The book "The Master Game" by Robert S. de Ropp (originally published in 1969) discusses nine life games that people choose to play. He argues that having a game one feels is worth playing takes precedence over even wealth, comfort, and esteem. Not having a worthy game often results in accidie, which is characterized by paralyzed will, a lack of healthy appetite, disenchantment, and boredom.
What's interesting about the life game model is that it reminds us that we have the power to consciously choose the game we want to play. Growing up, we're taught by the media, our parents, corporations, school, etc that there is only one life game, and it consists of the following elements: go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, and in between all those steps don't forget the most important part STUFF! STUFF! STUFF! MORE STUFF! DID I MENTION STUFF?
Because as George Carlin said:
And indeed, de Ropp lists this endless quest for stuff as one of the most common life games people play, which is no surprise in a society that takes every opportunity to shove this life game down its citizenry's throats. And despite our ability to make a conscious decision about which life game to play, many of us--whether it be out of ignorance, fear, apathy, lack or resources, or any number of motivators--end up playing the stuff game.
It's easy to see that not all life games are created equal. In fact, de Ropp divides them into two types-- object games and meta games. Object games are just as they sound-- they are games in which the primary aim is to acquire material things. Meta games involve intangible aims, for example knowledge or beauty. According to de Ropp, people generally gravitate toward one or the other category, and those in opposing categories have historically had difficulty understanding one another.
The nine games discussed in "The Master Game" are as follows.
LOWER GAMES (object games)
1. Hog in Trough (the extreme version of the "stuff game")
Aim: wealth at all costs
Characteristics: insatiable greed, ruthlessness, cunning, extreme selfishness
2. Cock on Dunghill
Aim: fame, inflation of false ego
Characteristics: publicity at all costs, fame or infamy are both acceptable, constant need to be known or talked about
3. Moloch Game
Characteristics: insatiable need for power, complete disregard for human suffering/devastation they cause, lack empathy and common decency
4. No Game
Characteristics: unable to find a game worth playing, includes: alienated people, misfits, outsiders, the mentally ill, anti-social, and criminal
5. Householder Game
Aim: Raise family
Characteristics: provide life's necessities for family, the basic biological game that perpetuates the human race
HIGH GAMES (meta games)
6. Art Game
Characteristics: inner awareness, expression of beauty
7. Science Game
Characteristics: use of research/scientific method to acquire knowledge, openness to original ideas
8. Religion Game
Characteristics: stay out of hell, get into heaven, often centered around religious leaders
9. Master Game
Characteristics: attain full consciousness, shed personal ego, union with universal consciousness that comes when one awakens from sleep and realizes that one has been believing delusions that have cut one off from higher consciousness, pass into the light of non-ego
It is important to note that people often play a combination of games. And to note, that people who play high games are not necessarily good players, despite the game's elevated status. For example, leaders who play the Religion Game to inflate their egos or for material gain would be bad players. The same would be said for an Art Game player more concerned with ego than creating beauty. And people who play low games do not necessarily play them at their extreme worst, just as those who play high games do not necessarily play them at their best.
Knowing that you can choose your own life game is empowering. It reminds us that we must live intentionally and decide for ourselves our mindset and values. We do not have to swallow what we've been told despite society's attempts to convince us that their game is the only game in town. And in a world where the prize for winning this game is feelings of emptiness, this knowledge is important.
Reviewing de Ropp's list of games makes one wonder what other games might exist? Certainly these nine games do not encompass every option available. And while the Master Game is certainly a game of high value, not everyone will be ready for that path.
Perhaps the most satisfying thing then, would be to use your imagination and creativity to develop your own game. Because understanding what game you want to play, may help you avoid being the pawn in someone else's.