nets you … 2!!! Then, you switch games to battleship!! HAHA)!