What game are you playing?

💡 Why you should always be optimising for things outside the frame
  1. When I was 7 or 8 I remember at school playing a softball competition. Our team was losing and one kid was losing his mind over that fact. He was crying and kicking things.I remember our coach saying to him that this game isn’t about winning or losing it’s about trying to get better. The game was just an excuse for us to train and get better ourselves.

  2. In the HSC economics essays you would get 10/20 for understanding and hitting all the key points in an essay. You would get 16/20 for hitting all the key points and analysing them to a high degree. But you would only get 18,19,20 marks if you could show that you understood why the question was asked in the first place, and what adjacent topics were not covered. What better question could be asked instead?

  3. In game theory research there is an idea of iterated games where the same participants play repeated games with each other. Players who might screw each other over if they only play once, will act in a more considered way if they are to play again and the roles reversed. This is the simplest idea of of a meta-game (outside the frame)

  4. I had a friend who has achieved multiple firsts in many university courses. But he has a dirty secret. He is a serial procrastinator and throughout all of university he would hand assignments in weeks late. And although these subjects had penalties for handing assignments in late = e.g. 5% taken off per day that it’s late. He would hand in assignments 3 weeks late but receive the top mark in the cohort. On one hand you could object and say this was academic misconduct, but this analysis only makes sense when you are just limited to the ‘course completion game’.

    The lecturer and student were playing a different game the ‘future research assistant game” or the ‘academic supervisor’ game. And in this game, forgiving a student for handing in an assignment 3 weeks late was not a big problem. His special status was confirmed when he admitted he would go to private dinners at his ✨emeritus✨ lecturers’ houses.

  5. In workplaces, this can take the form of the ‘please the boss/client game’. A common employee behaviour is rephrasing what their boss says in a mildly agreeable way. Great employees and great managers will enjoy learning and enjoy being challenged with new ideas. This mentality also makes the workplace a much more enjoyable place to be, because it reveals the fundamental truth that everyone is on the same journey to becoming a more capable person.

Whenever you do something you should identify to yourself, what the current game you are playing is and if possible what is the larger meta-game?

When you see someone acting a little strangely or not according to the ‘rules’ that you’ve identified in your mind, you should ask yourself what bigger game are they playing?