From genuine interpersonal relationships to the art of the pickup, the gaming of life is an inevitability. We may overtly participate in it, or it may take place beneath the surface of our awareness, but we are constantly playing with the systems of social interaction and society. Being polite, donating to charity, and courting sex partners require us to respond to rules in our interactive spaces, and we abide by those rules to achieve a particular reward.
I’m less likely to give time to a friend who I’ve judged to not value me enough: meaning, my being a constructive force for someone else is not enough to include them in my life. I have to get something out of it too, I have to feel that they help keep me happy and healthy to some degree. Actions are never wholly selfless if I gain fulfillment from what I do. I adjust how much time I spend with people accordingly, hell, I adjust how that interaction manifests itself depending on the relationship. I opt for more face to face time with those closest to me while relegating others to texting, tweeting and the like in the same way I might keep a certain cast of characters in my party because I like them more, or because they are more effective in battle. To be clear I don’t actively think like this when interacting with others, but I can recognize that this is essentially what I am doing afterward, when reflecting on it. It’s not that I’m a particularly horrible person or anything. We all do it.
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When we criticize games like Persona or games like Dragon Age, which structure personal relationships into levels and sliders, delineating clear methods to gain benefits from these relationships, is it wholly because they reduce complex interactions into something too simplistic, or something inhumane? Let’s be real, I think many of us would have trouble abstaining from looking at the numbers if we could actually see them in real life judging by how important useless statistics like how many friends we have on Facebook are to us.
So this leads me to ask: is it actually that we have trouble admitting that we do, in fact, think in these ways (possibly like thinking in these ways!) and would rather not confront that, would rather keep relationships in this sacrosanct realm where these things cannot be defined and coded?
It is an unattractive notion that self-fulfillment is the desire of all of our actions, but that doesn't make it any less true. Appraising the inherent value of our exertions (and their reactions) is unappealing because it realizes this notion. But whether we choose to valuate them or not, self-fulfilment still remains the primary goal.