Play or Game?

As many of you know, I play games.

In my experience of playing games for many years, I have long held that there are two fundamental types of behavior demonstrated by those who engage in game play.

First, there is the behavior of “play.” Playing is characterized by seeking to have an experience of having fun or of sharing fun with others while engaged in the activity.

Second, there is “game” behavior. Gaming is characterized by seeking social advantage through the activity whether it simply be membership in a social clique or superiority in social interaction with others.

Of course everyone engages in both behaviors to varying degrees. Over time, however, you get to know where the other people involved generally come from. If a player loves to expostulate about how cool their old character was, well then they are “gaming” and their satisfaction with the current game will be dependent on how well they feel that they are gaining social advantage.

You can see, of course, how all of this applies to how you live as much as how you play games.

There is a root lesson here but it comes from a fact that is extraneous to everything that I’ve said so far. That key fact is that no matter how you try to manipulate other people you cannot entirely predict their individual responses. Therefore if your enjoyment of an activity, be it game or life, is dependent on how other people esteem you, then you cannot know whether you will succeed. You will always be looking for signs from other people as to whether you are having fun.

Now nothing says that you can’t enjoy the mystery of not knowing whether you are having fun, but isn’t it just easier to… well… play?