Friday, May 22, 2009

Quest, and the Game of Life

Life lessons come from all sorts of experiences. We learn from our parents, teachers, friends, and even random people we meet on the street.

If we're lucky, the lesson will be clear and unmistakable, but some need a while to simmer- days, months, even years- before their message is absorbed.

I've learned some important lessons from games I've played.

When I was a kid, a bunch of us would gather on Saturday afternoons and play the game Risk. If you're not familiar with it, Risk is one of those 'conquer the world with your armies' type of games, and it involves rolls of the dice and some strategy; a game can easily last an hour or longer.

From the very first time I played the game, I had to win. I played with passion, with intensity, and with determination. As the years went by, my intensity grew each time I sat down to play, until one day I realized I wasn't having fun anymore. More than that- I didn't like the person I became when I played Risk. I was obsessed, controlling, and ruthless.

Just like that, I stopped playing. Not surprisingly, none of my friends objected to my bowing out of our games. Several years later, my husband and I played the game with some friends, and 'ruthless Ruth' came out again. That was the last time I even thought about playing Risk.

Fast forward 30 or so years, to the cruise I was on a few weeks ago.

On Royal Caribbean ships, a game called 'Quest' is played one night during the cruise. No one really talks about it (supposedly there's an understanding that you don't give out the details of the game); all they'll say is that it's an adults only scavenger hunt, and it'll have you rolling on the floor, laughing.

The game was scheduled for around 11pm on Thursday night. Happy, excited voices filled the air as people arrived to play. The ship's cruise director, who acted as MC and judge, divided the auditorium into teams, and looking stern, reminded everyone that the point was to have FUN, and that we were playing for key chains, for goodness sakes!

I thought his comments were a bit odd. No one ever mentioned to me that we were playing for any sort of prize. All I knew that the next hour was going to be a blast. I was, indeed, there to have FUN.

That's when I became aware of the people surrounding me. They were in an absolute frenzy, organizing, plotting, strategizing. Someone handed me a huge tote bag, bursting at the seams.
"Quick- hide this!!"

I must have reacted slowly, because the next thing I knew, a woman seated near me jumped to her feet, and grabbed the bag out of my hands. "HIDE IT NOW!" she screamed.

That's when I saw the look in her eyes. A look that I recognized from long ago. It was my Risk look.

I touched her arm, and said softly, "Hey, we're here to have fun."

She pushed me away, and hissed words I prefer to forget, in a tone I'll never forget.

I knew that I had to get away from her, and quickly arranged to change my seat with someone in another row.

As I sat in my new seat, in the moments before the game began, I felt my eyes opening to a new reality, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I understood the state of the world:

After all, if passions can run so strong over a GAME, then what chance do we have of creating a true and ever-lasting peace?!

[Quest was an absolute blast, BTW. Oh- if you think you'd like to try your hand at Risk (and maybe see if you'll become as ruthless as me), you can find an online version here.]


KreatesKards said...

We didn't go to Quest on the ship. I've heard many stories of how "involved" some of the teams get at winning. LOL

Ruth said...

That part of Quest took me by complete surprise!