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Two things that can differentiate one culture from another: the games invented by men, and the food dishes invented by women. But of all inventions the mankind experienced, since its early dawn till this very moment, playing games is the one thing that spans across all the cultures, all the ages, and all the phases of maturity. Think of it: one common thought that can spin in the head of a toddler who wants to discover the world around, a child who wants to live his own fantasies in his own imagined world, a grown up who wants to escape reality, a home-alone husband with a golden opportunity to finally break the rules and enjoys his manly ways of spending time, or a sick person with a political agenda that aspires to ruin parts of the world: one common thought and one common urge: Time to Play a Game!
Board Games, Olympic Games, or Video games, with a dice, a ball, a joystick, or checkers, what make games an integral part of our lives, history, and culture are these elements of: a defined goal, agreed upon rules, strategies for winning, and the spirit of competition that adds a fervor air of personal and even national sense of pride upon victory.
And if you manage to master those elements in some game and be a best player, then most probably you got what it takes to be a best player in life itself because they both share many commonalities. Life is our big playing board and we are all players who share same considerations as the players in even the smallest scale game such as Tic-Tac-Toe. Allow me to share with you some of these considerations that would make us better players in games and in life as well.
The first thing we need to equip ourselves with is that logic of maximize/minimize. The typical goal of any game is to win by making the moves that shall maximize the chances of winning, while minimizing the chances of a loss. And this “maximize/minimize” way of thinking is what really differentiates a top achiever from a mediocre.
The number two thing we need to understand is that it is a multi-player set up. We are not alone on this board and the result of any move we take does not fully depend on our play, but also on the actions taken by other players and sometimes by other uncertain factors caused by the environment itself.
Take for example, the famous Prisoner’s Dilemma that founded the corner stone in one of the most critical theories in history: The Game Theory, on which the most complicated and advanced economic and political systems are based.
Two suspects were being interrogated in separate rooms. Knowing that each is eager to minimize his jail sentence, the smart prosecutor offered each one an offer: If you testify that your pal in the next cell committed the crime you go free and escape the sentence.
Now this prisoner may fell in the trap by betraying his partner in the hope to go free while the other guy serves the maximum sentence alone, but if he stops for a moment and think: “wait, what if they gave my partner this same offer and he betrayed me as well? This means that we are both plead guilty and we will both serve extended jail sentence, but if I remain silent (and I hope that he too will think the same and remain silent) then we will both serve a lesser sentence as suspects.
So if you have shared interests, then cooperation may result in best outcome for the multiple players.
And finally we need to be aware of is that we are resource-bounded. When our big game is over, then there is no way to restart it over again. We need to manage our resources very well while respecting the rules of the game. We may run out of time, moves, trials, energy, or money, because we are all playing a finite game here.
But sometimes it is not about how many points we score at the end, but rather about the way we play our game till the end that may turn it to an immortal infinite gain, if we play it: “in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams”, as in the oath of the olympics.
P.S. This was part of my Speech#3 at the Dubai Toastmasters Club (7492), on 29th Feb 2016