Running with Scissors. Cars with Fins. Fun with Games.

Have you ever played “Chutes ‘n’ Ladders” or “Tic-tac-toe”? Of course you have. If so, you know why the world is a safer place. And you’re to blame for all that’s wrong with America.

Have you ever played “Cops ‘n’ Robbers” or “Cowboys ‘n’ Indians”? Of course you have. If so, you know why we can say “f*ck” in almost any conversation, but we face the gallows figuratively if we say the “N-word”.  And you’re to blame for the intolerance of America.  (Ironically, the Editor censored specific words within this piece driving the author’s point home!)

Have you ever played “Monopoly” or “Life”? Of course you have. If so, you know why Bernie Madoff made off with so much money he swindled out of other people. And you are to blame for the Great Recession of the American economy.

Hyperbole, anyone?

If you think about it, just about everything we do as grownups we played as kids. But at some point, gradually, we have been driven to play at, rather than actually play those games. A buddy calls it the “Nerfing” of America.

I do believe that is an apropos appellation. What used to be the “Wild West” has become the “World Police”. Instead of being the head of the class, the straight-A student with a slide rule and pocket protector in his pocket, his mind full of Dungeons and Dragons, a heart full of dreams and possibilities, and his pants on fire for the future, what have we become? The class clown, an I-pod and Ritalin in his pocket, his mind full of Designer Labels and Grunge songs, his heart full of fears and desperations, his pants hanging below his undergarments.

The difference? Back then we were dangerous. Americans were best at being the first, the biggest, the toughest, the bullheaded-est, and, well, the best. If you didn’t believe it, you could just ask us. And we arguably were just what we said we were… but who would have argued? After all, we had the BOMB. The last checkered King, the final ‘X’ in the tic-tac-toe. The Zero Sum End Game. End of story. End of line.

Something happened. I think “Social Guilt” filtered in. The game was over, we had won, but we couldn’t get anyone else to play with us anymore. Instead of being the little guy getting sand kicked in our faces by the Old World powers, it was down to us, the gritty “George McFly” to Russia’s “ Biff Tannen”. And we all know how THAT turned out.

So, now, we have all the games in the game closet, and no one to play against us. But maybe that’s the real problem… play was never “against” anyone… it was always between people, the means to communicate and share observations.

Listen to me, and live. We can get out of this mess, just like the Boys of Normandy did.

With a dedication to the mission, a strong disposition to stop quitting, and a different set of games, maybe we can right this ship, start up the bilge pumps, repair the rigging, and set a new course for the new horizon.

(Wow, that even SOUNDED like the old days… a metaphor that was inconsistent… who could have thunk it?)

Let’s get the game going again. Bring out the Gamers among us, and get the story started again.

“Gamer” wasn’t yet a common term. We who were the nerds, the dweebs who happened to BE the “slide rule” guys, played by the Old Code, the core rules…

1. Know the game. Read all the manuals; know the page numbers by heart, to keep the Other Guys honest… make sure we were all playing the same game.
2. Play by imagination. Think beyond the sphere. Out of the box… outside the lines. The boundaries are solid enough, if the rules are solid… exploits and cheats were out of the question, but by reasoning and discussion, changes could be made. Just like “Schrödinger’s Cat”, observation itself impacts the reality. Don’t just accept the limits. Test them.
3. Keep up the schoolwork. The cliché that gamers were brainiacs was only evident because it was true. It is elitist perhaps to believe that the highest levels (pun intended} of enjoyment of games is available only to the more intellectual of us. But I also happen to believe it is true.
4. Don’t play to win. Play just to play. Iron sharpens Iron, the old story goes. If we engage in a level of imagination wherein we actually experience the emotions and ideology of the roles we play, then we succeed. If we only take the best advantages to succeed at some arbitrary goal, we miss the value of the game altogether, and succeed only in taking the course of least resistance.

Have you ever played “Air strike Rules Risk” or “House rules Warhammer 40K”? Probably not. But if you did, you would know that the name of the game is the playing thereof, not “whoever has the most toys wins”.

Have you ever played “Amber Diceless” or “Mind’s Eye Theater”? Probably not. But if you did, you would know there are no absolutes except that one…

Have you ever played “True Colors” or “Morton’s List”? Probably not. But if you did, you might remember what it felt like to be free of the barriers we built for safety.

Today, we need games more than ever. Games that engage the moral compass, that takes the fight to the core of our problems, not gloss over it with understandable jargon. That players of the newest edition of “Dungeons and Dragons” can carry on conversations with players of MMORPGs like “World of Warcraft” isn’t necessarily a good thing, While certainly it gives a common ground for conversation, it is, well, common.

As for me, and whoever wants to come along, there is a bonny breeze besetting us, and with the rising tide, we start the bilges, hoist the sails, weigh anchor, and set course to the Wild West… guns a’blazin’.

Talk about a mixed metaphor.

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