Making Hard Choices

This post is not going to be nearly as serious as its title makes it sound. When I say hard choices, I mean choices that one has to make now, that have actual consequences, and include elements that you have to predict and can not know. These types of choices are difficult, as you are put into a situation where you have to immediately decide between two or more things, and while your choice matters, you won’t know if its mattering will harm or hurt you until you finish with it. Making these types of choices is painful, and exhausting. Having to make choices like this repeatedly in a short time scale is one of the quickest ways to mental exhaustion.
There are two situations that I have consistently making hard choices, that are not really all that life threatening or world changing. The first is in the card game Yu-gi-oh. Yu-gi-oh, for the uninformed is a trading card game that gets a bad rap for being a rip off of magic and is largely regarded as a more childish game. Ultimately the two games are actually very different, and while they share some of the same basic ideas, play out in vastly different ways. Magic is more of a game of resource allocation and logistics, while Yu-gi-oh is all about making tactical decisions in a very short time span to win the game at a critical point. In any event, while certain Magic decks will play in such a way that they activate a lot of cards during their opponents turns, for the most part people tend to only do important things during their own turn in Magic. Yu-gi-oh on the other hand tends to include a lot of playing during your opponents turn. Their is a certain class of cards, called Trap Cards, that are almost exclusively activated on your opponents turn, in response to a certain action that they choose to make. In order to activate Trap Cards though, you need to place them on the field face down. You may also place Spell cards in this same way however even though most of them can only be activated on your own turn. It is thus often the case that you will be making your turn and see one or two face down cards on your opponents field. It is then that you have to make the hard choices. Based on what you know of your opponents deck, their play style and what kind of cards they have already played, you have to decide what to do during your turn. Any of those face down cards could be a counter to pretty much any given action you might perform, so you have to constantly choose to do things that you know might give your opponent the advantage, while trying to make sure you don’t do the things that will definitely give them an advantage. Even when a particular sort of action is successful, you don’t know if it will be in the future, as it is entirely possible that the opponent had a counter, but chose not to use it then, in hopes of activating it during a time when it would do more damage. On the other hand it is entirely possible that any of the face down cards is a Spell card and thus not a counter to anything, and thus you are being beaten every time you choose not to do something for fear of that face down card. All in all Yu-gi-oh is a tactically intense game, that is one of the most mentally draining things you can do with your time.
The other thing that I do fairly often that causes some of the same sort of mental fatigue, is the game Humans vs Zombies. The game is effectively a week long game of tag, in which each new person tagged is added to the horde of taggers, which then is tasked with tagging the ever dwindling group of remaining humans. The humans are allowed to defend themselves with nerf blasters, socks and marshmallow, which prevent the zombies from tagging anyone for fifteen or so minutes. If a human is tagged however by a zombie that has not been shot recently, they will be added to the zombie horde and are no longer a human for the rest of the game. Considering that these games usually only happen once per semester, this makes the stakes extremely high for the humans, as one small mess up means that they are no longer human. This is not to say that they have lost, for the zombie side of the game is just as fun as the human, but as a human it is your goal to survive the zombies, and you are always only one mistake away from that occurring. Not only is this a physically taxing game, with a lot of running and whirling about and standing around in the cold and such, but a lot of the zombie kills come from stealth or inattention. Since this game goes on 24-7, you can never lose your focus, even for an instant, and have to be constantly scanning your surroundings. Long periods of time occur in which you won’t even spot a zombie, until suddenly you are being chased and attacked and you have to make twenty or so hard choices in a mater of moments. The constant vigilance already drains your mental stamina, and the adrenaline of the battles with the zombies make the times after the confrontations some of the most dangerous, as your body comes down off of its combat high and tries to make you relax. All in all the amount of hard choices made in just a few moments about which zombie to shoot, at what range, where you should be running, and whether you should switch clips or not risk it and run the risk of running out all combine to be one of the closest simulations of actual combat scenarios you can get.
Ultimately, what the point of this post is, is that these two activities are amazing practice for the sorts of things that can really matter in life. Learning to make the hard decisions from games that ultimately don’t really have any real consequences on you will set you up to be ready when actual hard choices occur and you only have a moment to decide something that could change your life forever.

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