The Game of Life

Sep 02 2011

(and what I learnt about life from playing Chinese Chess in High-school)

I used to play Chinese Chess (Xiangqi). In fact, I was very good at it, Bronze Medal (Individual Category) in Vietname Youth Chinese Chess Competition, Gold Medal (Team Category) that same year, and a countless medals city-level. I’m saying this not to brag. It simply means this: I enjoy challenging, heads-on games, like Chinese Chess.

But never did I relate this game to a broader game: the game of life.

The game of life is an interesting game, it’s similar yet different from all games I’ve ever played. A game is a simple concept: a scenario, a set of rules and a limited resources you’re given at hand. How different is this from your life?

The game of life appreciates and favors those who understand the rules. But unlike other games, in the game of life, the rules are vast, vague and left for players to find out. And rules have a new name in the game of life: wisdom.

And in the process of studying the rules, you acquire something intermediary, something that gives you an advantageous edge over your opponents: knowledge.

Unlike the game of chess (in which each game consists of 60 moves on average), the game of life is an enduring game, an 80-year long game. If you make one wrong move, no matter how bad it is, there is always a fix that works.

Instead of thinking about the mistake, what is your next move?

In the game of chess, 1 single move (no matter how smart) can’t help you win, it is a series of right and incremental moves that leads to victory.

In the game of life, the same thing applies. Don’t bet too much on a single decision. Bet on the ones following. So when I heard someone telling his story and conclude: “That was the single-most important decision in my life”, I know there’s much more to that.


There’s a saying: “Happiness is a journey, not a process”. By thinking life as a game, I grasp this concept much better. I constantly remind myself about the game of life when I get into tough situations, accepting the moves I’ve made, and start to think of the next move.


Treat life as a game, and see how good a player you could be?

3 responses so far

  1. Good attitude :)). Btw, when you start life, everyone is not equal. So it’s like you’re given a fixed situation, and then ponder what to do with it.

  2. Note that in the game of life, it’s still possible to make some really bad moves. For one, try not to marry the wrong woman. That, would be a *really* bad move. But you are right, most other mistakes can be undone. :-)

  3. I don’t play Chinese chess, but international chess. There are some similarity between the game of chess and the game of life I know along the way. For example, there is a “touch-move” rule, where if you touch a piece, you have to move it. You can’t change your mind (but you can still choose what you’re going to do with that piece). So the lesson is think before you move. It’s also about how you finish the game. You can win; you can lose. You can cheat; you can surrender. During a game of chess, what matters is what your next move is, and not what the previous one was. Every move is a new chance to do the right thing to get closer to victory.

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