Games are a big part of my life, and I guess they always have been. From games of tag and hide-and-go-seek of early childhood, through Go Fish, Operation and Monopoly, to party games like Balderdash or Cranium or pursuits like poker or chess with their infinite opportunities for competition, you can probably mark a lot of the milestones of your life with the games you played at the time.
Having parted ways from the company in 2007 after a re-structuring, and having established myself now in what will hopefully be a fulfilling (if somewhat more mundane) career, I still couldn't really tell you if I should have left years before, or if I wished I could have stayed working with the company in a different capacity. A number of changes have occurred since I lasted worked for GW, not all of them for the better, and they do not even have a Canadian office any more, so staying would have meant either more travel, or moving, neither of which have any appeal for me at this point in my life. Still, I met and got to work with a number of truly excellent people from diverse backgrounds with similar interests, who were passionate about what they did, so I still count my time there as a privilege.
When GW first established a Canadian office in Mississauga and called me for an interview, I was pretty thrilled. None of the jobs I'd had up to that point had any appeal as a career, so I had made a real effort to get one with even their American office in Baltimore, surveying retailers who carried their products and sending them a report with my thoughts and suggestions. Being flown out to Ontario for a job interview was a very big deal to me, and I had no idea what to expect, but I was a little surprised when they outlined the day for me.
There were currently two managers sharing the responsibilities of running the Canadian operation. They said they were both going to 'have a go at me' individually, and in between, I was going to play a game with some of the other staff. They had a new game, Necromunda, and wanted to get my impressions of it.
It's possible there were other people there that I don't remember, but know Bill from Mail Order was there and so was Aaron, one of the warehouse supervisors. It was my first time playing a skirmish type game, where the figures moved independently instead of as part of a unit, and the game came with a number of multi-level terrain features with catwalks spanning between them, so it was a real departure from what I was used to. We all had a pretty good time, and I figured it was a good way to see if I actually played miniature games or just read the books, as well as seeing how quickly I could pick up on things like new rules.
About six months later Audrey and I had moved to Etobicoke, and I was adapting to life with the new company. Pretty much everyone I worked with was excellent, but as in all work places, there were a couple of exceptions. One evening, I saw one of the exceptions get called into Ed's office, along with Aaron. A short while later, he left, red-faced and wordlessly, and it was obvious to the handful of us around that he had been sacked. Ed came out and told us that this was, in fact, exactly what had happened, without going into the hows and whys of it, but then shocked me by saying it never would have come to this if they had simply played a game with him first.
"Seriously?" I gaped.
Ed nodded. "You can tell a lot about people from the way they play games, even ones where no money's at stake. Are they fair, are they sporting, are they greedy, all that sort of thing. The first time we had a big staff game, that one," cocking his head to the door the sackee had left from, "made a complete arse out of himself."
"But that's not why you sacked him," I asserted nervously.
"Of course not!" Ed laughed. "But everyone treated him differently after that, and it became obvious pretty quickly that these were not little quirks any gamer might have, or maybe an off night, but telltales about flaws in his character. We're big on character here, so after that game, it was really only a matter of time."
"That makes sense," I agreed, and then I finally twigged. "Wait, is that the reason you had me play with Bill and Aaron?"
Ed looked at me with a puzzled expression. "Of course."
While I wouldn't want to judge a person solely on the manner in which they play a game ("So, you always play a thief in D&D? Are you naturally inclined to deceit and backstabbery, or are you just greedy?"), I know that there are many people in the world who I get along with just fine that I would not want to play games with. Some are morose, others too distracted, still others way to intense. Some people are way too competitive, and others are just not competitive enough. It can be very subjective, but games can often provide us these insights into what other people consider important. It's also a great way to express what is important to you.
Now that I am a parent, games are an incredibly valuable tool for Audrey and I, and not just for developmental benefits like fine motor control or literacy or numeracy (although these are all good things), but also as a way of developing character.
Games are one of the best ways to learn about things like:
- Taking care of things
- Waiting your turn
- Thinking ahead
- Being a good loser
- Being a gracious winner
- Not giving up
- How to play fair
- How to play to win
- When winning isn't important
Sadly, these things get overlooked regularly in the school curricula, so it is up to parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and mentors and friends of the family to come to the kitchen table (or the basement or the rumpus room television) and show them how. We'll all have some fun, and some of us alleged grownups might even learn something.
The best thing of all is when children model those lessons back to you. After missing an easy dice roll in a game with the girls, I let out a dramatic "Arrgh!" and brought my fist down on the table in mock fury. Glory reached for the dice with one hand while patting my shoulder with the other. "It's okay, Daddy," she said in the serious tones that only an eight-year old can muster. "After all, it's only a game."