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When Games Aren’t Just Games

April 29, 2013

j0179010I read the coolest article Friday about Game Theory and cheating at college. Peter Nonacs, a UCLA professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department, wrote an article about an experiment he conducted in one of his classes.

Let me start by saying if I had known this was even a field of study when I was in college, I probably wouldn't have been a business major. 🙂 Fascinating stuff! While I don't know much more about Game Theory than what is presented in the article, and what I can infer from personal experience, you can bet I'm going to read up on it!

Why? Because I'm a novelist. I write stories about people. And I particularly love to write stories about people who are learning to live together and merge two lives into one. (Commonly known as “romance novels.” 😉 )

Let me quote Professor Nonacs directly so you can understand what Game Theory is about.

Much of evolution and natural selection can be summarized in three short words: “Life is games.” In any game, the object is to win—be that defined as leaving the most genes in the next generation, getting the best grade on a midterm, or successfully inculcating critical thinking into your students. An entire field of study, Game Theory, is devoted to mathematically describing the games that nature plays.  Games can determine why ant colonies do what they do, how viruses evolve to exploit hosts, or how human societies organize and function.

j0289307Most of my life, I've been learning to compete – be first in my class, get the boy, win the race, get the promotion, get to the next red light first.

So how do you reconcile that with sharing a life? Giving the bigger slice of pizza to him, taking turns to pick the movie, telling her she's beautiful when she's sick.

After 23 years of marriage (can you believe we hit that mark next week?!), I'll tell you what I've learned. The key to a happy and successful marriage is to have fun. So if evolutionary biology suggests that “life is games,” I can assure you that making the marriage game fun is the way to win. Winning, in this case, means making it to the “till death do us part” finish line without resorting to cheats like murder or suicide. 😉

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that maybe you'd find some of my marriage stories fun and funny. I've published articles before that revolve around our married life, and the new superhero series I'm writing – The Adventures of Lewis and Clarke – is about how two people with two totally different lives learn to braid them together.

So starting next week, I'm introducing a new column on Mondays – Marriage Madness. Sets just the right tone, don't you think? My dual goals will be to make you laugh and make you think that maybe marriage isn't such a bad thing. 😛

Meanwhile, I think you should read the article on Game Theory. It might open your eyes to how life is operating around you. Maybe even make you think about making some changes to the way you're playing.


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