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Game Changer

Applying Game Theory to Real Life

If you're a gamer, you'll get this. If you think gaming is for kids or don't have the time for it anymore, think again. You are a gamer, and I'll tell you why.

But first, ask yourself: If this reality, right here, right now, were a game, what level would I be on? What in-game items have I collected in my inventory, what have I built, and what's my end-game?

We're not only exploring the parallels between virtual in-game mechanics and the real-life hurdles we face every day. We're codifying the intersection of game theory, technology, and human behavior to illuminate a path forward for humanity based on cooperation, innovation, and collective action. Drawing inspiration from the world of gaming and emerging tech, such as AI and blockchain, we have an opportunity to foster a more cooperative, equitable, and resilient society.

There's a bigger game at play. Many of us can't see the forest for the trees... we don't see the bigger picture. By facing our challenges with the wisdom of gamers and the tools of the digital age, we can create a world where everyone wins.

This might just be the transformative game that leads the human race into an age of enlightenment. If we get it wrong it leads to an age of destruction and darkness.

Wanna play the game and see?

TL;DR Don't want to read the rest? Watch on YouTube!

Obstacles and Difficulty

On an unconscious level, gaming has become successful because it taps into human nature. While it's often perceived as an escape, gaming, in fact, mirrors our journey through life, packed with obstacles and growth opportunities. But this game is not a race to finish first. How we choose to overcome obstacles and complete levels is more important than how fast we get to the end.

Obstacles are a necessary part of every game worth playing… the biggest obstacle is yourself.

Understanding the essence of gaming leads us to a fascinating revelation: the obstacles, power-ups, and leveling up in games mirror the trials, resources, and growth we experience in life. Let's explore how these gaming dynamics play out beyond the screen.

Games captivate us with their obstacles, balancing difficulty to ensure we're engaged but not overwhelmed. If a game is too hard, nobody will play. If it's too easy, nobody will play. This balance between challenge and reward, between the big goal and the smaller victories, mirrors life's own dynamics. Like a well-designed game, life requires us to overcome challenges to grow and achieve our goals, celebrating the small wins and enjoying the journey towards our larger purpose.

Power-Up & 1-UPs

Power-ups boost our abilities, helping us to overcome challenges more effectively. Similarly, in life, resources like education, mentorship, and technology empower us to navigate obstacles. Historical innovations, such as electricity, automation, mobile phones, and now AI, have revolutionized our world, offering us real-life "power-ups" that change the game of life, allowing us to enhance our skills and tackle challenges head-on.

The ultimate power-up would of course be a 1-UP, for an extra life. I'll come to 'God-Mode' at the end... but in reality a 1-UP is knowing that you can try again when things don't work out. The pro gamer is the entrepreneur who fails 5 times but never gives up and wins on the 6th time. He looks at the first 5 runs as practice for the big win. It's the parents who finally conceived after years of trying or adopted instead. The real winners are those who play the game... they don't quit, they just find another way.

Practice Mode

There are times however, when you just want a practice run. Games often feature a practice mode, allowing players to hone their skills without the risk of real failure. I've been watching my daughter do this in Minecraft recently and it feels like she's doing an apprenticeship in gaming. This concept is absolutely vital in real life too. Through practice, preparation, and resilience, we learn and improve. I explored in my last article how the first major phase in life up to approximately the age of 25 is when we are in a read-only mode of operating. Throughout childhood we are mostly being looked after so we can focus on learning and developing as humans. We can make mistakes and be forgivven, we learn to push the boundaries, test our personal limits and societies limitations. In our teenage years to young adulthood we take on more responsibilities in life but generally have the mental and emotional capacity to focus on absorbing information and start our apprenticeship of real life! It's our practuce run for everything from work to relationships. I'm sure you're first few girlfriends would give you a good slap if you broke up with them at 15 and said "Thanks, you were a good practice run!"... but you get my point. Social skills and emotional intelligence are some of the most powerful skills in the game and we level up in these from a young age.

A Level Playing Field

In gaming, rewards and collectibles signify our achievements and motivate us to persevere. They also give us increased abilities and advantages to succeed. In life, our achievements and the goals we reach serve a similar purpose, providing satisfaction, motivation and skills to continue pushing forward.

The narrative structure of a game might follow the "Hero's Journey"... to achieve a final goal. It might lead us toward a singular outcome such as battling the biggest monster on the final level to save the princess or save the world. But would we want to play that game if we didn't attain rewards along the way such as in-game items and skill boosters? If those rewards along the way never existed, I'd argue that we wouldn't have the ability to defeat the monster or save the world.

In an ideal world everyone has the chance to succeed, with or without the advantages some possess over others. One of the challenges in games where you can purchase these advantages is that people who already have the means to buy them will likely remain on top. Does this sound familiar in life? When I played a game called Dookey Dash by Yuga Labs, I had the advantage of getting bonus % on every run because I held one of their premium assets, a Bored Ape. These were well out of reach for most people. BUT I saw pro gamers come along to play who absolutely killed it and outperformed people with those advantages on pure skill and perseverance alone.

That's the way it should be and Dookey Dash is soon launching to the public on mobile app stores with these same mechanics in play... trust me it's a highly addictive game so look out for it.

Character Building

The character we build in our younger years is hard to re-code the older we get, but there are always Respec Items like a Reset Scroll or an Attribute Potion. Ok, if only it was that easy IRL... well maybe it can be, if you see it the same way. The only difference is that you have to want to change and you have to code the change yourself.

Learn to code you say? Sounds too hard! Yeah it would be if you were trying to rebuild the whole operating system... but we're not. We're inserting key lines of code that begin re-programming in the background. The important part of this code is not to eliminate bad code but to counteract it with the right mix of signals that turn it into a positive pattern of behaviour. This is the essence of a Game Theory which I'll come to shortly.

Life is simply a complex mesh of languages, from Binary Code as 1's and 0's... to DNA or Chemical Signalling. The nature of our human brain means our ability to perceive such complex patterns in the world around us, is limited. It's the perfect example of reading between the lines, which was perfectly illustrated in the Matrix movies.

Vanellope von Schweetz from "Wreck-It Ralph" also serves as a great analogy for individuals striving to overcome their perceived flaws. Vanellope, initially seen as flawed due to her glitch, ultimately discovers that what makes her different is precisely what makes her unique and strong. Her journey mirrors the human experience of grappling with personal imperfections and the societal pressure to conform. Vanellope's story teaches a valuable lesson in self-acceptance and the power of embracing one's inherent quirks. By transcending her limitations and leveraging her glitch as a unique strength, she becomes a champion in her own right, offering a compelling narrative on the transformative power of self-acceptance and perseverance. Her character arc underscores the idea that flaws do not define us; rather, our response to them and our ability to turn them into strengths, do.

Game Theory

The prisoner’s dilemma is a classic game-theory problem. Robert Axelrod, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, spent his career studying the ways humans can cooperate, or betray each other, for their own benefit. What he discovered has become an incredibly powerful strategy everything from negotiations in business to international relations and even evolutionary biology. In 1980 he organized a competition where different strategies were submitted as programmes on floppy disk, to compete against each other in a deceivingly simple computer game to see which one could score the highest. The game was like a repeated version of the Prisoner's Dilemma, where each programme had to decide whether to cooperate or betray each other to win points. These weren't AI or Machine learning, but they were early examples of algorithms designed to make decisions based on the opposing response and their own predefined rules.

One strategy called "Tit for Tat" stood out because it was both simple and effective. It always started by cooperating, then it would copy whatever the other player did in response. If the other player cooperated, "Tit for Tat" did too. If the other player betrayed, "Tit for Tat" would betray as well.

"Tit for Tat" won because it encouraged both players to keep cooperating with each other. It showed that being nice and responding in kind could lead to winning results. This strategy teaches us that cooperating and matching the actions of others can often be the best way to get along in the world. But it also shows that while being nice is the best approach to start, and being forgiving also serves us well... being able to respond in kind to betrayals or negative behaviour is also required. In other words, be nice and forgiving up to a point... but don't be a pushover!

Rewards and Collectibles

Rewards and collectibles signify achievement and motivate players to persevere. In life, our achievements and the goals we reach serve a similar purpose, providing satisfaction and motivation to continue pushing forward, highlighting the importance of perseverance in both realms. I remember how good it felt to win that drama trophy at 11 years old for my performance of Fagan' in Oliver Twist. I can remember how proud I was just getting a Bronze medal in Athetics or winning the cross country obstacle course during school camp, which came with no reward except knowing I'd beaten all the school athletics champions at something.

These small achievements can be make or break for some kids, they can be the start of an entire career in sports or the arts. They have an incredibly powerful ability to become part of our character arc in life. As a parent, I insist on my eldest daughter committing to something for at least a year before deciding to quit. We need to get past the intital slump of adjusting and learning something new. We need to try to hit that Flow state that comes with mastering something. She won't get it on everything she does but the more she tries, the better the chance she'll find that something which totally aligns with who she is and in which she can naturally excel. All I can do is provide the opportunities for her to discover it on her own but making sure she doesn't give up too soon.

That remains true into adulthood too, if we've learned to celebrate even small wins when we're younger, we push harder to achieve them when we're older. Unfortunately the world is full of starters who don't finish anything and with so much distraction in the world it's a more important skill than ever... for adults and kids alike! So if nobody is going to reward you... put in place your own rewards, gamify your own life. With innovations in technology, there has been no better time to merge this with the digital world too.

Web3 and AI in the Game of Life

The rise of Web3 and AI innovations is blurring the lines between gaming and reality, integrating game principles into real-life experiences. From digital currencies to NFTs, these technologies offer new ways to experience rewards and achievements that have tangible implications and applications in the real world, pointing towards an exciting future where gaming and life converge even further.

A popular app emerged a few years ago called STEP'N and I had the privilege to work briefly on a brand campaign with them through Funday Agency where I was working at the time. In their own words... "STEPN is a w web3 lifestyle app that rewards users for movement." Essentially by owning a 3D digital pair of sneakers, purchased throug their app as a blockchain token (NFT) you could earn crypto-currency by walking, jogging ad running every day!

Gamifying health and fitness in this way is the perfect example of earning both monetary rewards as well as various powerups to your sneaker attributes and rarities.

The Ultimate Obstacle: Yourself

But, no matter how much we want to oversome obstacles, let alone win... the most significant obstacles we face are internal: self-doubt, fear of failure, and resistance to change. Adopting a "gamer's mindset" means viewing obstacles as opportunities for growth, learning from failures, and persistently striving towards our goals, overcoming our inner adversities to emerge stronger.

In life, there's no "god mode". Despite some believing in their invincibility, mortality is the great equalizer. Life requires us to know when to take risks and when to seek alternative paths. The only real "cheat codes" are the strategic application of our skills and knowledge to enhance our chances of success, navigating the game of life with wisdom and courage.

The journey through life, much like a challenging game, is filled with obstacles that test our resilience, determination, and ability to grow. By facing and overcoming personal challenges, we not only progress in our own "game of life" but also find satisfaction in the journey itself. This article has explored the parallels between the virtual and the real, urging us to leverage the lessons learned from gaming to navigate life's complexities with resilience and determination.

So, what obstacles are you facing, what power-ups do you have at your disposal and how will you reward yourself if nobody else will? Share your experiences and strategies for overcoming personal challenges in the comments or on social media.

GG HF: Good Game, and Have Fun.

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#gaming#life hack#digital renaissance