Playing to Win

Ya know, I had a really long post ready to go today.  The more I wrote it though, the more I realized it was a futile effort.  I'm saying the same things another great player has said, but probably not nearly as well.  Instead, I'm going to refer everyone to my favorite book.
Playing to Win was written by a champion Street Fighter player, but it does more than focus on fighting games.  He actually takes Sun Tzu's book Art of War and translates it to games.  There really isn't much difference, as Sun Tsu speaks of victory regardless of any morality whatsoever.  In war, that sense of victory really comes from having a clear definition of what that victory is, and the more you detail that victory, the more difficult it becomes.  Let me give you a simple example.  I'm not exactly sure what our definitions of "victory" for our overseas wars are, but I'm pretty sure they all hinge on removing so-called "terrorist" groups.  If you define victory there as only capturing/killing the defined enemy without injuring civilians, that's going to be much more difficult than killing all enemies regardless of who else is in the area.  This is not a political statement, simply that the less restrictive your definition is for victory, the more likely you are to achieve that victory.
Fortunately, games have a clear definition of what victory is, and David Sirlin makes the argument that you need to use whatever tournament-legal means are at your disposal to achieve it.  The language used in the book takes no account for how you would feel for reading it.  Its goal is to remove one's self-imposed rules so as to better achieve victory.  In that sense, it's really a self-help book more than anything.  It gets you to choose whether you have more fun in the overall experience (play for fun as you personally define it), or prefer to get your satisfaction through self-improvement to be the best at what you do.  Obviously, I'm in the latter camp, but I will admit this book is not for everybody.
This book is incredibly general, and therein lies its general usefulness.  It's not going to be the only text you need to win, but it will probably still be the most important.  The lessons it teaches are useful in any conflict, and it gets right to my own personal core of beliefs.  It requires brutal and precise honesty with oneself.  It then requires determination to achieve your goals. It can be applied to literally any game or sport, provided it is not 100% reliant on luck (such as Candyland or LCR).  Simply put, if you want to win by your own skill, this book is required reading.
You can find the entire text available for free online at Sirlin's website, but physical copies are available for puchase.


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