Understanding Our Situation

This is probably a video you should probably watch (note: you should probably either watch this before using the “more” link or just use the link and watch this after that, because the page is going to reload):

Its about a study of people playing Monopoly, who are given advantages over the other players, and how it affects their behavior. Its very interesting. Apparently they can’t distinguish between being actually good and just getting a free win because of the advantage they are given.

More on the subject here.

The thing is, this isn’t only about games, but how people view the world based on where they started.

Now, I’d like to believe gamers are different. I often play in FNMs on Fridays (that’s Friday Night Magic, a small local tournament supported by WotC by giving some small prices to LGSs – actually very small, but its something). There’s usually about twenty players. There are often first timers and there are the people who participate weekly. Obviously, there’s going to be a difference in the level of players.

Being one of the better players with plenty of experience and generally a pretty good deck (at least after I’ve settled on one in a format), I always feel bad when I’m paired with a very inexperienced player. Of course the Swiss tournament system takes care of part of this, because if I win early, I only play those who have also won early. I don’t want to crush the players, who have just played home against friends and have just garnered enough courage to take part in these events. Its not easy to take your creation (and these new players have their own designs much more frequently than the more experienced players) out to test it against people who have done this for a very long time. I don’t think they expect to win, but I do think they dream about it, and its great to see one of these newer players do really well, which I get to do every once in a while.

I went 4-0 yesterday, winning the event. I felt very good about this, because I didn’t have to crush any new players to do it. I played four pretty experienced players, each with a very good deck. I know at least two of them have won these events in the past. I got twelve boosters of Born of the Gods for my troubles. The thing is, once I got this prize, my first thought was that I don’t really need these and I should give these away to players at the shop who’ll have more use for them. On the other hand, I can’t do it, because I don’t want to put such pressure on other players to do the same. I guess I’ll just cry as I open them.

I went through this line of thinking, because I am a gamer. I see the world differently. I understand that I have an advantage because I have more money than the 12-year-old I faced a few weeks ago. (He did have a very good effort, but not quite good enough.) Although I’ve placed limitations on myself, I have pretty much endless resources in terms of MtG (as even the most expensive decks are well within my reach), so I can’t think I’ve somehow earned the victory because I’m somehow superior. When I win against players with actual good decks, I feel fine about feeling superior for the moment, although I do understand that this game has variance and on any other day I might get totally devastated by these players. I’m allowed to feel good for a while, but I have to remember the nature of the game.

Of course, there’s a chance my social background (being a upper middle class guy from a lower middle class family) and my education (including game theory and other forms of decision making) also have much to do with my attitude. I would hope other players can come to similar conclusions. After all, if games become more mainstream, this kind of thinking could be a really big thing.

If you viewed the video, you saw the examples of Bush and Romney and the metaphor of being born on the third base and thinking you’ve made a very good hit instead. Remember not to fall into this kind of thinking. Its not good. It would be better to understand the situation other people are in. After all, we are all in this together and we need to have a society that looks after each other, and doesn’t blame people for not succeeding from a difficult position.

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