The game of life

Take any board game. Monopoly, for example. One of the most famous most played and most loved board games of all time.

Let’s play a match together. You start…

Now if you think about it, your intention in this game, when not mentioning its companionship and entertainment character, is to win. All of your actions and choices match one goal. To win. 

What if I told you that you live life in a frightening similar way. Your goal is and will always be to win (or at least not to lose), whatever that may mean to you. 

You’ll experience setbacks, being passed by other players, and wins along the way. All that and more is part of the game. 

Being able to see life as nothing else than a game, in which you have to compete, makes it seem less complicated and serious. It is still the most serious game you’ll ever play, but taking the weight out of things that don’t matter makes you focus on the important points, which will eventually lead to a win.

There is still one big difference. The contrast in winning in a game vs winning in life is not the process of getting to that win, it’s the win itself. In games, this win is an occasion. In life, its a state. Getting to that state is, as already mentioned, a game-like process, just with way more non-essential things that can distract you from getting to your desired “win-state”. 

By knowing this, you can apply game-theory and game-thinking to your world view and the way you navigate through life’s challenges.

You will be able to see through the fog, knowing what is crucial to winning and what is not. You will learn concepts that allow you to control your thinking in a way that life suddenly seems interesting and fulfilling and that will enable you to lift the unnecessary weight off your shoulder. Simply by knowing what is essential and by seeking the truth.

My friends and family know about this philosophy and that I live it. Well, I have to admit, I often receive pushback and criticism when comparing my way of living to simple game theory. Obviously, because people like to believe that everything must be of unbelievable complexity for it to have meaning. 

Common judgment when talking about living a gamified life is:

  • that I don’t take things seriously,
  • I am emotionless,
  • and that is has a delusional character.

Exactly! Some of the things mentioned seem true if you don’t dig deep enough. Comparing something complex like life in the 21st century to something ‘primitive’ like a game might seem delusional. 

For me, none of these criticizing statements is what I feel. That is just the picture I might convey on a superficial basis. What has changed is, that I only focus on serious things, my emotions are fully under my control, and that I use aware self-deception as a strategy to keep my happiness.

What these judging people don’t know, is that all of the principles that should help you live a more peaceful and happy life mentioned in this book are based on profound research of ancient philosophy. If we go back to the lifetimes of Marcus Aurelius or Seneca for example, you can recognize a rational and well thought out decision making when it comes to their way of navigating life. Which is exactly what is required to be a good player and to eventually win a game of monopoly.

Now, life is not that easy. Especially in a moment of suffering and pain. But have you ever thought about what life would be without discomfort? Essentially, would you play a game that has no challenges, nothing to overcome, or nothing to win? 

You probably wouldn’t play a game that has no difficulties. And that is for a good reason. Suffer and pain is what makes a life worth living and what provides us, in the most basic sense, with meaning. If there is nothing to suffer for (or to win) we lose interest in playing.

Viktor Emil Frankl is one of the few that survived the holocaust and was imprisoned in Auschwitz in 1944. In his book, Man’s search for meaning, he describes the psychological effect newly arrived inmates underwent when slowly comprehending the horror that was going on. The first phase, he recalls, was the presumption of a grotesque and absurd kind of humor. People who had to experience that awful place used this witticism as a way to protect themselves and their mental state. More or less, gamifying your life is a weakened form of that. Later on, when there was seemingly no end to this adversity, besides being murdered or death due to lack of food, the prisoners of Auschwitz believed they had nothing to accomplish anymore. They had no game to win. For the majority, life lost its meaning. And thus, they lost their lives.

As Frankl wrote: “One could make a victory of those experiences [in Auschwitz], turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners.”

Essentially he refers to the concept that people need something to look forward to. In our Analogy, a game to win.

In the case of the holocaust, this was an unbelievably optimistic, and hard to adopt way of thinking.

Do you think that if Viktor E. Frankl was able to keep such a mindset in the worst of time, you are able to do so in the most plentiful time humanity ever experienced? Frankl’s way of thinking in such circumstances was fascinating. 

Especially, how he reevaluated what is important and what to focus on. Which is also a big part of gamifying your life. As an answer to the just named criticism, that a person who lives a gamified life does not take anything seriously, one could say that thy just overthink what to take seriously.

As you can see, there are several parallels when it comes to using game-theory or games in general as an analogy to (modern) life. Now, we’ll dive deeper into exploring those principles. Life has never been that fun (nor easy) to play.

Want to learn more? You’ve just read the unfinished version of my book’s introduction. More on the release of ‘Gamify Your Life’ here.

2 Comments

  1. Jack Dawson

    On the fourth indentation “loose” has to be lose. As a native speaker I wanted you to be as precise as me. PS. I’ve learning German, shit happens to me too.

    • Niels

      Appreciate the heads up! 😀

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