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Soulful Sundays: Games of Life

I've been playing a lot of board and card games recently. It is something that I, my partner, and our friends do several days each week to wind down in the evenings. I didn't grow up playing many games, so learning them as an adult has revealed some fascinating insights.

First, all games exist on a spectrum, with one pole being chance and the other skill. You can see this with blackjack (no card counting allowed) representing chance and chess representing skill. Most games fall somewhere in between, involving strategy as well as an element of randomness.

Second, no matter how much you want to outsmart chance, it is impossible. You can only put yourself in positions where your odds increase, but even then nothing is certain. This is an allegory for life in general. Just because you eat a good diet, prioritize sleep, and regular exercise, doesn't mean that you won't get sick, but it does give you a huge statistical advantage (especially when you consider that our daily choices can actually influence how our genetic "draw" gets expressed).

Third, and most importantly, to truly enjoy playing games I have had to cognitively separate my actions from any desired outcomes. When you play a perfect game and chance screws you over it's difficult not to feel cheated...or when you play a mediocre game and the winds of chance are at your back, it's difficult not to feel overconfident. I'm no saint, so my constant reminder is to keep trying to increase the variable I have some control over--skill development--and over time that will create more intrinsic reward.

Lastly, the majority of games are more fun when played with others, and in order to have friends, you must be kind and forthcoming with explaining the rules and strategies. Not only does this make gameplay more enjoyable, it improves our own mental model of how the game works. Again, this reminds me of life. We are all in this together, and the surest way to improve is to help others improve. It creates a never-ending cycle.

That's all I have for you today. Some of my favorite games as of late have been The Settlers of Catan, Cribbage, Canasta, and Scrabble. What are some of your favorites? What have you learned from playing games?

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