The Gift of Games

There are few things that can bring people together and break through barriers like a game can. This is one of the primary reasons I love gaming. The framework it provides for social interaction is unlike  any other activity. Whether it is a card game, board game, or role playing game face-to-face gaming is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to meet new people.

When you think about it, what makes meeting people and breaking the ice so difficult? For me it is the lack of shared experiences. Conversation and interactions are all based off of the experiences of each individual, but true friendships are formed only when those people share an experience with each other. Games provide that experience immediately by breaking through social stigmas and becoming a platform for interaction.

  • Games provide rules. Rules determine the “social norms” of the game and allow everyone to act and become comfortable within those norms. Since everybody knows them, everyone knows what to expect and how to act.
  • Games can often times provide a shared goal. Games that involve teamwork immediately give a reason for people to work together and interact. Even competitive games usually have a single goal that is wanted by all the players.

Games and game mechanics can also provide value in other ways. In Aaron Dignan’s book Game Frame he addresses the two causes or sources of the apparent apathy of many young people. First there is a lack of volition. Volition is the will to do something; it is what motivates us to take action. Faculty is our confidence that we have the skills and expertise to accomplish something.

Often times people limit themselves because they lack either volition or faculty. Games can change this by providing what Dignan calls “flow.” Flow is a state where a person’s skills and expectations rise at the same approximate level as the challenges he or she faces. If a challenge is to hard and our skill level too low it creates anxiety, whereas if our skills are more than adequate for the challenge then we become bored.

Games optimize flow so that when you first start out you are confronted with challenges that you can overcome with a limited skill set. As your skills grow so do the challenges. This provides a strong model on which to improve skills and confidence.

These are just a few things that games can teach us, and only part of the reason I love them so much. If you are interested in this topic I suggest you check out Game Frame or the work of Jane McGonigal.

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Share the Links!

I thought I would share some links from around the web. I found these articles or blogs to be interesting and informative and I hope you do too!
Hope In The Time Of Tranquility @ Fevered Mutterings

This post on the Fevered Mutterings blog hearkens back with fondness to the way things used to be and is a great tribute to Neil Armstrong.

How To Thrive During An Internship @ HackCollege

A good read for anyone in an internship or anticipating being in one sometime in their college career!

How To Overcome Boredom @ Stepcase Lisfehack

Similar to my post on boredom which you can find here.

The Minimalism of Not Knowing @ mnmlist.com

Do we really need to know the answer to every question immediately?

Battling Boredom and Being a Steward

At some point in our lives we have all said it: “I’m bored.”

There are times when there seems to be nothing to do, or the things that do present themselves seem incredibly uninteresting. I regret to say I have wasted and still do waste way too much time being bored. When you are bored you try to fill that empty time with sedentary entertainment such as TV or video games, food (generally of the unhealthy kind), and unproductive time wasters like Facebook. I am guilty of doing all those things. But as a minimalist, and as a person who is genuinely interested in improving my life, I have to say enough.

We are all stewards. Stewards of the time that is given to us, the talents we have, the bodies we inhabit, and the resources we use. If we make light of our stewardship and waste the things we are supposed to be caring for what good are our lives? More specifically related to boredom, if we allow ourselves to become bored we are wasting the time given to us. There are so many things of interest in the world, so many things to learn, experience, and feel that it is foolishness to succumb to the lazy trap of boredom.

I have experimented with the idea of a “boredom list” before, but I think I will begin one in earnest. Here is my idea. Take things that you have always wanted to do or read or watch and write them down. Create a list of things that you may not have the time or inclination to do everyday, but still interest you even remotely. This Boredom List will soon fill up with things that you can pull out when you feel boredom creeping up on you. Take my list as an example when building your own.

My Boredom List (So Far):

  1. Watch The Joy of Mathematics
  2. Watch Games People Play (about game theory)
  3. Write a blog post (like this one).
  4. Write in my journal.
  5. Listen to a podcast or audiobook while I (insert task here)
  6. Take a walk.
  7. Read an educational or nonfiction book (Art of War, philosophy, poetry)
  8. Meditate
  9. Exercise

These are just a few examples of some of the things that you can add to your boredom list. When you are done with them cross them off the list. Or better yet, make a second list called a “Victory List.” Write on this list all the things that you did to defeat boredom. Not only will it give you the satisfaction of seeing how you have bettered yourself and defeated boredom, but it will be a record and reminder to yourself to be a good steward of your time.