Zen of Games

I’m a game player.  I used to play video games, but now not so much.  Still, I play World of Warcraft as well as many fine board and card games.  I have too many tabletop games, really, but they’re my hobby and I love them.  So I keep buying them.

As a game player, I find myself increasingly looking at the world from a game player perspective.  Games are merely rules.  Some are abstract, like in Chess or Checkers.  Others are meant to simulate specific real-world or fantasy scenarios, like Monsterpocalypse or Monopoly.  In the end, games reflect how we Terrans view the universe because they are, after all, made by Terrans, for Terrans, about things that interest Terrans.

There are literally games for every conceivable niche, for every psychology, every obsession.  There are wargames, conquest games, management games, cooperative games, party games, pure luck games, pure strategy games, and anything and everything in-between.

My own taste in games is toward thematic games with strategy but randomizing elements.  I find these to be most stimulting because they reflect how I view the universe.  I think we can all work toward our goals (if we’re lucky), and that you can make good decisions toward reaching those goals.  But you can also succeed or fail, despite your own genius and / or incompetence.  You can make the best decisions in the world and still fumble when it counts, and you can sometimes succeed despite yourself.

Granted, if the world is a game, it’s such a large, incomprehensible game that there’s really very little chance of ever understanding it.  Especially given our brief flicker of existence.  But that’s what makes games interesting and rewarding.  They’re like mini-universes where things can make sense, where we get to look from the outside in, and where we can plot and plan with little fear of reprisal because, heck, if we screw up, it’s just a game, right?

Perhaps it’s only the game player in me, but I think you can learn a lot about someone by the games they favor and the way they play them.  It’s a broad generalization and not always true, but I have noticed certain patterns.

People who want to be “nice” in games, for instance, annoy me.  There is no “nice” in games.  It’s a game.  If you benefit from the move, then go for it.  Don’t hold back because you’re afraid you’ll be percieved as mean.  In real life, if you hurled my giant space monster into an apartment building, I’d probably be upset.  But it’s a game.  Nobody dies.  Nobody gets hurt.  It’s the one place in my life where I can demolish a city with no guilt.  If you’re too nice to crush your enemies in a game, then you’re probably a wimp.

On the other hand, people who are overly aggressive in games annoy me too.  Games have clear cut goals.  It’s one of the advantages they have over real life.  And if all you can do is continually harrass and annoy other players rather than focus on that goal, then you’re probably a jerk.

Some players MUST win.  These players, I detest.  The advantage of a game is that, even if you lose, the world does not depend on it.  You can lose and nothing bad happens.  But if you can’t stand losing, then you’re probably an overachiever who needs to chill out a bit.

Some players don’t care at all if they win.  These players annoy me too.  Most games are designed with a clear goal.  Unlike real life, this goal is always something to consider.  If you ignore it, the entire game system tends to break down because most games are designed with this in mind.  If you don’t try to win, then you’re probably adrift in the real world, unable to focus on your goal when it really counts.

There are players who hate random elements in games.  Dice, cards, etc.  They can’t stand these things because they can’t stand a universe that will punish and reward them independently of their decisions.  They don’t just want a clear goal.  They want a clear path to those goals, and they don’t want to have to deviate from it.  They don’t mind games that are very “scripted”, that play out in a very specific way.  They often find that comforting, rather than dull.  These gamers are most probably control freaks, who hate that destiny doesn’t always cooperate with us in real life.

There are abstract gamers.  They like games that dont’t really look like anything, but are instead, arbitrary rule systems.  These type of players seem to run in two categories.  There’s the puzzle solvers, who enjoy a game as a challenge to be mastered via long hours of play and practice.  And then there’s the “Grown Ups”, who detest anything that looks like a toy because toys are for children.  I like the first group.  Don’t particularly see where the second is coming from though since all games are toys, when you get right down to it.  Theyr’e like the people who think a movie must be talky and dull to be award worthy and can’t appreciate the beauty of a giant robot fight.  Poor bastards.

There are game players who boil away everything but the rules and numbers.  They’ll spend hours searching for that fabled Sword of a Thousand Truths if it gives them a +4 Strength bonus.  They’ll interpret every rule in the most utilitarian fashion, even if it goes against the spirit of the game.  And they’ll usually think you’re silly for not doing the same.  I find these people obsessive, often missing the larger picture.

Reading all the above examples, I can see how they come across as negative because, really, our most negative traits tend to be the ones that stand out.  But, of course, there is that old adage that our biggest strengths are usually our biggest weaknesses and vice versa.  Obsessive people can be irritating, but they can also accomplish a lot.  Nice people can be wimpy, but they can be reliable and trustworthy.  Aggressive people might not always aim at the right target, but if they do, there’s no stopping them.  And control freaks can often seize the initiative in situations where everyone else would just give up.

What type of game player am I?  I can’t honestly answer that question.  No one can.  But if you asked my friends, I’m sure they’d have some good observations for you.

Finally, I’d like to give the rules for the game that got me here today.  I call it the ASPIRING WRITER game.

On your turn, you write a book.  Then you submit.  Then you roll a 500-sided die, don’t look at it, cover it up.  Wait 3 to 6 months (or longer), then uncover the die.  Is it on number 42?  Nope?  Well, write another book.  Submit both of your books.  Roll two 500-sided die, don’t look at them, cover them up.  Wait 3-6 months (or logner), then uncover the die.  Is it on number 42?


Well, repeat the above steps as often as necessary.  And remember, the game only ends when you quit.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. SeizureTime
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Permalink


    There is a player you haven’t mentioned. I call him/her the ninja. The ninja encompasses all the aforementioned patterns, or ways of life. The ninja is a wimp, a jerk, obsessive–they must win; yet don’t care if they win. The ninja is everything, because he/she isn’t playing the game (whatever game is on the table). The ninja is playing the person–exploiting the game to play the person. You’ve met this person. It’s the guy in WOW, who has friends camp at regeneration points, so every time one dies and regenerates they die in an infinite loop. In a board game, this same person uses all the rules against you to the point that game is unplayable. The ninja will delude you into believing something that isn’t real. He plays the wimp–the nice guy–so you’ll make that move. He plays the jerk as he’s harassing you for making the moves you make. And he obsessively plays this game around the clock. He plays the game when the game has ceases to be played. He must win. But he begs and begs you to beat him. When you don’t beat him, he point out all of your flaws. He says, “You could have….” But when you try his plan in the next go around, the ninja is ten steps ahead of you. Listening to the ninja is suicide. Not playing with the ninja is suicide. Once you’ve entered the ninja’s line-of-sight, you must play. Even if you attempt to undermine the this ninja player, you’ll find that your plan will blow up in your face, because he’s counting on you to undermine him.

    I have a love hate relationship with the ninja player. I hate the ninja, but I want to be the ninja so so bad.

  2. Posted May 18, 2011 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    yeah there really are games for every niche – there are even games online for people interested in shares and making money. Not reall ofcourse but it simulates the actions of living costs and wins and loses when buying and selling shares.

    Author at Cellulean

  3. Stuart
    Posted June 6, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    i like palting action games. yes, it is true that there are lots of games but the variation is less.

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