The Great Grounding Game Theory Guide: #8 — How the Childhood Games We Played Prepared us to Win at The Game of Life
Q. Lewis, how do the games we play as children and in our teen years prepare us to win at the game of life?
A. Before I answer this question it may be of value for you to get a basic introduction/simple explanation of the basics of game theory. Below is an article (a 6 minutes read) as well as a more in-depth video. Both were created so they would be understood aby 12-year-old.
A. One of the very first things we do in life is play games. To play is to engage in a wide range of voluntary activities for learning, as well as for recreational pleasure and enjoyment. The need to play is inherent in our makeup. It doesn’t matter where in the world we are, what country we are from, or the culture that defines us. The need to play is instinctual; in other words, it is something hard-wired into our brains and nervous systems. To play is so much a part of who we are, that if we don’t play, we become unhappy and even sick. As babies, we often and easily play alone. In time we may expand to playing with a toy, pet, possibly a bird, puppy, or kitten. As we become a little older, we are instinctively drawn to other people and are likely to play with other children, especially those with whom we may have a natural rapport.
As children reach the ages of 7 and 12, they naturally begin to play organized games that are a bit more complex than merely making sandcastles in a sandbox.
From a very young age, children often play traditional or folk games. These games have been passed down from child to child, from generation to generation, formally or informally, and usually by word of mouth. Here, we have learned what the rules are intuitively and without reference to written standards.
The next step may be new, easy to play games, where all that is required are simple rules and equipment. In these games or puzzles, such as Frisbee, or Lego, we learn by example from other children. Simple puzzles come into play in that they test a child’s ingenuity or knowledge. Soon it is on to team sports, video games, and as a child explores these, they are introduced to and explore the game of life.
The term “knowing how to play in the sandbox” is often used by adults to describe those who are pleasant to be around, know the rules, and who agree to play the game of life fairly.
Many adults don’t know how to behave properly because they were never taught these gamer-thinking skills when they were children or teenagers. In recent years it has become apparent to any attentive observer that game-based scenarios are becoming an increasing element of daily living.
For today’s youth, the steadily extending period of play and schooling in the 21st century comes as a result of the increasing complexity of our world and its technologies. These changes demand an increasing intricacy of skills as well as a more exhaustive set of pre-requisite abilities.
In these complex times, many of the behavioral and emotional problems associated with adolescence are likely to increase in numbers and intensity. These problems can distort the thinking of young children and teens, as they cope with the increased demands placed on them,— demands which have become increasingly abstracted from the work and expectations of adulthood.
With software developed explicitly for them, many young children will learn to use computers. They will develop gamer-thinking and strong competitive skills before they ever get to the sandbox.
By their teen years, they may have mastered game-thinking or be crushed by the competitive gamer-thinking of their peers. Soon, the more skilled a game player a person is, as they move into adulthood, the more they will prosper. Over time, the gamer-thinking process can become ever more complex and stressful. This is because, in part, the norms in our fast-paced digital world change so quickly, that there is a constant reshaping and redefining of many Life Games. When viewed from the perspective of gamer-thinking, the immaturity of childhood is a time for experimental play without severe consequences. Here we can spend a great deal of time observing the actions of skilled others in coordination with oversight by, and activity with our guardians. In time we learn to re-interpret, imitate, and practice, various forms of play (sports, games, and puzzles.) We also learn to survive and prosper as we explore the limits of our natural ability to interact with the world.
There was a point for many of us, usually in our teen years when our parents and guardians told us it was time to grow up and stop playing games. Though this advice was certainly offered with good intentions, it was probably the worst advice they could have given us. What they needed to tell us was that “at some point, you will need to see the world through adult eyes, and it is now time to learn about adult games.” We now know that human teens have much in common with their counterparts throughout the animal kingdom concerning gameplay and risk-taking. Research shows that a wide variety of species, fruit flies, pumas, and humans alike, must negotiate four competencies while entering adulthood:
2. socialization (navigating hierarchy),
3. how to court potential mates,
4. self-reliance (accessing food, shelter, water, etc.)
If a teen is not a skilled game-based thinker, life can quickly become a harsh reality. To make things more complex, research indicates that teens of many species are hard-wired to put themselves in peril as they experience challenges, setbacks, and triumphs. This often takes place as a type of rite of passage. A biologist writes of California sea otters, who knowingly enter the great white–inhabited “triangle of death” off the coast. This risky behavior among human teens might seem irrational but it actually makes evolutionary sense. Yes, the crucial, vulnerable, and exhilarating phase of life between childhood and adulthood can be rife with risks; yet ultimately, it is all about testing boundaries. By testing boundaries through excessive risky behavior, an adolescent will enter adulthood with a greater understanding of what is needed to survive and prosper. In the wild, all of these risk-takers may not survive.
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About the Author: Lewis Harrison, is a speaker a strategist specializing in Applied Game Theory Strategies and Personal Improvement