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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The point of board games

There’s an article on board games in the Chicago Tribune today http://www.chicagotribune.com/site/newspaper/business/sc-cons-0908-save-monopoly-20110909,0,1242815.story .  The article contrasts games like Monopoly with games like Settlers of Cataan.

“the [Cataan] game involves a bit of nation-building. Players are settlers of a new land and trade for commodities like sheet and lumber as they build roads and towns, but no one is eliminated during play.

“the whole idea irks Orbanes, who believes that the lessons of the traditional games – there is one and only one winner in the jungle – are being lost.”

But Orbanes is wrong about that. Traditional games are artificial in precisely that way. In real life, there is NOT one and only one winner. 

In some cases, there are no winners, only losers. Lots of wars are like this. Failed business negotiations can be like this.

In many more cases, there are multiple winners in various degrees and along various dimensions. There are many restaurant chains. Some are more successful than others, but there isn’t one and only one winner. There are several manufacturers of computers, hot dogs, and automobiles. There isn’t only one winner.

The true lesson in competition is that it is important that YOU WIN – that your company is profitable, that you have a job, that you have a good family life.  If the other guy is winning as well, that’s really OK. He doesn’t have to be broke and friendless in order for you to WIN.