As a kid, I was convinced that I would always be a gamer. I liked games for the challenge they provided, and the sense of satisfaction I gained by learning the rules, methodically increasing my skill, and eventually teaching others to enjoy a game’s complexities on the same level I did.
That feeling hasn’t gone away, it’s just expanded in scope. Rather than attempting to teach everyone the strategic complexity of chess, I promote literacy and encourage folks to self-educate about anything that seems interesting. Rather than studying tournament games and memorizing Starcraft build orders, I travel as much as possible, seeking out new ideas and learning all about myself and unfamiliar facets of the world.
Despite this shift, one thing has stayed very consistent: I still work hard to surround myself with good people.
‘Good’ is generally a horrible word to use when trying to describe something accurately, as it lacks quantifiable definition. But in this context, that’s perfect. To me, a good person is someone who is a net positive for the world. Their existence doesn’t drain others, it strengthens them. Their attitude about life is upbeat — things will continue to get better — and they treat others with the respect owed to other members of the same species. These are people of varying skill sets, points of view, faiths, cultures, and economic backgrounds, but all share a certain something that adds up to ‘good person,’ according to my definition.
Part of what I loved about playing games was that they allowed me to pull free of reality for a bit and imagine ‘what if.’ You can be the nicest person in the world, but when you sit down for a game of Risk, chances are you’ll be just as back-stabby as anyone else at the table.
The fantasy world you dive into while gaming is only fun, however, if the game is different from real life. Competition is a pleasure with good people, but if the people you’re playing with are antagonistic to begin with, chances are the game will become just another stressor. Slaughtering each other’s armies will hit too close to home.
Games are a challenge you face together, even if you’re on opposite teams for the duration. They give you the opportunity to think with cold cunning in an environment where you can stand up at any time and extract yourself from that world. Where you can test your mettle and your wits, without needing to actually be the kind of person who callously conquers South America for fun.
I often view life as a game, and one that can be far more strategic and rewarding than any of the tabletop or video variety I’ve ever encountered. But just like playing Risk, the challenges real life presents are a million times more enjoyable when there are good people nearby, facing them at your side.
In the same way you can choose the people with whom you play games, you can also choose the people with whom you share your life. Make sure they’re people who’ll keep things exciting and challenging, but avoid surrounding yourself with excellent competitors who also happen to be horrible human beings.
Update: April 14, 2017
This is true whether you’re a hardcore extrovert or a massive introvert. The number of people in your life isn’t what’s important, it’s the quality of those people, based on attributes that are important to you.