Playing games is an important part of our work at Playlearn. Not only do we learn a lot about game mechanics and dynamics, but we also discover ourselves through playing. After each game we play, we have a small debrief session where we share our thoughts on the game strategies we used and how we felt and behaved during the game. In this article, I will share with you a few of the things that I’ve discovered about myself during gameplay and how I’ve used games to improve several areas of my life.
1. GETTING STUCK IN THE PAST
When I play a game and I make a mistake, I start thinking “If only I ...”. I get attached to the possible better outcome I would have definitely experienced had I been more inspired, smart or present. Well. Needless to say, I am unable to focus on my following steps properly.
I can recall many moments in real life when I would remember my so-called bad decisions and replay them in my head. I would then close my eyes and shake my head hoping that those memories would vanish, just as I did while playing.
Games have trained me to accept the things that can’t be undone. My strategy now both during gameplay and in life is to focus on what CAN still be done and to harness the best that I can out of a given situation.
2. TIME TO THINK ALONE
I’ve discovered that the games where I feel at my best are the ones that allow me to have some time to think alone about my strategy, like Everdell or Queen Domino. I become enthusiastic about implementing it, while at the same time keeping the flexibility to change it.
I’ve applied this principle in my work life and noticed that those moments of self brainstorming are crucial to me, because that is when I get the best ideas and gain the clarity I need. After taking this time to think by myself, I am good to go and co-create, collaborate and all those cool co-words where I have to work with other people.
3. FEELING LIKE I DON'T STAND ANY CHANCE
During high competitive games, there are times when the other players gain many points in a row. That’s when my mind starts to question whether I still stand any chance at all. If the other player is also very confident and vocal about their achievements, the feeling gets even stronger. After becoming aware of it, I’ve started to question it - is it really true or is it just a bias?
I realized that there were times in my life when I felt reluctant to start something because I was convinced I couldn’t possibly become good at it. With this insight in mind, I decided to learn graphic design. Though I liked it, I considered myself too far behind to ever become skillful. I’m currently in the process of learning, focusing on small steps and without questioning imaginary chances.
4. TRUSTING MY GUT FEELING VS HAVING A STRATEGY
There are dice-based games, like Dice Throne where your following moves depend a lot on what you roll. And there are also strategic games like Root where you need to plan your moves thoroughly, like Root. Playing has taught me to identify how these principles apply to real-life situations. There are times when things depend less on myself and are more on chance. That’s when it helps me to think very short-term, rely on what I feel and act accordingly. Otherwise, I risk wasting time and energy on something that can change in the blink of an eye. But there are also times when things depend a lot on myself and that is when it helps to build a strategy. If I don't, I go back to getting stuck in the past and asking for the bad decision to undo itself.
Habits are formed by reapeating the same behavior over and over again, until it becomes automatic. A key aspect of building habits is finding the right triggers for you, the ones that make it easier for you to manifest the wanted behavior. This is what games are for me. I use them as triggers to install healthy mental habits. What I accomplish during gameplay also gets transferred to my real life, provided I practice.
I cannot emphasize enough how awesome games are at showing us key aspects of ourselves. How do you respond in situations when all that you’ve planned changes in the blink of an eye, because of what the other player did? What do you tell yourself when you are really close to losing the game? How do you embrace victory? How do you respond to uncertainty?
Games offer you a safe playground where you can set learning objectives for yourself and practice, practice, practice. Games are a safe simulation of life itself. Use them wisely.