Social mammals spend almost all their time playing games. We play games when we are jockeying for position. We play games when we are considering our status and how it relates to others. We fill a good portion of our day playing games with each other.
There are a few reasons why we play games all the time. One reason is to think that we have some attributes that make us feel good about ourselves. We are smart or physically talented in some way. Another reason is that we want to feel lucky. The third reason is that we want to feel connected and being part of something. The fourth reason is to feel powerful.
Playing trivia can reward ourselves with a feeling that reminds ourselves that we are, after all, smart.
Playing the lottery and in the casino can give us a feeling of being lucky.
Playing on a sports team can make us feel connected, a part of something bigger than ourselves.
When we play video games, we get the sensation of feeling powerful, to have defeated the other and won in life.
We have learned that people engaged in games because we are battling mostly with ourselves. We need to seek out status to know where we stand. We need to become part of something. For a minute, one of our biggest problem in life was answered. We were not so lonely, and we are not so disconnected.
We have also discovered that, if we wanted to build a game at scale, we need to be mindful of this phenomenon. Our culture has taught us two things at the same time. One is that we are special, smart, and probably smarter than most others. Two is that, that when it comes right down to it, most others are smarter than us, so we are fraud. Given the choice of investing in a game where we must show we are the smartest or investing in a game where we can rely on luck or hustle, most people pick the second kind.
The key thing to understand is that real life does not have to be a game. Real life can be whatever we choose to make it. It can be about generosity, connection, and possibility. The questions we need to ask ourselves are.
- Is this a game worth playing?
- Am I getting better at this game?
- Is this game helping the people around me?
- Am I glad I am playing the game?”