duminică, 1 mai 2016

The STACK Game, A Metaphor For Life

One week ago I was sitting in bed searching for a way to mindlessly entertain myself. I was pretty tired and didn't have the strength to play a game on my computer so I decided to find one on my phone. After searching through the app store a little while I came across a game named STACK.

I played stacking games before and found them quite entertaining. The first reason I downloaded the game was because of the color scheme it had, elegant and simple. You start off with one color and as you continued stacking, the colors change. The nuances of the colors were beautiful and somewhat soothing.

As I sat in my bed, tapping on the screen to stack square plate after square plate, the music playing in the background made me feel like a Buddhist monk in some form of meditation. Again it had a very calming effect. I must admit I didn't play the game for hours or any chance I got, unable to stop, but I enjoyed the 15 minutes I had spent on it and it actually got me thinking about how this game resembles life. To explain how I got to this conclusion I must first explain the rules.

You start the game with an already stacked pile of square plates. The point of the game is to evenly place another plate that is floating above your stack, on top. If your margins do not perfectly align then the portion left out will be cut off and you will have a smaller piece on top of your pile. The game is over when your pieces get so small that it's almost impossible to place them one upon another.

The perk is that when you evenly stack eight pieces, the eight piece gets larger and so do the other ones stacked evenly upon that one until you reach the initial square size. Of course if you don't then your piece will be again cut off.  It's also cool than when you neatly drop the pieces, you get the "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, Do" notes, one for each piece.

Now that I explained the rules, there is one specific thing that I often stumbled upon that I want to talk about. Of course it's satisfying when you do manage to perfectly put one piece on top of the other but it's not that fun when a part of your plate gets cut off when you were about to place the eight perfectly stacked square and have it grow bigger. But why did I miss when I was about to make a perfect eight? And this kept happening. It was like the eight piece was cursed or hated me and wanted to torment me. We often come so close to success but somehow we fail miserably right at the end. Why is that?

Well psychologists have an explanation for that. To win at this game, or at any other thing in life you need to acquire a certain skill that through repetition becomes better and better. When you use a skill, like hand eye coordination in this case, over analyzing under pressure often leads to the disruption of the certain skill. Your brain is like a supercomputer that learns to do things semi automatically. Let's think about breathing. Breathing can pass from being an automatic reflex to a voluntary action when you concentrate upon it. That's almost the case with learned skills. When you do them enough times they become an automatic sort of reflex. This automatism lets you do the job better than if you would analyzed it.

When you start intensely focusing on something, while under pressure, you sort of overwrite the brains subconscious controls, bringing them to a conscious level. And that's when you screw it up. In this case you subconscious brain is better than you. I know it's not always the case, but this time you should trust it. I know I often come across this problem in my life. Many times I've been almost there but never reached the metaphorical podium.

Another reason for this is how we perceive loosing and winning. People who hate loosing more than they love winning are less likely to choke. And it makes sense. If you focus more on not being the last than on being the first, any win you will have just comes as a pleasant surprise. On the contrary, if you think about winning too much the likelihood of you choking is much greater because of the pressure of being the best.

What other reasons do I have to compare this game to real life? Well you could see each plate as one of the challenges in life. Some of them we overcome well enough, but others give us trouble. If one of your pieces gets cut it doesn't mean you can't build anything upon it. Yes, you failed but it's not the end. It also teaches us that you always have a second chance if you work for it. But second chances don't erase the mistakes we've made. We all have to make peace with our mistakes and accept the construction we've built with its beauty and its faults.

Another thing I found interesting is the change in color of the plates as the game goes on. It made me realize that the way we perceive life always changes from one building block to another. Sometimes we might view things white, grey or black but if you keep building there is a whole specter of colors waiting to be seen. Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you get.

The last thing I wanted to say is that advertising this game isn't the point of my article. I chose to write about it because it made me think. There are many other games out there that teach you a lot about life, you just have to look close enough. And I guess that's the conclusion I'm trying to reach. Open your eyes to what surrounds you. Wisdom can be found in the darkest of places if one only remembers to turn on the light. (Dumbledore would be proud!)

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