Ode to Games

Games are a microcosm. They work within their own system of rules and traditions. They allow you to focus on just one thing at a time. They bring friends and family closer together. They are mostly a positive experience for everyone full of anticipation, laughter, good conversation, thought, and being carefree. In each game there is a main goal, but the best games also have alternative goals for the players as well. Many games take teamwork. The variation in games makes them often a novel experience from learning a new type of game to the unknown of what is coming next. Most games combine elements of chance and elements of skill, so you can play and win just on luck or you can see the efficacy of your skills. They can be as complex as Magic: the gathering or as simple as go-fish. Games have been a huge part of my social life. I have a knack for remembering the rules of games, which my friends often rely on, and fortunately, I believe in the following of rules both during games and establishing and staying consistent to the game itself. Cheating is simply changing the microcosm to a different system that is not that game specifically. The rules create interesting restrictions and guidance that you can then add your own creativity to. Winning is fun, but I honestly don’t much care if I do win. I am lucky enough that this happens more frequently than I would even like since there are many times a friend would get more than I out of winning. I do not, however, try to play down to people. It is a part of my character that I try to optimize and improve at things such that when I play games, win or lose, the most important determinant of enjoying the game for me is if I feel I played my best. The exhilaration of winning is a feeling of victory. The reward of a destiny draw is an instant of pure ecstasy. The coincidence of teamwork is comforting. The rush of a speed game and the calm of strategy games give a chance for a game to suit any mood. It is a mark of pastimes, of freedom, of leisure, and of prosperity to play games. It is hugely valuable for maintaining self-esteem and joy in your life. There is a therapy to be found in the preparation of games as well: shuffling and ordering of pieces.

Of all the games out there, my favorites are probably: Magic: the gathering, Parcheesi, Arizona Rummy, and Catan. Magic allows me to concentrate all of my random thoughts and multi-tasking brain onto one task. It is a hugely complex game with tens of thousands of cards creating virtually infinite variety in the combination of decks. There are also different formats to build decks to and different combinations of cards that work together for the better. I use it as solitaire when I need to not think about something overly much. I play it mostly with students in the club at my school, and in this I try to be a challenging opponent but am more interested in playing cards that I like and interesting combinations than actually trying to beat down my opponents (most of whom after all are 12). The flavor of magic as a fantasy game has always been hugely appealing to me and I have structured many of my own fantasies around or in relation to magic.

Parcheesi is a great board game. It does not take very long to play, has a large element of chance, but has just enough strategy to keep it interesting. It is definitely a game where it is not over until it is over. There are a lot of social aspects to parcheesi as well from the use of blocks to getting advantage from sending other people back to retaliation and mercy. There are safe zones and risky areas that you must traverse. The roll of doubles counting both tops and bottoms of the dice is a wonderful reward. The counting of spaces is a geo/arithmetric point of interest to me. There are a number of times where you can help other players along and still not feel you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Arizona Rummy combines many aspects I like about card games. It has wild cards which are always and extra hope and help to your hand. There are sets and runs that you can choose from. There are multiple rounds instead of one dragged out game where the winner may be apparent for a long time. There is a chance of comeback as the queen and king rounds are worth double and triple points. Each player has one final chance of getting something helpful and playing if another player goes out. It feels as though you are moving along constantly. The strategy is immediately clear and easy to exercise.

Catan has all of the rewards of building things rather than destroying. It contains an element of trading for mutual benefit that tempers misfortune with the dice somewhat. There are a lot of min-games that you can play inside the game itself and many expansions on the game that make it more varied and interesting. It is entirely possible to get caught up in your own little game that you don’t even notice that someone else is winning the victory points. There are a lot of little pieces that you can build with in idle semi-attention while others are taking their turns without losing track of the game or checking out entirely. There is easily an element of discovery when you start with much of the board flipped over. Choosing your original placements wisely can be a huge factor in winning, but luck guarantees no such thing.