Games can have profound benefits in boosting our relationships.
I used to think of games as a black hole of wasted time--3000 hours in Minecraft, 800 in Total War Warhammer 2, and 600 in Terraria, didn't help. Now I have a healthier habit of playing 3 hours of games per week in college. I realized there are 5 insights we can take from games to boost our relationships.
Here they are:
Ask For Allies, Not Help
We are experiencing a loneliness crisis.
Apart from the surge of low bandwith social media connection, it's simply hard to be vulnerable and ask for help with a serious problem. I know first hand. I lost 30 pounds in 3 months while going through my anabolic dieting period in Covid-19. I was hungry all the time, sad, and had low self-esteem.
It took me a full year before I asked for help from someone.
Thankfully Jane McGonigal's in her book SuperBetter resolves this problem with a critical insight: it's easy to invite someone else to play a game.
So, instead of asking someone for help with a serious problem, McGonigal recommends you ask one of your close friends or family to become an ally to your game, the game of life. Tell them about some bad guys (obstacles) you're facing in your life, the powerups you are using to try and face it, and the quests (goals) you are following to grow in your life.
You'll be amazed at how willingly they will come to help.
That's the funny thing, we love helping others; it's asking that's the hard part.
See Relationships As An Infinite Game
One of the greatest insights I got from The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek is we should see our relationships as infinite games.
Finite games are games played over a short time horizon with winners and losers. Infinite gamers are games played over an infinite time horizon with no winners or losers. Unfortunately, lots of people see relationships as finite games. I'll give you this, if you give me that. I'll show you love if you show it back.
This creates relationships that feel overly transactional and shallow.
Instead, we should treat our relationships--even business ones--as infinite.
You'll be more focused on the long term. You'll be more forgiving. You'll be a better human being.
Your relationships will flourish as a result.
Look For The Story In The Other Person
Every person is a story.
It's your job to uncover what that story is and how that effects their perspective on the world. Our perceptions of the present are skewed because we see the world differently depending upon our genetics, background, experiences, and more. We're experiencing the world with tinted glasses.
To truly understand a person you must understand not only what they see, but HOW they see it.
This is what makes the best games like the Witcher 3 so interesting. Their character's feel alive--sometimes it feels like Dandelion or Geralt is sitting right next to me as I play the game. It's no wonder I have over 200 hours in that game DLC included.
How can you uncover the story in another person?
Two simple things:
- First, be and show interest. People love talking about themselves and like people that show interest in what they have to talk about.
- And second, ask narrative questions. Narrative questions incentivize narrative answers which have people's perspective embedded in them. Some example narrative questions are, "how did you come to believe this? What led you to deciding that? How has this evolved over time?"
Every person is a story, you just have to uncover it.
Ask, How Can I See This As A Team Effort?
Team work is as much a psychological state as a way of dividing up tasks.
This was shown in one study by Carr and Walton in which participants were split into two groups and given a puzzle. After ten minutes both groups got a genuinely helpful hint as to how to solve the puzzle. The first group was told the hint was from a researcher, the second group was told it was from a fellow participant. The second group kept working at the puzzle for 48% longer then the first group.
Why? They felt they were part of a team, something greater, and didn't want to disappoint their fellow participants.
Framing things as team efforts--even if they aren't--can push us to work harder, and feel better at the same time
Even if we’re on our own in undertaking a task, we can convince ourselves that we’re part of a team – and do so with remarkable ease.
For example, while creating content I like to convince myself my brother and best friend John Mavrick are on my team. I'll share resources on how to create better content, share my content for feedback, and in return they also share their resources and content.
Even though we have separate channels and goals we see ourselves as a "team."
How Can I Make The Other Person Feel Special?
Most people are the hero of their own games.
And hero's like to feel special. So one of the best ways to boost your relationships is to make the other person feel special in some way. Give them a personal gift, your time, or organize a special event for them.
I remember one moment this worked particularly well for me.
It was my friend Rushika's birthday, and I had gotten them a physical copy of my favorite Fantasy series ever, The Stormlight Archives. I had been talking to her about it for months, and she had voiced interest in reading it. So after we went ice skating on her birthday I surprised her with it and even left a little kind note on the inside remarking about the friendship.
She was overjoyed, she felt special.
I hadn't gotten her a simple birthday card but something that spoke to her.
Games shed profound insights on how we can boost our relationships. I encourage you to pick one or all five of these insights and use them to boost your relationships today.
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- Carr, P. B. and Walton, G. M. (2014). Cues of working together fuel intrinsic motivation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 53, 169–184. ↩︎