In the beginning of her book McGonigal writes of a people who lived three thousand years ago called the Lydians. The Lydians were faced with an unceasing famine that threatened their existence. In order to overcome living with such little resources, they created games to distract them from their less than ideal situation. It took them eighteen years to get through it, but they did so successfully with the help of games. I couldn’t help but think of Buffalo as a modern day Lydian society. Our city has had a rough couple decades. Ever since the steel industry crashed in America and Buffalo became a ‘Rust Belt City’, we have struggled to find ways of attracting outsiders and boosting our economy. How have we dealt with such problems? Why, we surrounded ourselves with games, more specifically hockey and football. People who visit Buffalo and athletes who have played on our teams will tell you that Buffalo is home to some of the most die-hard fans in the country. Thousands show up at the gates of the Ralph Wilson Stadium to tailgate when they open at 9 am, and then sit outside in freezing temperatures for hours to cheer their favorite team on. What happens to the Bills on Sunday directly affects the mood of the entire city on Monday. The same goes for the Sabres. When we have a solid team, the atmosphere of the whole city bumps up a couple notches. We will never stop supporting our teams (no matter how sub-par they might be), but hopefully they won’t have to distract us from the city’s decrepit situation in the future.
Another instance I thought of where games served for more than just entertainment comes in the form of a movie titled Life is Beautiful. Set in 1930’s Italy, the bubbly main character Guido and his loving wife and son are condemned to a concentration camp. To shield his son from the horrors of their situation, Guido tells him that they have entered a competition in the form of a game where one must hide from the men in green suits and never make noise. Points are rewarded for things like not complaining about the food and not asking lots of questions. At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins a tank. Through this method, brave Guido saves his son from the holocaust. Spoiler alert, his son gets his fiero moment in the form of a rescuing American tank raiding the camp.