Monday, November 16, 2009

Be Here Now: I'm Playing the Game

I got a chance today to catch up with my friend Alethiah, who is a freelance writer. Like me, she is participating in NaNoWriMo, probably more successfully than I am so far. I sorta got her started on Facebook, just like my friend Cyndie got me started. As we were talking, she shared with me a silly story about a conflict that arose on Facebook, all because of the rules of a virtual game there.

I have to admit that I have already forgotten the name of the game--all I can remember from her description is that it was some sort of farming game. You ask Facebook friends to be your neighbors in the game so you can unlock items in the game, buy more land and receive gifts from them. Apparently part of this game is stealing crops from your neighbors' farms.

So the story begins with someone playing this game with her, let's call him Larry, sending a message to all his neighbors, including Alethiah, demanding that they stop stealing his crops.

(I could already tell this story was going in a bad direction.)

Larry's message resulted in a series of posts back and forth amongst the players. First, someone tried to explain to Larry that stealing crops was just part of the game. Larry replied, saying that neighbors could only steal crops if they were about to go to waste. Someone else responded that that was not how the game was played and if Larry wanted this player to stop stealing crops, then Larry should not be his neighbor. So Larry let everyone know he deleted this player. Then Larry got into it with another neighbor, alleging that this neighbor was stealing all of Larry's prime crops and not giving Larry the chance to do the same when he came to visit their farm.

Facebook (Cafe' World)Image by MASON(alex555) via Flickr

The long and the short of it is that Larry ended the discussion by informing all the neighbors he was not longer playing the game, removed them all from his Facebook friends list and accused them of being "out for just themselves" and having "bad gameplay."

(I told you this was silly, right?)

Well I started thinking about this story after Alethiah and I hung up. A thought occurred to me that maybe I was told this story today because there was a lesson being reinforced in the hearing of this story. So I took some time to reflect on the story and its possible meaning...

I know this might be cliche, but many people have referred to life as a game. In fact, some people believe that the act of playing games is a way for children to learn about life. All games have rules and sometimes, to win at a game, you need to work together with other people to achieve this goal. Some people really get their feelings hurt when they don't win, suspect that others are cheating or don't understand the rules and how to use them to their advantage.

Taking this another step further, I sought a connection to my own situation.

I could say that when I started playing this "game of life" I didn't know that chronic pain was going to be part of it. By all accounts, I continue to have every reason to rail at the gods, and anyone who will listen, about how unfair this is. There is a part of me that doesn't want to play the game by this new rule, chronic pain. After all, in so many ways, chronic pain interferes with my "gameplay" and holds me back from advancing like most other people can. I guess if I wanted to, I could complain, take it out on other people or try to change the rules of the game. And I guess if I didn't get what I wanted using these strategies, I could just give up, stop playing, turn my back on my "neighbors" and walk away blaming the gods, other people and the game for my problems.

But here is something that I know, that Larry might not.

Life is all about change. There truly are no guarantees in life, and I know from personal experience that the rules, and the game itself, can change at any time, for any reason. The secret to my success is simple: go with the flow, be flexible and embrace change. Following this simple advice is what keeps me in the game, and in the end, that's what it is all about: being in the game. I know I can't get the good stuff if I am not playing the game.

So thanks Alethiah, and Larry, for reminding me of this today.

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