Solitary Soundings

Musings of a solitary gamer. "The advantage of conversation is such that, for want of company, a man had better talk to a post than let his thoughts lie smoking and smothering." (Jeremy Collier) Comments welcome.
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Warlords and Three Points of a Triad

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"‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
"‘But what did the Dormouse say?’ one of the jury asked. ‘That I can’t remember,’ said the Hatter."
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My wife and I had a blow-up yesterday morning. When you've been married for over thirty years, you've more or less figured out what those things are about--the same old bit of incompatibility as always.

Then, this morning (my wife and I are getting along quite harmoniously today), I played a tough game of Warlords II Deluxe and won. And now I love the game and feel great about myself too. After playing strategy games for decades, I pretty well know what that's about too.

I've delved into various personality-typing systems over the years. I'm not particularly attached to any of them; I suppose they're all flawed. But reading about them has led me to do a lot of observing and self-reflecting, so I've gradually formed my own way of sorting people out and orienting myself to them.

In the case of my wife and me, it's basically a case of her being a "head person" while I'm much more a "heart person." She calls herself a lifelong learner and obviously enjoys learning new things, processing information, and figuring out systems. Furthermore, she usually acts as if everybody ought to be like that; people who aren't strike her as idiots. So, when we're trying to interact but miss each other, she's annoyed that I won't connect with her like a "mindmate"--a willing partner in sharing information, completing projects, and pursuing set goals in a reasonable way.

Meanwhile, I'm about equally annoyed with her--disappointed that she won't connect with me heart to heart like a "soulmate" (a term used by David Keirsey, though I don't like it myself)--a willing partner in sharing feelings, impressions, imaginings, compliments, and so on.

In the Enneagram (one of those personality-type thingies), the nine types of people are grouped into triads (sets of three). One of the main triads is heart-head-gut: some are basically feeling people, like me; some are basically thinking people, like my wife; and some are basically physically grounded, or instinctual (or body-focused), people. I have lots of doubts about the Enneagram system--its validity and usefulness--but I like sorting according to that triad, because it pretty well matches my experience.

Of course, everybody has a heart, head, and gut. We do all three things all the time. Differences between us only arise from one of the three being dominant and perhaps another being weak. In my case, it's heart, head, and body, in that order; I'm half out of my body most of the time--lose track of my environment and what's going on physically.

Anyhow, on to the game. Yesterday I lost my first game of Warlords since I started playing it again (it's an old game that I used to play decades ago, and I'm just now getting back into it). And I was quite dejected. Losing didn't just feel bad; it started to make me feel hopeless or worthless. The loss carried over into the rest of my day, as those sorry feelings hung around.

When I won this morning--playing on the same difficulty level, against the same number of opponents--I felt a great sense of relief, followed by an elation and restoration of confidence and self-worth. Maybe I am smart enough after all.

That ties in with something the Enneagram system says about Feeling (or Heart) types: they're all dealing with shame in some form. Deep down, they feel defective or broken, and they need recognition and approval from others to avoid sinking into hopelessness. Their self-image is partly based on the feedback they get from others. Hence, their life tends to be centered on relationships. If they're in a good relationship, they're happy; if they're in a bad relationship or lacking a relationship, they're sad.

But heart people are also quite imaginative. I've been called a dreamer. And I suppose I do live half in a fantasy or dream. So, it's not just real-world, in-the-flesh relationships that are important; it's also relationships with whatever the imagination conjures up. Hence, if I'm playing at being a warlord out to conquer the world, I'm emotionally invested in it; my success or failure at it is certain to make a big impact on how I feel and how I judge myself.

When my wife plays games, she sometimes does what I do to some extent: she shakes her fist in triumph when she wins, or she shakes her head and says, "I suck at this" when she loses. Most everybody probably does that. But as I said, that sort of thing affects me more deeply and strongly; the feelings linger, affect my self-image, and carry on into everything I do during the day.

In fact, looking back over my life, I'd say that's the main reason I took to playing strategy games. It's actually a strange hobby for someone like me; I'm not competitive, and I'm not that interested in systems. What gaming does for me, mainly, is test me. When I win, I feel I've proven myself to be worthy. And that more than justifies all the time and effort I put into it.

Yeah, it's just an illusion. A lot of what we do in life is illusory. In my view, human personality is an illusion too. In truth, we're Souls--spiritual entities--and we're only deceiving ourselves when we identify with our ego and believe we're just human beings. So, at a higher level, I don't think there really are any heart people, head people, or gut people; we're all just Souls. And Soul equals Soul.

But in day-to-day life, while we're living here on earth, we identify with all the roles we've learned to play. We're concerned about all the things we've grown to fear or worry about. We bring suffering upon ourselves, and we're always looking for ways to relieve the suffering. Or, if things are going well enough, we look for ways to leave suffering behind and concentrate on having fun and being happy.

Getting back to games again, I believe my wife and other "head people" experience strategy games differently than I do. They thrive on information processing--learning, working out systems, and so on. Games are interesting to them, and it's fun to learn how to make things work they way they want them to. Puzzling things through, finding solutions, and reaching goals is what's satisfying. Less so for me, more so for them.

And if shame is what we heart people are mainly working on, the Enneagram says head people are mainly working on fear. They see threats in the environment, and they're focused on survival. They're driven to think things through in order to establish some measure of security for themselves. If all that is true, I would think my wife and others like her also get a sense of security from playing games, or from winning at strategy games. What I guess goes through their head is, If I can think my way through this, I can think my way through other things in life as well.

Just for the sake of completeness here, I'll speculate on the third type, the gut people. The main thing they're supposedly dealing with is anger, and it arises from a perceived lack of control. It feels to them that their boundaries might be encroached upon, so they're always concerned with being in control and guarding their own space.

I experience some of that in the games I play. It's what would account for my preoccupation with territory. I mostly play map games, and I always have a strong sense of what territory is mine. If any other player invades my territory, it angers me. I'll work and fight like mad to get my territory back. And if my opponents continue pushing, I'll eventually vow to annihilate them. I'm not doing it calmly, either (the way a head person might); I'm furious.

So I would expect that a gut person gravitates toward the competitive aspect of gaming--exerting power over others. Claiming space and defending it or acquiring it by force.

Again, though, everybody has a heart, head, and gut. So there are overlaps, and it's easy enough for me to experience games--or anything--more or less as others do. I'm just saying that for me, the most striking and persistent aspect of the experience has to do with shame or self-image: my feelings of worth and self-confidence are boosted by the imaginary conquests I make in games.

Indeed, that's my primary motivation for playing a game--to pursue an imaginary conquest. Anything else is secondary: figuring out how to work a system, engaging in the shoving match of conflict. Those things tend to annoy me; I only put up with them so as to facilitate my main purpose of pursuing imaginary conquest. I'm always Sir Galahad questing after the holy grail; and if I find it, I end up so elated that I almost feel I really am Sir Galahad. I've achieved something wonderful, and I'm deserving of accolades.

Of course it's only a game, and I also laugh at myself for getting puffed up that way. Yet the puffing up feels so good to me that I'll start another game right away.

Just a little something I'm noticing about myself and gaming today. If there's anything you can relate to, or any way in which your approach and experience is very different than mine, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
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