The world of gaming is changing rapidly.
Over a half a billion people are spending on average 17-20 hours per week playing video games. World of Warcraft players have spent over 5.9 billion years playing the game since it was first released in 2004 – a point in time when our earliest ancestors started walking.
One young woman who has built a career around her love of games is Jennifer Shahade. A two-time American women’s chess champion, former Woman Grandmaster, and PokerStars Mind Sports Ambassador, the Pennsylvania native has her feet firmly entrenched in both camps.
I wonder what her view on the rise of gaming in our culture is?
James Altucher recently wrote a blog post giving his children nine pieces of advice. One of them was, “Learn lots of games. They turn you into a killer without you ever having to hurt someone.” If you had to give advice to an offspring related to gaming what would it be and why?
“I’m a fan of Altucher’s writing and know him from the chess world. I’d advise them to pick games that are challenging but still give more pleasure than pain.”
I was at a party a few years back. The kids wanted to play video games. The parents forced them into the outside world to play. They spent the next few hours sulking on the side of the road. What would you have liked to have said to those parents and why?
“Though I don’t have kids, I do work with a lot of kids via chess workshops. I’m kind of bored by the nostalgic fixation to a purer time when we weren’t tied to our devices.
“I prefer work that instead goes deeper into our fixations. This American Life just had a segment where teenage girls explained how they navigate the social hierarchy of high school via Instagram. Don’t you want to know the difference between ‘gorg’ and perfect? More interesting to me than just making fun of 13-year-olds.
“Nathan Jurgenson is one of my favorite commentators on the false divide between the “real” and “the virtual” and the glib attempt for so many writers and commentators to dismiss the virtual as lame and mindless. Here’s a quote from one of his articles: “But let’s consider the implication of showing others as robots who don’t live in the moment: you are basically saying they are less human in order to assert how above the unthinking-cellphone-zombie masses you are.”
“Back to your original question. I’d encourage the parents to get the kids to try various sports and activities till they find one they like. The generic “play outside” may not work as well these days. (Speaking for adults) I am a fan of the gamification of lots of activities like Crossfit or the Escape Room or Duolingo.”
Everyone loves games, and the adage is only to do what you love. As it’s not practical to play games all of the time, what are some of the ways we can incorporate gaming philosophy into our everyday lives to increase happiness?
“Crossfit may work for a lot of people who never got addicted to working out since it works like a game, and has an intricate system of handicaps so that a beginner can compete with a pro level athlete. Physical fitness and weight training is so important especially for those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle, and since I love writing, chess and poker, I’m obviously vulnerable.
“Many say talking about fitness and health is boring, and maybe that’s true for a lot of people, but it’s crucial for me to keep health at the front of my mind or I’ll let it go. I think friendships are partly built around obsession with things that other people find boring, whether that’s pressing and squatting or balancing a four bet range.”
What do happiness and freedom look like to you?
“Health for me and my family and fuck you money.”
What is the best game you ever invented, what was it and why was it so great?
“My personal favorite is still hula chess because it represents the things I like about myself, the combination of the artistic with the linear and concrete.”
“I’m pretty happy that another piece I created with Daniel Meirom, Naked Chess, is now on display at the World Chess Hall of Fame.”
What would you change about poker to make it more appealing to a mainstream audience?
“For playing, I’d shorten the playing days/structures so that recreational players have a better chance and can enjoy a nice dinner or cash games after the day’s play. I’d also try to figure out some incentive for people to look at their cards as soon as they get them. I think that speeds up the game a ton without necessitating a shot clock.”
The DOTA 2 Championships created an $18m prize pool and the winning team earned over $6m. Hypothetically speaking, I now have a reason to allow my son to play more video games. What do you think of this?
“Yeah, I think video games teach you lots of important skills. The key is to make sure they don’t become an addiction that interferes with socializing, school work and ambition. Unless you think your kid has a talent to make a career out of it. I don’t know enough about the industry to know how you’d judge that but I assume that like chess, poker, writing, it’s extremely competitive and that a backup plan is prudent.”
Do you believe in the Law of Attraction, if so give me an example of how it’s affected your life, if not why not?
“I think it’s pretty important to visualize success though I don’t think there’s something mystical about it. Confidence is just so important in so many disciplines, and that includes lots of things that are important to me such as chess, poker, artistic expression, etc.”
What qualities do you possess that you would like your offspring to develop, and the ones you would rather they left alone.
“Yay: Compassion, work ethic, creativity. Nay: Sadness, neurotic, addiction to sweets.”