Jonathan Kay on How Game Playing Makes You Sharper, Quicker & More Capable

“I’m not sure I would’ve come on the podcast if I knew you were a chess master,” Jonathan Kay said. He just wrote the book, “Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us About Life” with co-author Joan Moriarity.

“Why?” I asked. “Do you just hate chess players?”

“No, it’s intimidating. It’s like a person telling you they went to Harvard or something.”

I didn’t go to Harvard. I went to Cornell. But I didn’t tell him that.

I wanted to focus on what I could learn.

He told me which games teach you economics, history, math. He told me which games teach you how to read people. Or build relationships.

And, most importantly, he told me what makes a good player.

And what makes a bad player:

“Bad players are like people who lack self-awareness in life. They don’t see the whole board.” 

I know I want to be a good player. Not just in games.

But in life.

Here’s a list of what I learned and what we talked about in this episode:

  • 3:03 | The benefit of playing intense strategy games.
  • 5:50 | How WWII led to the creation of today’s most popular strategy games.
  • 8:07 | Game recommendation: Squad Leader.
  • 8:53 | How to learn mind games and get into the head of your opponent. Jonathan shares which games help teach these social psychology skills.
  • 12:55 | Don’t play these games with your romantic partners…
  • 14:30 | What do the most popular games in the world have in common?
  • 16:16 | Why Jonathan hates poker and Scrabble.
  • 20:28 | Artificial intelligence vs. humans: What has a greater advantage and why?
  • 23:06 | How gaming helps you develop your imagination and get better at storytelling.
  • 28:57 | How gaming helps you develop your social life.
  • 31:23 | Which games help you understand “how screwed up our economy is.”
  • 35:47 | Certain games don’t give the losing players a chance to catch up. Others do. Jonathan says these are the best games. And he recommends a few games that have these “stabilizing” factors.
  • 40:05 | These games help you understand real-world capitalism.
  • 41:23 | Always ask, “Is there another way of doing this?” In the real world, you can change the rules. Let’s say your boss doesn’t give you the promotion you want. Then you can get a different job. Or renegotiate, etc. Find out which games help you give yourself permission to change the rules.
  • 44:04 | The importance of taking a step back and seeing the big picture.
  • 48:00 | Why English Scrabble is so popular in Thailand.
  • 50:37 | Which games help you understand trade and microeconomics.
  • 53:28 | Why the desire to defeat people and win a game helps accelerate learning.
  • 54:45 | The worst kind of person to work and play with…
  • 56:20 | Jonathan shares which games help you get better at teamwork. And teach you “management science.”
  • 1:00:33 | Game recommendation: Dead of Winter.
  • 1:06:06 | Why I enjoyed Jonathan’s book, “Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us About Life.”
  • 1:06:34 | How to make sure you’re gaming with people who will support you.
  • 1:08:35 | Defensive vs. offensive mindsets: When should you apply each?
  • 1:12:50 | The minimum qualities necessary to deem a game good and worthy of your time
  • 1:16:40 | Which game teaches you statistics in just 30 minutes?

Listen here.

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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