“For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost –
But how you played the Game.”
—Grantland Rice, Alumnus Football
How you played the game. It seems that every kid hears the truncated version of expression after the first loss of their sporting careers. Parents put a hand on their kid’s shoulders and give them this age-old wisdom, practically bestowing it upon the child like some rite of passage.
The kid is usually confused. How they played the game? What does that mean? There are more ways to play than the way they just did?
The very notion of breaking the rules, of playing the game in any wrong way, is totally beyond the kid. Dirty tricks? Cheating? They don’t engage in that. Not because their kids. Because winning and losing isn’t the point to them.
Not yet, anyway.
Games for the sake of gaming, without the notion of “winning” or “losing” is an important concept. It drives the vast majority of our behavior on any given day. We do these things, by these rules, because we’re playing with everyone else on the field. There won’t be a winner in the commute to the office. No losers at the dinner table. But there are rules. And even though there are no trophies, scores are kept or, better yet, multiple scores are kept. Relationship scores, financial scores, reputation scores, health scores. You name it. It’s all games.
It’s how you play them. The winning and losing? Well, that is a serious thing sometimes. Yes. But all the fun still comes from playing the actual game. The trophy is often less of a reward than you expect.
It’s a rich perspective of the world, seeing everything through the lens of game theory. So this week is all about that. It culminates in a (shorter) review of the book Game Theory In Management by Michael Hatfield, a great book that is more obscure than it should be.