This Metagame Thing
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September 17, 2020
I mentioned this “metagame” thing in these journals often, like I know what I am talking about. I’ve been using the term to elucidate social games, but the term can be used for all games. Daniel Kazandjian, who was previously hosting a Metagame Mastermind at The Stoa, invited me to host a session, which served as a forcing function for me to come up with somewhat of a definition: Playing the metagame helps us discover the right relationship with the ecology of games we are currently playing.
I’ll reword this slightly: the metagame is the game of discovering the right relationship with your ecology of games. I like this ecology of games phrase, which I think first got coined in a 1958 paper from Norton E. Long. It is helpful to see yourself situated in many games that are interrelated.
The game metaphor is also cool, because the framing forces us to think in terms of play, rather than work. This whole project, and these journals, are coming from play. Myself, along with everyone else at The Stoa, is playing. We are playing with super duper serious ideas like the meta-crisis and stuff, but it is still play.
We are having so many great sessions at The Stoa, it feels like this place is finding its groove. Yesterday’s session, with Jamie Combs and Eric Brown, was particularly playful, and was related to this metagame thing. Jamie created this model called the 4Game Dynamics. I recommend checking out the visuals of the model, but the basic idea is within your ecology of games, you have four ontological game categories: the short game, the mid game, the long game, and the deep game.
The short game is your intimate world: your body, emotions, and thoughts. The mid game is your material world, the tangible things your environment necessitates of you. The long game is your narrative world, the stories you tell yourself about yourself. And the last game is the deep game, your metaphysical world, where the mystery of life is wrestled with, playfully of course.
The idea is to get into game alignment, which ensures all the games you are playing are playing well with each other. How do you get into game alignment? I do not know. I imagine you’ll need a good ecology of practices, to complement your ecology of games.
The helpful thing I find about this model is teasing out game confusion. Game confusion happens when you play one game, to address a particular issue, when really you should be playing another game, e.g. you just need to do a few deep breaths and eat something in order to address your anxiousness (short game), instead of manically attempting to rewrite your whole life story (long game).
I sense this model enriches the metagame concept, and we can enrich it further by bringing in cool terms like James Carse’s finite games and infinite games, as well as Samo Burja’s live players and dead players. I really dig the latter dichotomy, which I wrote about before. Basically, if you are a live player you do not need to follow a script and you can create new things. If you are a dead player you need to follow a script and can only create things that have already been created.
This is about being authentic, aka authoring your own life. The Stoa is where the live players come to play, and author their lives, and help the others author theirs. With these journals, I am authoring my life in front of you. I am openly playing the long game, by publicly writing my narrative, as truthfully as I can, in the midst of the spectacle.
Why am I even doing this again? This sounds a little dangerous, and weird. I can probably lean on my answer for everything: the daemon. My short game is listening to the daemon, and I am having fun playing this listening game. Besides, us Stoics need some danger in their play, and us meta folks need some weirdness.
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