Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Losing vs. Winning

There's not a strong connection here to current MMORPGs, games and gamification. But enough of a connection to link it.


  1. Really good read, and there are some gems in there that could influence design (like how limited choice is more meaningful and productive), but more than that many of these points are things that people really need to understand about life. I know many people who are messed up 20-somethings because they had an easy, self-centered childhood. They could never fail and they were always told how special and awesome they were, and now, in real life, they have the shock that they aren't as special and awesome as they were brought up thinking. They break under real pressure.

  2. Oh, please. That article is a joke.

    Until, one day, another question occurred to me: Was it possible these parents had done too much?

    Here I was, seeing the flesh-and-blood results of the kind of parenting that my peers and I were trying to practice with our own kids, precisely so that they wouldn’t end up on a therapist’s couch one day.

    If someone can accept the above as anything more than (bad) anecdotal evidence, then I will accept the content of the article itself as evidence psychologists in general are morons.

    Is it a legitimate question to ask whether coddling a child can harm (perhaps in other ways) just as badly as abuse? Sure. Of course, I don't think anyone should take advice on the "best ways to parent" any more than someone taking advice on "best color to choose to be your favorite." The implied premise is that there is a "good" way and a "bad" way to parent, as though identical methods could produce well-rounded adults (however that is defined) out of kids like cars off an assembly line.

    Odds are good that those people in her office would be in her office regardless of how their childhood turned out... unless the argument is that kids with alcoholic mothers and missing fathers somehow find meaning and purpose in life more easily than other kids. Some people are simply chemically imbalanced. Others see through all the philosophical bullshit on a subconscious level and realize how utterly arbitrary our decisions are in an absurd universe. Or, hey, maybe these people are merely a reflection of our cultural zeitgeist of unapologetic consumerism and apathetic solipsism.

  3. I disagree with your opinion, Azuriel, though I certainly agree with the anecdotal evidence comment.

    Genetics and experiences are what make up our mental capabilities (nature versus nurture). You're arguing that it's almost entirely nature: "Odds are good that those people in her office would be in her office regardless of how their childhood turned out", whereas we are absolutely shaped by our experiences in our day to day and year to year lives.

    Though the plural of anecdote is not data, I can provide anecdotes in my own life, points in time that absolutely shaped who I am today.

    An example of such is the first time I failed. Like absolutely, completely failed. It was in college, Calculus III. All the way through my childhood up into my early adulthood I was the straight A, well behaved child. This exam was the first thing I had ever failed in school. I was a complete wreck for a week because I couldn't handle it, I never had to handle failure before in that setting. If you failed the exam, you failed the course. It would set back my education an entire semester, throw off my plans, etc. But you know what? I took a chance (which in hindsight seems like the complete obvious, no-duh thing to do) and talked to the Professor, who agreed that I was always in class, and did well on everything else so she wouldn't fail me entirely. I was stuck with the D after the actual grade was calculated, but because I actually took the time to handle it rather than break down and never approach it, I still "passed" the course.

    This event stays with me today. If I screw up royally, I know that I can tackle it head on instead of despairing and/or panicking. It may not turn out great, but it might be salvaged. First world problems and all that, to be sure, but those experiences guide me in my decisions each and every day. To say that parenting doesn't make a difference in someone's emotional and psychological makeup demeans those experiences, the ones created by the parents, and others experienced only by you and in my own opinion severely underestimates the malleability of the human mind.

  4. You do come across as a bit deterministic, Azuriel. Is that how you think of your own children as well?

    Funny thing that this comic would be published on the same day as your post, Nils!

  5. He sounds about as convincing as a Marlboro spokesman claiming that regular smoking helps to improve a body's immune system.

    Call me a cynical old Nathrezim, but when someone who made a career out of treating people with unhappy childhoods starts claiming that happiness is bad for children, I take his opinion with a metric ton of salt.

  6. Ephemeron,

    Yes, that was exactly the point that was being made in the article.

    Not to mention that there surely must be something very very wrong with a guy that looks so suspiciously effeminate!