The Game of Life


Nicholas  is a 48 year old investment banker. He has an ex-wife and a strained relationship with his only remaining family, a younger brother. He spends his day brokering deals at the office building embossed with his name and the city club, before returning to his large and beautiful mansion. A modern-day Scrooge, his ghosts are from his childhood. The fears of following in his father’s footsteps, who at 48 committed suicide. 

This is the opening premise to the 1997 David Fincher film “The Game.”

Michael Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton, the man who thinks he has everything. So on his 48th birthday, his brother offers him an unusual gift, an opportunity to play “The Game”.

Over the course of the movie, Nicholas is pushed into an escalating set of more and more bizarre situations, up-ending every part of his life and leading him to some drastic revelations about himself.

The film has a lot to teach us about what it really means to gamify your life.

An impressive job title, a nice car, a large number in our bank account or in other words points, badges, leaderboards. The game of life has them all, but focus solely on their accumulation and you ignore the potential for a more complete game design – one that has meaning given to it via your own story.

To look at our own life as a game means becoming the writer and creator of our journey.

Its hard.

Mostly, we think and act like our stories are already written, our worlds are fixed in place by the expectations we grew up with, our paths already chosen by the hours already lived. Even if we know the story we’ve been living is somehow wrong, its not that easy to break out of it once you’re living it.

Sometimes what we need is to change the game drastically

Like Nicholas Van Orten, we need to be thrown into a world that is surprising and new. How would you do this in real life, you ask? Maybe you think the premise of “The Game” is ridiculously far fetched and could never happen in ‘reality‘?

So how about a man thrown into a world in the aftermath of meteor strike and infested with zombies. This was one British man’s reality, for a little while anyway.

Steven describes himself as lazy and irresponsible and his mother doesn’t even feel like he really loves her anymore. He suffers by his own admission to a ‘lazy sense of entitlement’. He needs to learn responsibility, he needs to wake-up to all the good things to be grateful for in his life. Steve needs  to experience the apocalypse .

This was the premise for the 2012 channel 4 show involving an unsuspecting participant, who was convinced through hypnosis, actors, fake news stories and staged effects that the world had ended. Here is the trailer for the second part of the show devised by master magician, Derren Brown.

The story has a familiar kind of allure as other post-apocalyptic games and stories do. Not that we want our friends 0r family to be eaten or turned into zombies, but that there is something appealing in the possibilities of a world with the slate wiped clean.

I believe to design a gamified life, you don’t have to go that far, but you should and can create a different world.

One that is still filled with the dangers you always faced; death, loss, pain and suffering, but there is also now the optimism and perseverance of a hero in this story. You.

I believe you can choose to be a hero in the game of life, because hero-ing is believing you can face and overcome whatever challenges come your way.

If this happens to also involve imagined zombies or shadow boars, then so be it.

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