Learning from Games

We play games, because they are fun. However, then the question becomes, why are they fun? Why do we enjoy them so much? Why is simulating some (often mundane) activity in a very abstract way so pleasurable? Because we have an innate need to push ourselves and games are a great way to do that.

Yeah, this is once again one of those ‘serious’ topics…

So, we are supposed to learn from playing games. Do we? Its hard to say. The relationship between in-game and real life decision making is often hard to identify, but there clearly must be some connection. Sure, there are actual philosophies based on games, such as the Sixty-Card Lifestyle advocated by Travis Woo (where you treat your life or aspects of your life like building your MtG deck, where you need to cut excess things to make it as lean as possible), but most of us don’t really have such a concrete point of view on the subject.

So, do we learn something? Do we plan the use of our resources better or manage to avoid finding too drastic resolutions to problems (as Michael Stackpole sort of off-handedly suggested in The Pulling Report on suicide) because we learn how to deal with things through games?

Well, I do see that the best MtG players do well in whatever other endeavors they have. Is it because they are just naturally talented? They probably are and they probably have a great work ethic as well, but they did use a huge chunk of their youth and early adulthood on a game, and its time they could have used on their studies. Some Hall of Famers are rich and definitely not through their winnings from the game (although some have invested that wisely). Is it just because there’s a similar skillset involved, or is it because the game taught them something?

I’d like to think games are teaching us things. It might not be readily apparent, but there were are. Do lions know exactly when they learned a certain trick in their games in their cubhood? (Is that a word? Well, not it is.) Games do, however, change our paradigm. Maybe these things aren’t just that tangible, but going through how you can best use your turn and how are you going to leverage that on your following turns or what is your overall plan is shaping your brain.

Is that beneficial? Yes. If you have a problem, gamers will often be the best people to find the solution. This is what we train for. We have dynamic, often at least partly obfuscated problems and a we have learned set of approaches to solving those. It is hard to say when this expertise comes into play, but it must be there, when we make decisions in our daily lives.

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