The Real Game

craft (noun)
• skill in carrying out one’s work.
synonyms:skill, skillfulness, abilitycapabilitycompetencearttalentflairartistrydexteritycraftsmanshipexpertiseproficiencyadroitness, adeptness, deftness, virtuosity
a player with plenty of craft
Ever play the game of Life?
I confess, I haven’t in a very long while. As I look back on it now, it seems like a particular kind of cultural conditioning – moving across the board, acquiring the various things that constituted a “Life” – a job, a degree, a car, insurance, a house. In the light of the Millenial generation it seems quite quaint, really – even the people I know who have followed a “traditional” life path know how unusual – and how transient – those things can be. “Job security” is a faded memory, and buying a home is considered a very poor choice by some prominent economists.
Minecraft 2On the other hand, the idea of life being a game…that’s not a bad idea. “Gamifying” habits with programs such as  HabitRPG has proven quite effective for many people. Crossfit takes mundane, repetitive exercises and turns them into a cooperative team effort with excellent results for many. And contrary to popular parenting belief, it looks like video games (such as the amazingly popular Minecraft) actually teach all kinds of problem-solving skills to kids.

Mein Kraft

Personally, as an adult, I’ve never been into the virtual gaming. Things like Second Life simply seemed like more of a chore than a diversion, and Sim City seemed a nightmare. “I’ve got enough challenges trying to manage my First Life!” was the basic philosophy, and really it was much more like a grumpy “I’m too busy for such frivolous things! You kids get off my lawn!
As I look more towards erasing the artificial and arbitrary divide between “work” and “play”, though, I find the idea of “life” taken as…well, a live-action role-playing game, basically – more appealing. Where it’s less about winning or losing (because it’s proven remarkably difficult to define those terms) and more about playing the game well and getting satisfaction out of the time spent in it.
Which, admittedly, is all the time, so the metaphor might break down a bit…but does it, really? Isn’t that kind of what mindfulness is all about – noticing that this is a pretty incredible game that we’re in? Suddenly my mantra Dance, don’t scramble has even more application. “Lifehacks” in general become like the famous Konami Code for video games, but instead of  “up up down down left right left right B A Start” the cheat code is “Yoga Meditate Coffee Journal Music Pomodoro Create!
Here’s the really telling part, though: if I pick up a Nintendo controller and try to play a game, I’m going to be pretty bad. Not because I lack the intelligence – but rather, because I haven’t put in the time to practice. I haven’t bothered to learn the techniques, what the buttons do, what the strategies are, or really how the game is played at all.
Now imagine if I were forced to play. If I had no choice. How frustrating would that be? I could spend a lot of time just mashing buttons, swearing and getting more and more grumpy about the fact that this game didn’t make any sense, that it wasn’t fair that I had to play it. On the other hand, if it was a game based around some story that I was familiar with – say, a commedia dell’Arte game – I might be better at it than most other first-time players, because I would have a head start on the shortcuts and strategies. I could take breaks to put the controller down and read or talk to people who played it better than me to get help, or I could just keep pressing the same buttons, knowing that they were not going to change the result.
It’s kind of obvious which type of behavior leads to “a player with plenty of craft.” But the thing you probably already realized is: we are all already in that kind of game. We don’t have a choice. Some of us are playing on easier settings than others, but we’re all playing.
How we play…that’s up to each of us.

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