Monday, March 14, 2011

Guest Post: Gamesmanship.

While I'm in Washington, D.C. attending JDRF's Government Day event, I'll be sharing some great posts with you by some fabulous members of the DOC. Today's guest post comes from my friend Bob Pedersen. I always enjoy his witty, insightful writing, and I'm so happy to be able share this blog post with you. Take it away, Bob!


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I'm a big fan of the variety of computer games often called "hidden object / adventure" games. Typically, this type of game presents you with some sort of goal (such as finding the princess before the evil tyrant gets her), and has you move through a series of small puzzles that stymie your progress (such as the lock on the castle door that's missing some pieces). Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to pick up objects that will be useful later, such as a piece to the aforementioned lock or a tool such as a crowbar: these will be added to your "inventory" of items you can use later. You'll also come across a cluttered scenes, such as a storage room, and be given a list of specific items you need to find. When you've found all the items, one or two of them will be added your inventory.  Free tip: in this kind of game, NEVER, EVER bypass an opportunity to click on a key. 

When you come across something you need to do, like fix the lock with the missing pieces, it may be that what you need is already in your inventory. Or, it may be that you'll find those pieces later on, and need to remember that the lock on the door had an empty slot the shape of the gizmo you just found.  The games are very specific about what you need to do to complete each puzzle: you may have a crowbar in your inventory, but that won't open the door if the puzzle is to find the missing lock pieces.  In the best-designed games, you may carry an object around for quite a while before having the opportunity to use it. 

(If you're not familiar with these games, and are suspecting from my description that there's more than a little absurdity to them, you're absolutely right. But you're playing for the game, not for the plot.) 

Back in our "real lives", most of us have some kind of barrier that blocks our progress toward some objective, but which we're not quite sure how to address. Sometimes, like the locked door and the crowbar, the answer seems quite obvious but just doesn't work. For example, I struggled with eating a healthy breakfast for a long time - much too often, I was stopping on the way into work for a high-fat breakfast sandwich or a high-carb serving of hashed browns. The OBVIOUS solution was to suck it up and be happy with my bran cereal, but that breakfast was so undesirable that I just wouldn't do it most days. The ACTUAL solution has been to provide myself with something both fast and tasty so that I don't start out my day feeling deprived: tomorrow (as of when I wrote this), breakfast will be a smoked salmon and cream cheese "Egg Beater" mini-frittata I made over the weekend.     

In the games, you're sometimes surprised by just how something from your inventory proves useful. In a game I played over the weekend, I carried some matches around for a couple of hours, assuming that I'd be lighting a candle to explore a dark room at some point. (Matches are another good thing to ALWAYS click on. And knives.) In fact, they were used to burn away some briars blocking a path.  Similarly, sometimes we're able to make progress in real life via unexpected means. I started blogging just because I had a few ideas that I wanted to share with friends in the Diabetes Online Community. As it's turned out, however, blogging has proved to be a tremendous tool for self-discovery and self-acceptance, an important outlet for creativity I'd nearly forgotten about, and even a way to help folks struggling with their own lives to feel connected. Who'd a thunk it?    

In general, it's a good game strategy to regularly review your inventory to see if you might be missing a way to use something you've already got.  Similarly, taking stock of our resources may provide insight as to how something - or someone - we have available to us may help us move forward. After years of frustration over how often I hit the vending machines at work mid-afternoon, a quick exchange of emails with a nutritionist I know pointed a way to a healthier way to meet a genuine bodily need. 

While I occasionally get frustrated in a game (how AM I supposed to get into that stupid castle?), I don't get frustrated with myself, I simply move around other areas of the game until I get a chance to pick up something I hadn't noticed before. Similarly, if a barrier in our life seems unmovable, it may be less productive to keep trying and failing than it would be to find something else to work on. It just might be that progress in that other area will unexpectedly help you address your main challenge. 

No, I'm not saying that life is like a hidden object game. Real life doesn't provide helpful little sparkles around things you need to be paying attention to, and there's not usually a step-by-step walkthough available to help us solve puzzles we find unusually tough. But I am finding that it helps me to view a challenge more as a puzzle than as yet another way I screw up. Because, you know, puzzles are often solvable, and games can often be won.     

(If you should be interested, I posted a list of a few of my favorite games here. You'll find them available at online stores such as www.bigfishgames.com.)


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Thanks so much, Bob! I think you're onto something with the "helpful little sparkles around things we need to be paying attention to". I would pay good money for that.  :)


You can find Bob blogging at Diabetes Daily, and on Twitter as @rpederse.



1 comment:

  1. I also would compare diabetes to Tetris: trying to make the puzzle pieces fit together!

    Maybe we need to design a game where you have to save Princess Pancreas??

    On a serious note, thanks for this analogy. I try to view blood sugar mishaps as science experiments. Framing them as puzzles and games is the same sort of idea, and more helpful than blame, anger, and shame. Great post!

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