Take the Risk, again.... A lesson learned from The Game of Life

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  • by Kyle Koch

When I’m not being an IT guy, or helping SEEK consultants design digital research, one of my favorite things to be is a player of games. All kinds of games. Video. Pinball. Yard. Mind. Board and Card.

Recently, my family and I played the game Risk. We made it “halfway” through a game, before deciding it was time for bed. The next day, I came to the realization that the reason we decided it was time for bed wasn’t really because we were tired, but because my family was tired of playing the game. Even harder to admit was that they were tired of playing the game with me. I didn’t notice in the moment, but I had been offering all of the things I would have done on their turn. I kept telling them what I would do. And what I would do wasn't what they wanted to hear. I felt horrible, I don’t normally play games like this (do I?!) what was going on?

That evening, while reading bookmarked news articles from the week, my mind jumped back to a recent conversation with a co-worker about “house rules” for games such as Monopoly and Life. We had discussed how some house rules could ruin a game, where others could make for an unforgettable experience. Somehow, my brain located long lost memories I didn’t know I still had… I was taken back to when I was 9 years old, playing The Game of Life with my neighbor and his younger sister, between rounds of Sonic on the Sega Genesis. My friend and I weren’t super excited to play The Game of Life, but we wanted his sister to have fun, and we knew she would have more fun if she could play to her rules...if we made house rules for her…

She wanted to fill her car with babies. That worked for us, because it’s what she wanted. This memory helped me come to the realization that I had not been at all empathetic as I played Risk with my family. I had instead been confined to the strict rules of the game, trapped in a mental state that my family was there only to play as I would play, to do what I would do. I had completely lost sight of what it was they wanted. Of what they were feeling.

So not long after, I asked my family if they wanted to play Risk again. With a little persuasion and a promise that it would be different, they agreed to a game. We had a great time. I made plays I wouldn’t usually make, to help others reach their goals and have fun. I ended up being the first one eliminated from the board, after stretching my troops too thin, and the rest of the armies battled for world domination for quite some time. 

People don’t like being told what they should do when it’s their turn to take an action or make a decision. They will want to play and work with you more if you ask them what they’re trying to do, and you offer to make plays that help move them in the direction they’re trying to go.

Empathic strategies can help you get along with others when playing games of Life or Risk. Contact us if you want to hear more about our empathic tools and research methods.