Playing Games

SettlersOfCatan.5.25.06

Favorite Board Game these days is Settlers of Catan

There is something other then addiction that draws me to these games that I am really enjoying playing on facebook. Instead of acting all enlightened here in my blog and then running off to facebook and hiding as my alternate personality “Lylewyn” and seeing how many more times I can hack at the monster or see what quest I am headed out on next or what new “friend” from what part of the world has joined my army to fight the bad guys, I thought I would bring some consciousness to this part of my recent life and look at it like I do with the other things I have looked at and will look at.

I have always loved games, when I was a kid I would play Risk and monopoly a lot. In my family my Mom taught us “Poverty Poker”, she would stake us all to $2 in pennies and we would play, if we ran out of money we would get put on “welfare”, which was always very embarrassing, and some of us would hate it and try to get out usually failing and one or two of us would really start to work the “welfare” system and find creative solutions, still staying in “welfare”, and then one or two of us would have stacks of pennies in front of us and get very protective of those pennies. We learned a lot about the world playing these games. Risk and monopoly taught us strategy and thinking ahead and poverty poker taught us economics and most importantly they were fun, engaging and a great way to connect with family members on a rainy day.

When I got my first computer back in 1984, an Apple Mac 128k, there was a couple of games that showed up that were text based mystery games where you had to follow the clues and make choices that would lead you to more clues and, if you were good which I wasn’t particularly, you would solve the mystery and get the prize. I really enjoyed being on a quest and engaged in the mystery of it all as I wandered across deserts and through forests in my imagination as the game took me to places and often got me lost. This game was more of a solitary experience then the old board and card games of my childhood and yet in some ways it wasn’t. I was living alone in an apartment in New York City, I was surrounded by millions of people every day and worked closely with people at work and it was kind of nice to come home and spend some time with my little mac wandering the deserts alone up in my apartment. Then of course games exploded onto the scene in the next 10 years. There were all of the video games and arcades, which I never really got into, because to me the joy of playing the games was that it was I way I could be alone and having fun and get a little break from being around all the people. Then the games started showing up for the computer that were much more visual and interesting and the computers were more able to take you on the journey and it became more like interactive movies then something in your imagination. I still played these games and went on quests with Lara Croft and battled with Diablo in the pits of hell, and a little something got lost when it came to the imagination.

Then in came xbox, nintendo, and playstation I resisted these games for a long time thinking that I had gotten too old to get involved with them. They were really for the younger folk and for the folk that really didn’t have a life. Then one Christmas I was celebrating with Karen’s family and the nephews had a couple of friends over and they were playing an xbox game on the big screen tv, each of them had a controller and each of them were looking at the screen they controlled and moving their character around in that screen and at the same time they were aware of what was happening on the 3 other screens and where the other players were in both their screens and on the other screens and they were casually talking to each other about what they saw, while they were busily knocking out the enemy and sometimes each other on the screen. I was blown away by the ability to literally hold so many things competently at the same time and also quite astounded by my inability to do so. A new level of respect arose for these games and what they make possible. I saw that the next generation will be able to handle complexity in a completely different and more effective way then my generation can and I was grateful for what the games were teaching. I went home and got an xbox and Karen and I sometimes play games together and we are pretty pathetic when it comes to what my nephews can do and it is clear that there is a learning curve and even us old dogs can be opened up a bit when it comes to dealing with complexities.

castle-age_logo

This is my favorite game on facebook

Which brings me to the current iteration of game enjoyment. These games I am playing on facebook have a different feel to them as does everything that facebook and its ilk have introduced to us in this world. In some ways it is a return to the original text based games that stimulated my imagination in the early days of computers within the game itself. There are quests,
accomplishments, levels to achieve and dragons to fight. There are farms to take care of and mobsters to kill. The difference is you have the option, and it makes the game much more fun, to invite in lots of other people to join your army, mob, or be neighbors on your farm. At first these are people that you already know that are in your facebook world. You are thrilled and excited to see them and send them gifts and leave them notes and you help each other along. Then as you expand your world you start inviting in people that you don’t know that are from all over the world and every continent and pretty soon you are connecting up with people of all ages and from all sorts of societies that you would typically never run into and some of these folks actually start to have short conversations with you, usually about the game, and you start to be surprised by the variety of people out there engaged in the same game you are playing. It is actually quite fascinating.

So that is me coming out of the closet about my enjoyment of games. I still love all of the old board games and the games we played and still play like the dictionary game and taboo and charades. I like playing cards and Karen and I sometimes get a cribbage or gin game going until one of slips into being whipped and defeated and we head off to bed with our tail between our legs in shame.

Shame is an interesting word to end the last paragraph on, because there is some sort of guilt and shame I have about my enjoyment of games. I think there is a part of me that still wants to look good and “enlightened”, and playing games doesn’t do that particularly. I really thought I had unearthed those nasties. More work to go there clearly.

There is another part though that is the shadow of all this for me. There is an addictive quality to it. It’s always a temporary “addiction” and fades away to some sort of sense of acceptance, followed by loss of interest for awhile. This “addiction” is really more of an obsession I think. I get pulled in and am aware of the game in the back of my mind a lot even when I am not playing the game. When I meditate it goes away and when I stop meditating that awareness returns, when I pick up the phone or lead a class or talk to Karen or any of the other myriad of things I do in my life this awareness slips out of consciousness and returns when I have nothing in particular to focus on. The part of my mind that judges me thinks that I “should” be focusing on “something important” in those times and not on some game I am playing on facebook, thus the shame and guilt is born.

What I do know about mySelf is that I love questing and I love questions.

4 responses to “Playing Games

  1. One friend once talked about himself as “a person of enthusiasms.” That has stuck with me because it seemed to describe my own tendency to go full bore into something for awhile and then let it peter out when the charge was no longer there. It’s different to me than an addiction, though I think it can manifest some of the same behaviors if I’m not careful.

  2. Ahhhhhh….you (and we all) are enlightened, are still in darkness, are a game player, an educator, a student, an entertainer, an addict, a lover, an introvert, an extrover, a solid form, a flowy mass, expansive, contracted, a hider, a seeker, big and huge, small and tiny, a pirate, a poet….”AND SO MUCH MORE!”

    Hmmmm….now who did I learn that from??

    Thanks for the reminder!

    🙂
    Love & Laughter as always!
    L

  3. Thanks for putting this out there, Henry. When I play games, whether it’s Settler’s of Catan at the cottage, or some random facebook game, the one in me who is endlessly searching, wondering, examining undoubtedly shows up at some point in the process to observe me in action and be curious about what’s going on. Aiming for balance, I let myself play. Keeping the adult in me within view seems important. If I let my child or adolescent selves take over completely, then the dishes don’t get done, my kids don’t see me, and the dogs don’t get walked! Your ‘coming out of the closet’ seems a good way to ensure the adult in you stays in charge. Then you can learn from it, create from it, change the world from it… all while having a great old time! The addictive/obsessive part of the process can be troubling, especially when I watch my son escape from reality completely inside a game. With the RPGs and multi-player online games it can give a false sense of usefulness. Killing the big monster, leading the horde, helping the cause can all seem like REALLY important things. (“They NEED me, Mom!”) Meanwhile, he’s lost touch with the world at large. Lost touch with himself. Eventually, he loses the skill and desire to engage with flesh and blood people in an environment where you can see, hear, and touch them. Compassion and curiosity both dwindle. This distortion can be dangerous. From a leadership perspective, getting lost in it completely seems to deaden one’s ability to recognize the ‘urge’ in self and the L3. So I say, go forth into the dragon’s lair and battle with folks on a global scale, AND tie a rope around your belt and bring your walkie-talkie. Let yourself release into the joy and discovery of it, then come up and tune in. Write about it… wonder about it… teach and inspire ever more boldly from the the understanding, relief, and fun it brings. I know you will, because THAT’s what YOU do BEST! Love you – Henry AND Lylewyn!

  4. Yes, I’m with you on releasing the guilt and shame – I find that those guitly feelings can actually tie me more to playing internet games or surfing aimlessly, in an obsessive, addictive way. When you go, hey it’s ok – it releases you to enjoy it.

    That addictive quality does worry me – I find that I can be sitting in the room with my partner and I will be so absorbed in the screen, obvilous to the fact he (who doesn’t use a computer AT ALL) being left out of my internet world he isn’t a part of.

    I’ve decided to do what serves me well on the net – I know I find it difficult to start a game like Farmtown and just dip into it, without becoming obsessed by it. So I let it go – and I find I don’t miss it, or long for it. I love blogging, I love connecting with people on Facebook, posting links, starting discussions. But here, I become aware of when I get ‘trapped’ into an addictive circle – i.e. I check my emails, I check Facebook, I check out my blogs and muse a bit or comment on someone elses, check out discussion boards, and hey now I must check my email again…. and I feel abit like a hamster on a wheel! I’m really aware of this – and on one hand I want to embrace my intenet adventures and on the others, I don’t want to get lost in it all.

    Games are great fun – and like you said, on the internet you play with people all over the world – and connect. WOW! If you can do this and pull yourself out with the rope Helen mentions, that is the best way to do it I think.

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