In the last few months that I have not made a single post here, I have been busy playing the Clash of Clans! I have invested an exorbitant amount of time in this game, and perhaps its way of paying back is by holding a mirror to the world; a mirror that magnifies and highlights some of the ubiquitous flaws in our everyday lives. It is not surprising that there are similarities between the game and life, given that this virtual world is inhabited by the same people who we interact with in our real life. Before we take a closer look at this mirror, a quick overview of the game and some of its key aspects would help to set the context for those who are not familiar with it.
Clash of clans is a highly popular game for Android and iOS platforms, where players collect and loot certain resources to build and upgrade the buildings of their home village and the troops they can command. Build and upgrade operations take increasingly more time to complete as you advance, and you have a limited number build/upgrade slots. “Gems” can speed up upgrade, troop training and research times, and can be bought from the game creators with real money (which I haven’t done and have no plans of doing). Players can form clans, and participate in clan war and games with others from their clan. Clan wars match you against other clans of similar strength. Participating players from a clan get to show off their abilities to their clanmates in a fight against a player from the enemy clan at about their same level. They also gain additional loot if their clan wins the war. In clan games, players from the clan complete challenges to unlock reward tiers offering “magical items” that work similar to gems. That is about all the understanding one needs of this game to follow the rest of this post. Of course, those with unsatiated curiosity can look up Wikipedia or download the game and get hooked!
You might have noticed that the very design of this game is similar to life. In life, there is only so much that we can do at a time and doing things takes time, and often resources. Of course, we don’t typically loot resources from others. But the general pattern where we gather resources to “move up” in life and then start needing even more resources is strikingly similar. That is what I do in the game, and quite aggressively. I strive to improve my offensive power so that I can get even more resources to improve my offensive power, recursively.
The newly introduced clan games help to speed up this process by offering magical items that can instantly complete build, upgrade and research activities. To get enough points in the games to win these items, one has to play hard. And then, since these items complete an expensive activity instantly, they have to play even harder to gather enough resources to trigger the next build, upgrade or research activity. If doing well in clan games thus makes life more difficult than easy, is it foolish to put so much effort into clan games and to choose gifts that only serve to further stress out the player?
Instead of answering that question, it will be good to observe that people who do equally stupid things in life are considered successful and looked up to as achievers and role models. They study hard to get into a good college. To compete with other equally capable and motivated students, they have to work even harder. They stress themselves out to get a well paying job that might prove to be even more stressful to do well at. They work hard to get promoted to a more challenging role to work even harder for their next promotion, recursively.
All this would have made sense if there were an end to it. But ambition, like desires, is endless. The only exit condition for this recursive loop is for the person to realize the futility of his pursuit. Most people just burn themselves out before they reach that point.
One of the reasons I want to progress faster in the game is to improve my strength relative to others in my clan allowing me to take on higher ranked members of the enemy clan during clan wars. While this does feed my ego, I don’t think it is helping my clan greatly because as I grow stronger, the opponents also get stronger – so it doesn’t really affect the outcome of the wars we fight. For a clan to win a war, what is important is for players at every level to do well at their own level. I find this comparable to many an ambitious person’s idea of career where they focus on rising up the ranks rather than do their part sincerely and move on to the next level in due course.
This is where I look up to some other members of our clan who are about 20 years younger to me, but much wiser in their approach to the game. Being in school, they probably don’t have the luxury of devoting as much time to the game as I do. But when they play, they enjoy the game and do not worry about moving up in the clan or having all the resources ready before a build job completes so as not to let the builder remain idle. Instead, when they have enough resources and a free builder, they begin a build or upgrade. Since they are in no hurry, they only have to do in the game what they enjoy doing and when they feel like doing it. They seem to understand that the purpose of the game is not to reach the highest level as quickly as possible or to be better than your clanmates, but to have fun while you are at it!
I wish I could learn to take the game like they do. More importantly, I wish we could all learn something from their approach to the game and use it to polish our attitude towards life.