Who didn’t play games growing up? I did. I am sure you did too. Have ever thought about the life and financial lessons and habits you picked up playing games that in one way or another helped form the person you are today?
I have, but it wasn’t easy. Whittling down 20+ games to discuss in this article meant I had to sacrifice some fantastic games. So while I had to leave out some great ones but I wanted to share 6 games that had influence in my life.
I sure played a lot of Tetris when I was younger. For such a simple concept progressing in Tetris can get obsessive. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Tetris the game drops “blocks” of which are shapes composed of 4 equal size squares. The player can rotate the shapes and place them in an attempt to create a horizontal line (or a few) which then disappear when formed. If your block placement reaches the top of the screen you lose. As you create (and remove) more and more lines the player advances a “level” and the pieces drop faster … and faster … and faster.
In Tetris the game shows you the next piece that is going to drop but be assured that as the blocks fall at a furious pace it becomes extremely difficult to track and plan for upcoming pieces. Tetris also allows two players to go head to head competing for a higher score.
The key to Tetris is to create a solid base. It is extremely difficult to remedy a line once you leave a gap due to a block placement mistake. Most importantly, don’t panic! Likewise creating a strong base personal financial plan and sticking to it is key for our finances. A second lesson I learned is that I need to be aware of and give due attention to our future financial plan to ensure we reach our goals. The final lesson I learned is that you need to play your own game and not worry about what the other guy is up to. The same couldn’t be truer for your personal finances!
No, glowing dots won’t provide you with sustenance, but Ms. Pacman does have some valuable life lessons. Life sends you down all sorts of roads with various twists and turns along the way. The ghosts of your past can, and will haunt you, but every once in a while you will have the power to confront and overcome the ghosts. You should take full advantage when life throws you a power pellet energizer to improve your well being. One other great lesson: fruit is good for you.
Settlers of Catan
Big fan of the move ‘The Beautiful Mind’. Russell Crowe plays Nobel Prize winner John Nash. One of my favourite scenes in the movie is when Nash “discovers” that legendary social philosopher and pioneer economist Adam Smith’s theories needs revision. The scene begins in the local watering hole when an attractive woman (a blonde) walks into the pub with some friends:
Hansen: Recall the lessons of Adam Smith, the father of modern economics. “In competition …”
Everybody: “… individual ambition serves the common good.”
Nash:: [after thinking] Adam Smith needs revision.
Hansen: What are you talking about?
Nash: Adam Smith said the best result comes from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself. Right? That’s what he said, right?
Nash: Incomplete. Incomplete, okay? Because the best result will come from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself … and the group.
Hansen: Nash, if this is some way for you to get the blonde on your own, you can go to hell.
Nash: Governing dynamics, gentlemen. Governing dynamics. Adam Smith … was wrong!
Nash’s colleagues aren’t quite with him but he continues.
Nash: If we all go for the blonde, we block each other, and not a single one of us is goin’ to get her. So then we go for her friends, but they will all give us the cold shoulder because nobody likes to be second choice. But what if no one goes for the blonde? We don’t get in each other’s way, and we don’t insult the other girls. That’s the only way we win. That’s the only way we all get laid. Adam Smith said, the best result comes from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself, right? That’s what he said, right? Incomplete. Incomplete! Because the best result would come from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself and the group.
Having played 2-4 games of Settlers of Catan for what seemed like every weekend for a few years on end Nash’s theory couldn’t ring more true. In Settlers of Catan you acquire resources via a roll of the dice. The die roll depends on what tiles your settlements border. The likelihood of being able to obtain the resources you require / desire to build additional settlements and roads joining your towns via rolls of the dice is low – especially if you want to win the game. That means trading of resources with other players is vital to grow for both parties. You are doing what is best for yourself and what is best for your opponents to promote growth.
Now Monopoly I dislike. This is a game I never enjoyed for either the game play or the concept. All players start with the same resources and chance for success but ultimately one will dominate and control the game . Often the losing player(s) will have to give up assets to pay down debt to the person dominating the game.
A monopoly is formed when all other players are incapable or not willing to challenge the entity who has the monopoly. This site has been victim to monopolies. Most recently the largest search engine out there decided that Sustainable Personal Finance should have no authority in their public ranking system. The result? A large decrease in advertising opportunities. The result from that? Reduced ability for us to keep the lights on both online and at home (no, we’re not at any personal risk but making money online is something I have done for decades to produce side income).
At the end of the day we will explore opportunities that challenge reliance on advertising monopolies.
Something a lot of folks won’t know about me is that I have been playing fantasy baseball since 1990. Stats, names and players bounce around my head year round. Last night Mrs. SPF and I watched the Moneyball movie and there I was noting that Ramon Hernandez was playing behind the plate, that Raul Ibanez had over 100 RBI that year and that Ugeth Urbina was a great pick in what is called Vintage Drafting.
Yes, Vintage Drafting. A number of fellow fantasy baseball statistic nuts can evaluate and draft every player in MLB history (1870’s onward) and use criteria (such as the first letter of the players first or last name) by which we draft full rosters. He (we’ve never had a woman participate) who assembles the best statistical squad, wins. Add a time limit to make your selection from thousands upon thousands of players and the challenge increases.
Nerdy right? Perhaps. But when you think about it there are some parallels between fantasy baseball and personal finance. Numbers and statistics are an obvious one. On base percentage, debt service ratio, wins above replacement player, total net worth, career strike outs and annual percentage rate. Don’t forget all of the acronyms! MER, RBI, A-L and WHIP to name a few.
Scrabble is so humbling. Playing this game I have learned that there will always be someone smarter than I am. At the very least there are folks who have larger vocabularies than I do and/or are more creative at organizing their seven tiles with more skill than I possess. And I see nothing wrong with this. By playing Scrabble I have learned that I will lose and to be gracious when I do lose. I have also learned that I do enjoy a good challenge as well, which I think is healthy for the human brain.
So what games do you enjoy and what have they taught you about life and finances?