During a conversation about playing computer games, I witnessed a friend of my son’s go into a vehement discourse about what a “time waster” game playing was with such self-judgment and hatred, I could feel the air change.
Since I have a totally opposite point of view, it felt like something I wanted to explore for myself to determine if I also carried the “waster” viewpoint unconsciously.

Until I retired, the only computer game I had ever played was Spider Solitaire. Once I left the corporate world, the majority of the games I played were designed by KING and were accessed on Facebook. Naturally, my first game was Candy Crush Saga yet that quickly expanded to other games. It wasn’t long before I flat out noticed how much I was learning about myself as a result of playing these games and I love that about me.

All these games have levels and each level has a somewhat new set of rules, yet there are still basic moves that apply to each level. I do not even know ALL the rules, so on each level there is a new period of learning. What I mean is I go into each level somewhat blind as to what are the best plays to reach my objective. I know the basic functions, which in most games has a lot to do with matching, yet there are new surprises. It took months of game playing to learn matching 4 or 5 of the same token is a huge win.

Here is what I learned from computer games when I played without judging myself to be wasting time.

First thing I learned is that I am a lover of a good game. I like the challenge of a game, the activity of a game and I am learning how to enjoy the entire process of learning a new game. I enjoy the competition and I enjoy letting a game teach me how to win. Although there is appears to be an optimal standard of moves within each game to help you win, I have also seen, at times, how none of my skills matters.  I often feel like I get to play until it is time for me to go to the next step. I can feel myself emotionally when I win and when I loose, yet I noticed how happy I am sometimes when I get close to winning. The games are designed to sell you additional moves for a price and one of my game rules is to never spend cash on a game. They have rules and so do I and it makes playing the games even more fun. Getting into a game brings me so much joy and I so love knowing this about myself.

I tend to move fast in game making decisions. What I am learning is how this simply does not work for certain game levels. Moving fast, especially on a computer is how I spent a great deal of my working career, so learning to slow down is on my list, yet I love to play fast. I do know that when I open up my viewpoint before I make a move, I do better. It’s like looking at the layout of the garden while you are wandering through it. This might be translated into the BIG GAME of life as taking a moment before I act on a negative thought or open my mouth without editing the same kind of thinking.

Lack of game information is okay and not knowing is something I look forward to when I advance a level. These games are teaching me that most of us dive into many aspects of life without really understanding all the moves and the consequences, until we experience them. For example, there is a game where I remember being warned about the spiders in the bubbles and when you hit them they can wipe out the good spiders, I guess. You know, the truth of it is I never understood the role the hanging spiders had in this game so losing them didn’t concern me all that much. When applied to the BIG GAME, sometimes our lack of information keeps us from spending our mental time in being afraid and paranoid when we really have no idea that it’s just another facet of the game.

Ah, the old winning and losing thingy. We have been conditioned to win and I am no different. Through the activity of playing computer games I learned some interesting and important information about me. I love to win, enjoy seeing the score rise and the pins fall, yet the more I play the more I am learning that winning is relative. At first, I thought winning was about skill until I got honest and had to admit I won too many times on a fluke to make that a reality. Also, I learned that if I went back and played a game over and over, even when I was stuck on a certain level I would eventually win. On days of manic game playing and the sense of leaving my reality, it felt like the winning or moving forward on the game trail was something that just happened. I show up for the game then development, movement and change happens. It happens in spite of my ability, choices and game strategy. This relates to my life as I began to experience it in the change from my busy corporate world to my retired life. I have to get up, show up and allow myself to transition in a new way of being and games have been an excellent vehicle for my process.

Yes, yes…I admit to exercising busyness in my game playing. Thomas Carlyle wrote that “Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.” so with respect to games, it was important to me to know there is good and bad results of game playing. Where do I want to put my attention? I enjoy using the good results to learn and the bad results as boundaries. Research shows that game playing can exercise both mental and physical development, building eye- hand coordination, pattern recognition and opening up a whole new world of self insight. It is a perfect way to have an enjoyable activity, if this is in your make-up. There is not one shred of doubt that this is exactly what I am suppose to be doing at the moment in time I am engaged in the activity. When I worked in my corporate position, I would never a play computer games during the work day, yet I would find other things to do to keep busy that were centered around my job position. Out of that need to create came so many wonderful tools and insights. I believe that computer games are teaching me in the same way.

One of my favorite insights came when I actually completed a game, yet I did not score enough points to complete the level. This is such an interesting situation, as you have used your skill to navigate the game, completed the challenge of the game, yet simply did not score enough points. At first this was very frustrating to me, until I learned that this particular game required something more than metaphorically knocking over pins or matching a row of similar colored squares. This game was asking me to look at how points are assimilated. So, the message is clear that I need to slow down and make sure that I know how to score all available points in the game or not.

One of my favorite game mantras is “ENJOY THE PLAY”. There is a long list of negative aspects that one can choose to hang attention on, therefore causing great disruption and disharmony in one’s life. Certainly, if game playing disturbs your peace, then gently make a change without judgment. Choose your game and choose your play, then enjoy the entire process.

And the last thing I have learned about myself is that when it is obvious I am losing, I often decide to end the game. As my playing progresses I am learning very early in a game whether winning is without boosters is a possibility or not. When this happens and when I determine that (game piece count, wrong color, stiff challenge) I make a decision about mindless matching or quitting the game. There does not seem to be as much fun for me to go through the motions of playing the game, when it is clear I cannot compete successfully.

AND, if I try another game session there is a new opportunity to complete the level, I am generally more excited, more involved and a better player. When I look around me I see this is often how folks approach the game of life. If you are not having fun and you are losing all the time, there is a good indication it might be time to change the way you play or change the game you are playing and I am loving that about me.

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