Games People Play

Do you remember the games you used to play as a kid?  Was it  Sorry, Monopoly, Candyland or Operation?  Did you have a favorite?  I used to love playing games.  Monopoly was one of my favorites and I liked being the top hat. Those were the days.  Fun was just around the corner at a roll of the dice.


When we were little we liked to spend our days playing games.  We would gather family members or friends and play the whole day long and sometimes well into the night.  It was fun and we were young.  Who knew back then how important games would become in our lives.


First of all, before we played any game we had to understand the rules to that game.  I like to think of it as making a choice.  Some chose to abide by the rules and play the game honestly and some chose to make their own rules and toss in a little bit of cheating for added pleasure.  Add all of these ingredients and the game could last for hours or minutes pending who followed the rules or made the rules up as they went along.  I have played both sides of the fence for different reasons.


I started out playing by the rules and following everything exactly as I should.  I played that way because it was the right thing to do.  People played along with me and I assumed they played by the rules as well.  Normally we played harmoniously, but occasionally there were a few rifts that occurred.  It would range from someone’s feelings getting hurt when they lost, to a power struggle between multiple players.  Some wanted to always win and some wanted to stop always losing.  Our guards were now up and we took something fun and made it personal, as if this game now defined who we were.  Naively not knowing we hit the nail on the proverbial head.  How we play games can actually form a pattern as to how we deal with situations in life.  We can play by the rules and deal with the consequence of that choice, or we can bend the rules to justify the choice we make.  Whatever the decision, we have to claim complete ownership of that choice.


When my niece and nephew were little I would bend the rules a bit to get a reaction from them.  We were close but I wanted to add a little more spice to the game of Monopoly.  Part of me wanted to just tease them and have fun.  It was after all just a game.  But then an idea hit me.  What if instead of just being a game, I now could administer a lesson on how life can be unfair?  So I chose to make this a game of control to illustrate my point.  Under my control we still played by a set of rules, but the rules were going to be rewritten.  The premise was still the same and you had to follow the rules to play the game, but there were consequences attached to your decisions.  The consequences were determined by the Bank and the Real Estate Manager (two roles I assigned myself to play).  It was all in fun, but in theory I wanted to show that sometimes you can do everything by the book and be right and life will still treat you unfairly.  It is from these circumstances we make a choice as how to deal with the unfairness.  Do we give up?  Do we decide to stand behind the rules or do we, ourselves, break the rules and find justification for doing so?  I did not want to be mean or cruel (for I would never want to hurt them in any way), but I wanted to teach them something.  I wanted to ruffle feathers for a reason and believe me I did.  They let me know how they felt about the rules I made up, but they continued to play along and to challenge me every step of the way.  They learned to assert themselves and stand up for what they felt was right.  My goal was for them to be able to look back years later and see where I was going with this bold move and why I chose to do so.  If it were up to me I would always have let them win, but at what cost?  I wanted them to be strong and able to handle whatever is dealt to them in life (and they both have done exceptionally well within this area).  We always ended the game on a happy note and they have mentioned a few times throughout the years their memories of playing this game.


Games are created to play and have fun, but they also can determine who we are and who we choose to become.  We can carry that experience into our adulthood and it can be positive or negative.  It all depends on how it was perceived as a child.  Some are unfailingly faithful to playing by the rules and accepting whatever comes from their decision-making.  Some choose to bend the rules and determine their own way of winning.  The game can be used as a building block for how to go through life’s hardships or it can be used as a blueprint to create a defense mechanism to become a weapon to wield against others.  For some it is a power struggle or a matter of control.  It leads to playing mind games against one another.  It becomes a means to an end:  that is to get what we want out of it.  We need to examine our reasons behind our decisions and move on from there.


To me, I like the structure of rules and knowing that whenever life causes me to stumble, I can rely on that structure to get me through it and it has. I have learned a lot about following rules, the use of strategy, and how to accept the consequences whether good or bad.   These lessons have shaped and strengthened me.  Lastly, as I look back at the game of Monopoly, I realize I have been sent directly to jail, could not pass go, and could not collect two hundred dollars, but I stayed faithful to the game.  In the end, I have turned out all right and never the worse for making this choice.  Go ahead and roll the dice to see where you land.  I’ll tip my top hat to you.


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