As a game player, I’ve been most influenced by the triangle of chess, Minecraft, and fantasy football, whose unique required skill sets morphed me into someone who found new passions and interests.
The first time I played chess, I quickly emerged victorious against my younger sister, who, I should probably add, did not know how to use her knights. After my mom signed me up for an after-school chess program, I played very frequently, taking on a wide variety of elementary school opponents. Being an elementary school chess player, it often came down to creativity to win games: the person who could think outside the box found unique ways to hold onto advantageous positions and capture the ever-so-elusive king. In my most memorable play of chess (from fifth grade!) I mated using a bishop and a rook, as the opposing king, trapped behind his pawn, marked my victory. I’m still proud of it to this day.
Still learning about the game and its infinite niches and possibilities, I try to play often. I’ve learned that chess teaches skills that are in many ways directly applicable to the real world: mistakes can bear heavy consequences, foresight and patience are virtues, and cockiness often leads to failure. Chess also offers an allegory for life in the broadest sense: life is a chess game (or perhaps infinitely many chess games) between me and the universe. Everything I do is a move that the universe reacts to: some put me in better positions while others leave me vulnerable; moreover, sacrifices are often necessary for success, and opportunities are finite and have a short window. But the most important aspect of chess that I learned was creativity: not only was it important for winning games, but also for just ‘seeing’ the board. Later on in life, I’d find that having the creative means to look at problems differently contributed to more efficient solutions.
In fifth grade entered Minecraft, a game that’s almost the polar opposite of chess. My favorite part about Minecraft was that you could simulate the reality you wanted: an underwater house at the bottom of the ocean, a monster-hunting base, and a labyrinth of underground tunnels were all possibilities in Minecraft that real-world architects couldn’t fathom. Exploration and finding your joy is the name of the game. My most fond memory of Minecraft is playing Survival with two of my friends – we built a treehouse base with an attached hut specifically for chicken breeding to have ‘chicken fingers every night.’ Minecraft taught me the value of exploration and visualization, which would come in handy for STEM courses where trying new things leads to more efficient techniques to solve problems. Apart from this, Minecraft imbues a strong sense of telescoping within its players, which was greatly helpful for me at the start of high school, as it strengthened my ability to connect a seemingly meaningless history assignment, for example, to the college decision process and even more so choosing a career.
Finally, Fantasy Football entered my life at the start of high school. Fantasy Football, at its core, made me a much better decision-maker. My head throbbing from decisions about who to start and who to sit on any given week, I learned the value of research, fundamental data analysis, and noticing patterns. Being in a particularly competitive league, many of these things came the hard way and had real implications. No one would bail your team out if you made a silly trade, and the inability to make correct decisions on the waiver wire – where you could add and drop players – left you in the dust.
These games contributed to a combined love for creativity and analysis. While fantasy football and, to a certain degree, chess led to passions in analytical fields, Minecraft and once again, chess sowed the seed for an interest in exploration and open-ended tasks such as creative projects. It’s more than fair to say that these games changed me for the better by providing me with opportunities to find my interests and skills.