The Golden Age of Games

Yesterday, I wrote about games as a metaphor for life. Today, I’m going to write about playing games as an exercise for living a better life.

We’re living in a golden age of games, an era where games are improving at a Moore’s law-like pace. Whether you like simple games or complex ones, designers are orchestrating games that are richer, more textured, and more fun to play than anything I grew up playing as a kid. The Picassos, Van Goghs, and Matisses of games are at work today. And it’s a wonderful thing to enjoy.

If you want detailed explanation of how and why this is happening, watch this video:

We’ve all heard the yarn about how life deals you certain cards, and that you can’t control the hand you’re dealt, but you can control how you play it and blah, blah, blah. But most card games are so flat, so two-dimensional, that the analogy or exercise isn’t that helpful.

But there’s a new breed of games that are so great, that they do help you think about life’s problems.

In life, you have to make hard decisions involving lots of variables, based on incomplete information, in rapid succession, often on deadlines. And these decisions often have serious consequences.

In a well-designed game, you often have to make hard decisions involving lots of variables, based on incomplete information, in rapid succession, often on deadlines. But unlike in life, the consequences for getting it wrong are trivial (unless you’re a poor loser).

Learning a new game is a practical laboratory for solving new sets of problems, whether they’re mathematical, probabilistic, physical, or social. I genuinely believe that working through those problems in a social game can make you a better person. Some even believe that games make for a better world.

And in keeping with the theme of this blog, the best games are indeed joyous. What’s a better way to spend your precious time then with friends and family playing games? Not much, says I.

I was originally hesitant to write about this topic, because of the stigma associated with board games. But that’s a terrible reason not to talk about something you love. And yes, I love good board games. That may seem a little silly to say, but so much of social interaction for adults is about booze and so much of our family time is centered around television. The former is slowly killing us and, well, the latter is probably slowly killing us, too.

Games are active and interactive. They are an affirmative, enriching act of life. And there are so many great games today. Dexterity games and strategy games and board games and card games. Games for super nerdy adults and games for super squirmy kids.

If this is all news to you, I recommend starting out with a couple of Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year) winners, such as Ticket to Ride, Qwirkle, or Hanabi. There are lots of resources to help you find the best game for you. Then, if you like those, move on to Kennerspiel des Jahres (Connoisseurs’ Game of the Year) winners 7 Wonders, Broom Service, and Istanbul. If you get that far, you, too, will learn how the best games are true works of art, marvelously composed feats of imagination and design.

Give it a shot, and you’ll soon understand what I mean by the Golden Age of Gaming.