Playing games to learn for life

20130104-145956.jpgPlaying a game like Monopoly with a couple of friends can be all joy and laughter, as long as no one gets too attached to the outcome. The moment we become desperate to win, anger and frustration can surface and turn a simple game into an awful fight between friends. This desperate attachment to succeed is often present in our life. We think that more status, money or fame will help us to win in life. Life is not about winning, it’s about living. About following our dreams with all we’ve got, while at the same time knowing when it’s time to let go.

We often forget how a game ends
Yoga teacher Nico Luce came up with the idea to use the game of Monopoly as a metaphor for life. In a class he asked: “How does the game of Monopoly end?”
We thought for a while and answered: “After many hours of emotional ups and downs, one person wins and the others lose!”20121220-164614.jpg“No true,” he remarked. “The game of Monopoly ends when we pack the board, cards, money, figurines, dices and more back into the box. It’s the same in life. Whatever riches we accumulate, we will not be able to take them with us once we die.”20121220-165108.jpgHere a Monopoly bill someone tried to use to pay for his lunch at Bob’s kitchen in Paris. Apparently this person identified so much with his Monopoly winnings, that he mixed up the game with real life. Let’s find out where this attachment comes from.20121224-115443.jpg
Winning makes us feel good
A game like Monopoly starts with equal chances for everyone to win. This artificial balancing of opportunities makes us believe, that whatever will happen next will be due to the cleverness of the players. With sweaty hands we throw the dice. It’s an exhilarating feeling if we get lucky and land on a field that makes us richer. It seems as if the universe selected us to be successful. It’s pay day if an unfortunate friend lands on a property we own. Again we think: “The universe wants me to win!” With every hotel we buy, the chances of winning increase. Owning property seems like the only purpose in life.20121220-175208.jpgThe game continues like that. We throw the dice, if lucky we get rewarded with more money, which helps us to buy more property. Winning feels so good, that we start identifying with the material goods. Our emotions trick us into believing, that winning this game of Monopoly is the most important thing for our well being. The more hotels we own the higher the chances of feeling good.20121220-173517.jpg

Emotions create attachment
What we forget is, that the wonderful emotion after a lucky dice roll is short lived. We pretty soon need another dice roll to feel sensational again. Waiting for our next turn starts to feel like eternity. And because owning as much property as possible increases our chances to feel good, we become attached to our hotels.
20121227-231848.jpgIn the end we sacrifice decent behaviour to this longing to feel great. A snippy comment and all hell can break loose (by the way, I am a really bad loser). Focused solely on the outcome of the game we forget, that the aim of playing was to have fun.

Playing games to learn for life
Observing ourselves while playing a game is a great opportunity to learn how we behave under pressure, how attached we can become to accumulating riches while sacrificing all good intentions. Desperately trying to get all stars while playing Angry Birds, or longing day and night for the next WordPress achievement badge, are all aspects how gamification creates engaging experiences.

Try to win a game, engage in life, enjoy moments of joy, live your dreams.

Remember that in the end you will have to put everything back into the box of life. Take with you what you need for your well being, only you know what that is.

Life does not come with a game rulebook, outlining the road to success.

Life is not a game, where the only goal is winning.

Life is about living.



  1. Although the analogy of the monopoly game ending when you put away the game away is cool, I think there is a lesson inside the game itself as well. The fact that the “winner” has actually killed the golden goose-that the game only continues when everybody has something to give and take within the context of the game.

  2. Nice one Philip. Just like to add that this is the very thing conveyed in Bhagawadita. ‘Do your work without being attached to it’s fruits’ since attachments creates emotions (as you said) that leads to anger and which finally leads to destruction of mind.

    • Hi Karan, thanks for pointing out the connection to the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita is one of my favorite books. The wisdom contained in those verses is amazing. Through my illustrated stories I try to transport some of that wisdom into modern life and work.

  3. Alex Jones

    Playing board games should be encouraged in place of video games. Often the desire to win brings the worst out in people, which I have seen personally. Yes, a good metaphor.

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