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What I Learned from Playing Games

All games teach. Good games keep teaching. Great games teach something worthwhile.

This post previously appeared on Wiltgren.com - Game Design, Writing and Personal Development.

Learning Mahatma Gandhi quote

All games teach. Good games keep teaching. Great games teach something worthwhile.

What did I learn from playing Fluxx Amazon? That rules can change, that loss can come suddenly, that planing is futile. Yeah, that’s not much, that’s not much at all.

I wouldn’t call Fluxx a great game. Other’s might, they might learn to laugh and cry and curse with their friends. Me, I learned that it wasn’t a game for me.

I’ve been playing games for close to 30 years now. I learned to read and then to write English from them (Kings Quest and Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry forced me to). I learned to get along, to not get along and to click as rapidly as I could. I learned that I couldn’t play all games, that some games were too immersive for me, to the point of wiping out reality.

I learned that I wasn’t alone, that there were other’s like me, the geeks and outcasts, the unpopulars and brainiacs.

I learned that it was all right to play Magic the Gathering Amazon and Pinball Dreams (never did like that one, learned that you could make a living from making games from it though – I went to school with the guys who did).

I learned that imagination was more important than strength, that I could take a world I loved, a character I loved, a story I loved and run with it, play with it, win it my own way.

I learned to powergame, to hoard treasure in a way that would make a dragon yellow with envy (is that why dragons are colored?). I learned that hoarding treasure wasn’t all that much fun, that treasure became worthless after a while. Worthless treasure made for a worthless game. More power didn’t equal more enjoyment.Learning Chuck Wendig quote

I learned that there was more to the world that I could see. I learned to envision it, to built it, to improve it. I learned to save, and to count my blessings in having saved. I learned that putting off for later would improve my engine and yield great results in the end (yah, tell that to the finance brats in the stock markets – some lessons aren’t worth learning).

I learned to create. To take and to copy and steal and make games of my own. I learned that there was pleasure in opposition, that one could cry out in rage and be friends. I learned to cope.

I learned the names of the great railroad companies of the 1860’s. Most lessons were like that, useless junk, trivia, systematic wastage of brainpower. But they stuck. New York & New Haven, Chesapeake, PRR.

I learned that I wasn’t too gifted to be beat or too stupid to win. I learned that there was more in the road than in the result, that some games aren’t worth playing, that some rules aren’t worth following. I learned to hide and I learned to stop hiding. I learned that games were worth playing and that games could make the world a better place. I learned how games could make the world a better place.

I learned and in turn I taught others. I met people I didn’t know and shared with them. I met people in t-shirts, in suits, with pierced noses and water combed hair and I learned to ignore their outsides and just pass the cubes.

I learned that it takes all kinds to tango, and that there are those who never tango at all no matter how hard you try. And I learned that there is a dance for everyone, all you need to do is find it.

Most of all I learned that I didn’t need to play to enjoy myself, that I could watch the game and still be interested, that I didn’t need to scream me, me, me to be seen.

And some day I will teach all that to my kids.


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This post previously appeared on Wiltgren.com - Game Design, Writing and Personal Development. New updates every Monday.

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