Monthly Archives: April 2010

When Life is Just an Alternate Reality Game (ARG)

“It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye!” – Ancient Roman wrestling saying.

19/365 Game OverRecently, I decided to take some time to play an online game touted as providing “social entrepreneurs a crash course in saving the world.” I wouldn’t exactly call it that, but I would say it sure was representative of a lot of human frailties. The game was split up into 10 weeks of “playing” where each week a new comic came out about some social issue, prefaced by a pithy saying (like mine above?), and then people blogged about what to do about these issues.  I left on week 3.

The Rules You Play By

Some people attribute the above saying to a rule established in Roman wrestling contests. The ideal was that anything was fair except eye gouging. Thus, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” Like anything in life, we all try to either play by the rules or find ways around the rules, and your belief system determines whether you will play or cheat. When one person does something against a rule, if the majority say it’s a good rule, then that person is a cheater. If no one cares, no one notices the rules have been broken or bent.  For instance, here in North Carolina, if your spouse cheats on you while you’re married, you can sue the party they cheat with for “alienation of affection.” There was a recent case where a woman did this and was awarded $9 million dollars from the mistress.  In other parts of the country that law doesn’t exist. You cheat romantically, your marriage may fall apart, but legally you’re not liable.  Similarly, there are laws on the books from prior times when people’s belief systems were different. We now have a state lottery, but did you know there’s still a law that says that the mere possession of a lottery ticket is illegal in North Carolina and may result in a $2,000 fine?

What’s this got to do with online games? It’s simple. Sometimes they have rules not established by the majority but expected to be enforced, even with a community of 16,000 people. It would be next to impossible to have a true democracy world-wide just because people’s cultural belief systems are different. Even within the game, my ideal of “saving the world” is different from other people’s ideals.  I don’t believe we can go out and save the world, when we haven’t done enough work on our own inner demons.  I don’t believe I know what’s best for Africa, even though I’ve lived there, because I’m not African! I don’t believe a platform with only 30% women online in the game, should even attempt to discuss women’s issues until the ratio of men to women in the game is fairer. Otherwise, you end up establishing rules and systems that are eurocentric, somewhat biased, and completely unfair to some cultures or genders. It ends up looking like empirialism, or at worst, a dictatorship. It’s definitely not democracy as the rule-makers aren’t representative of the demographic it is placing the rules upon.

When We Play Games

Everyone knows the difference between a fair game and a game of control or dominance. If you want to view life as a game, it’s still about dealing with people who have similar belief systems so that when we “play” with them, they play fair, and we don’t end up losing an eye.  There’s this naive view of the world held by some people that as long as we only look at things in a positive manner and don’t talk about the bad things that somehow it will all work out. It would work out if there weren’t people in the world who just don’t want to play by what the rest of us would call “fair” rules.  They truly appreciate our silence because it helps them to continue to act undercover while they continue to defraud or hurt people around them.

Playing With Integrity

Too many of the problems in our economic system were due to people playing the game without integrity. A lot of damage got done to a lot of people and it wasn’t made public until it was too late.  What people who hurt other people fail to realize is that everyone is a part of you, you can’t hurt someone else without it eventually ending up in your home court, whether now or later.  We’re all interconnected. Your enemy is just you in another form. When the Buddhists speak of “harm to no one” they don’t mean be a sissy and just cater to some myopic benevolent view that everyone will be kind, respectful, and play with integrity as long as you believe hard enough. It isn’t sufficient because everyone has free will, even if they are mirrors of your own self.  In actual fact, to be a Buddhist was seen as being a gentle warrior, someone willing to take action and speak out against injustices in the system, not as a means of creating chaos and dissension, but as a way to open a dialogue.  Some of the people causing the most damage right now are people with good hearts and little wisdom. The ones that fail to speak. The ones that fail to act for fear of hurting someone. The ones that refuse to look at those hurt, and instead spout some beatific view of the world that causes more pain to those already crying for help. The ones that hurt others through their inaction or complicity in games even bigger than themselves of which they are completely ignorant! When that inaction or complicity leads to someone losing an eye, whether intentionally or not, the laws of karma are clear: An eye for an eye. It requires that each of us play our game with the deepest of integrity, not just choosing to “do no harm” but also following inner rules that sustain those values that are life-enhancing and provide a space for open-hearted dialogue, irregardless of whose side we’re on and whether we’re winning the game or not. The more we fail to engage life in a face-to-face manner, the more other mirrors of self show up to push you back into the game so that you can start living a real, authentic, life and not just some alternate reality game (ARG).