change the battlefield
If you don’t like the game, change the battlefield.
This post is about the rules of the game, the games that we play, and how to change the battlefield.
know that you are playing a game
We all play games, life is a game. Everyone in life is a player, and we are all playing. If we chose not to play the game of life we would be dead, so while we are still alive we are all still playing. Depending on the game that you play, the rules of the game will be different.
everything is a game
The first most important thing to recognise is that everything is a game, and everyone is playing it. All the players have a choice in playing or not playing the game.
- Life: we can choose to play at life, or we can choose death.
- Work: we can choose to stay in our job, or we can choose to leave.
- Relationships: we can choose our spouse, or we can choose to leave them.
You can always decide to stop playing. No doubt the consequence of the decision to stop playing might be severe. But the consequences are just part of another game.
understanding the battlefield
All games are played on a battlefield, for sports this is a pitch, for finance this can be the stock market. There are numerous battlefields.
A battlefield is defined by its boundaries. Those boundaries can be space, or time, or something else. But in order for a battlefield to exist there must be a boundary to it, it must have an edge. Else it is nothing.
all games have limits
In traditional sports games there are rules. Rules are generally expressed as boundaries.
Examples of boundaries;
- lines drawn that mark the edge of the pitch
- bounded number of points scored for each goal, touchdown, dart, hit, serve, throw
- time limit on the game
you are only a winner if others agree
To win the game, your opponent has to accept that you have won, or they will keep playing.
If you walk off the pitch and pronounce yourself the winner, you are only the winner if your opponent stops playing and agrees that you have won.
If your opponent refuses to accept that you have won, someone else can make you the winner. The crowd watching the game, the referee of the game, etc.
But in all cases: for your opponent or someone else to make you a winner you must play within the boundaries of the game. You cannot make yourself a winner, without others agreeing to it.
change the battlefield
If you don’t like the game you are playing, you always have the option to stop playing.
Many of the problems in society come from the societal games.
“Ownership” of an item is a rule of the game. It’s a boundary on who can use, interact with, or enjoy a piece of property. There are a few who refuse to play the game of ownership.
A thief might reject the game of ownership and reject that an item belongs to a certain player. They might steal the item.
In the game of society you can lock up the thief, you can try and educate the thief on the rules of the game, but you cannot force the thief to play the game of ownership.
Those who enforce the game may create bad outcomes for those who don’t want to play the game. If you choose to stop playing the game of “work”, you will have no money, maybe no house, no food, and won’t be able to live.
Anyone, like the thief, who refuses to play the game is a threat to the validity of the game. The thief refuses to accept the winner of the game, and so threatens both the “win” and the game.
But if you choose to keep playing, and everything is a game, and all games have boundaries…
If you don’t like the game or you are unlikely to win the game, ask yourself;
Can I change the rules of the game, so that they benefit me more, while maintaining the validity of the game? (so that others accept my win)
… this is changing the battlefield.
how to make the change
Know the boundaries you can change
You have to know the boundaries that are changeable.
In football, the number of players is bounded, as is the size of the pitch, and the time of each game. But there are fewer boundaries on who can be on your team. There are no boundaries on the “max skill” of each team. The players you use in your game are a boundary that you can change. The coach of those players is another boundary.
Question the boundaries that you think are unchangeable
You will identify some boundaries that you think are unchangeable. But you have to question what the boundary is, and if it really is unchangeable.
For years, women were told they couldn’t run a marathon and that they were both not capable and not allowed. The first Boston Marathon was in 1897. The first women to run Boston Marathon was Kathrine Switzer in 1967 (70 years later).
There are numerous boundaries that stopped women from running the Boston Marathon. External boundaries like the rules of the race (disallowing women participants). Maybe there were some people with internal boundaries, like a belief that they were not capable of completing the race. Kathrine questioned all the boundaries that many thought were unchangeable, and proved them changeable.
You have to know where the boundary is coming from (external, internal, etc), and then question if you can change it.
Look for complementary or competing games
Joel Spolsky wrote in a blog in 2002: “Smart companies try to commoditize their products’ complements.” His argument is that the demand for your product increases when the price of its complement decreases.
In the computer market, the demand for Microsoft Windows increased as the cost of personal home computers decreased. This is an example of a complementary game. You don’t need to change the rules of the game that you are playing, you need to change the rules of the complementary game.
This can also be expressed as a “desert of profitability around you”. Google could sell Nest/Google Home products below cost value because they increase the interactions that support Google’s main product: Advertising. Google gives away the Chrome web-browser (commoditizing internet access) which generates larger Ad revenue from more people online.
To find a competing game, look for something that your opponent might want more than a win in the game you are playing. If you are vying with one other for a promotion at work; consider if there’s a win that you want more or if there’s a win that the other person wants more – then get them to play that competing game.
Reject the game
I’ve touched briefly on the dangers of rejecting the games that we play. But there are some games that you can refuse to play.
I regularly refuse to play the game of FOMO. If I am happy with my choice, I am prepared to stick with it for the reasons that I chose it and not change my choice just for the fear of loosing another option. In some circumstances, I am prepare to reject the game and settle for an option that might be net-worse in order to reject the game of FOMO.
By rejecting the game, a lot of things start to fall away. I not longer care about beautiful holidays on Instagram, or how far my cousins boyfriend ran on Strava, or the latest version of a hand-held massage gun, or some other consumerist item.
Feel free to reject the game, especially when the game is for your attention or for your money. If you reject the game, you will never win the game, because you are rejecting the boundaries of the game and a “win” must respect the game’s boundaries. You have to change what your definition of win is. You will never “win” consumerism, but you might lose it. Rejecting the game can stop you from losing as much as it prevents you from winning.