Earlier in my career as a trainer and course designer, I co-created games and business simulations for artisans, entrepreneurs, farmers, women and young people. It taught me the power of gaming as a learning tool. Games for education have become a worldwide phenomenon. See, for example, Games for Change.
But games can reflect worldviews that are not in sync with healthful living. The old board games that are familiar to most of us and that are still being learned by young people today all too often reflect an old consciousness that does not serve us. This was brought home to me recently when I was convinced to join with some family members to play a game of Risk ™. I was reluctant because it’s based on warfare, world domination, and completely wiping out all of your fellow players. Although the setting should have been relaxing because it was an evening with family at the dining room table, even I wasn’t prepared for how distressing it would be for me to play the game now that I’m in the holistic health realm.
It was also an eye-opening experience. Here are some observations I made while playing the game:
- The game is absolutely devoid of love and compassion. No one is rewarded for showing kindness, mercy, patience or cooperation toward the “opponents.”
- Overall conquest is not only the primary objective, but the only A player may choose to delay for a turn or two, but eventually must attack to gain territory. An attacker can choose to retreat, but only temporarily. Meanwhile, a player who is attacked must fight as long as the attacker wants or until one of them is eliminated from that territory. There is no room for peaceful negotiation or other non-total-devastation options. Winner must take all.
- The game starts with players being arbitrarily able to choose their initial territories in turn by the roll of the dice. The territories are taken with no consideration for historical or cultural context. The players are occupiers and have no affinity for the people and customs of a place nor for the overall environment of the world in which they maneuver.
- There are no consequences for loss of life. If a player has to remove a game piece from the board because it was “killed,” that piece can be recycled right back into play during the next turn. No funerals, no burials, no dealing with wounded casualties. Troops are expendable and easily replaceable.
- There are no consequences for devastation to the Earth, the people, and the property that are affected by the attacks and counterattacks.
- Because it requires players to attack, it forces them to take foolish (and unnecessary) risks that not only may not be strategic, but that also encourage wasteful use of resources in the hope that Fate/ Luck (the dice) will be on their side.
- There are no consequences for the draining of resources (natural, human, and financial) needed to keep the war machine going for each player in the game.
- While a player can form temporary alliances, in Survivor-like form, that player eventually has to turn against close allies and destroy them to “win.”
- A player is rewarded with extra troops for conquering territories and continents. There is no thought given to caring for those troops or for the citizens and the environment of conquered territories and continents. A player is encouraged to feel good about “owning” and “controlling” territory and amassing troops and military power.
- The victor is encouraged to celebrate the notion of world domination and can boast about his strategy skills and ability to be ruthless. The game ends before the winner has to contend with the challenges of rebuilding and repairing the world he has just conquered.
- Conquering and devastating a planet is presented as a form of relaxation, fun, and entertainment.
- Since real strategists and risk analysts must take into account the human, environmental, budgetary, and other costs of war, this game does not offer young players any real skills. Rather, it desensitizes them to these very same costs and gives them a dark and distorted view of life on Planet Earth.
Needless to say, I found the game appalling. But it got me thinking about how to design games that would be more inspirational and uplifting while offering a fun and satisfying game experience. What would that look like? What would higher consciousness gaming include? If anyone would like to join me in envisioning and designing board games, video games, mobile games, and online games that reward compassion, healing, and caring for the planet and other people (or if you’re aware of other groups doing the same), please contact me.