"The Mind"

Originally published at: https://pbg.geektherapy.com/2020/04/01/the-mind/

THE MIND! This game is nuts.

Recently we had some games donated to our group. This was a wonderful gift to our group. In this lot of games a gem that emerged. This game is called The Mind. This is a game where you have 100 cards that are labeled 1 to 100 and you can play up to 4 players. You start up at round 1 where you get one card each. The goal is to play your cards in ascending order. There is no order of play and you cannot talk to one another or give any indication of what number card you have. The goal is to get in sync and get through each round before losing all of your lives. The idea of this game sounds super easy but I assure you this is a very challenging task.

As we are playing this game and struggling through it, I find myself enamored with the idea of this game. As simple as it is it’s incredibly frustrating when players are out of sync and lay down a card out of order. Again this is a game where you cannot give any indication of what cards you have, so when someone lays down a card out of order you seem helpless. All you can do at that point is to say “pause” and proceed with losing life and discarding your lowest card. From there you start again.

Last week we played that game and since then I can’t stop thinking about it. Today it finally hit me. This game is life in jail in card form. Well, let me rephrase that. This game is my interpretation of life in my jail that I work at. Let me explain.

In this game, you are given a basic set of rules that you must live in. You are given the freedom to make choices and do as you wish. Just like this game you have those choices as a youth in our youth prison system. There are constructs that keep you inside, much like the rules to this game, but you can take liberty on how you navigate inside of those walls. In the game “The Mind” you could lay down your cards whenever you want, you don’t have to take turns and in some cases, you shouldn’t. You don’t have to learn from others and try to use logic about when to play, but you should. Much like in jail you should think about your choices and weigh the pros and cons. You should attempt to make the right choices with your time here, but just like in the game if you don’t there is a buffer.

You see I believe that our system is set up to give youth who have not historically made good choices in life the liberty to continue to make poor choices in a more controlled and “safer” environment. What I mean by that is this, on the outs if you assault someone or get in a fight, or do drugs there may be a larger consequence. Those consequences could be a fine, time in jail, catching a charge, ect.. Here, there is a buffer. All those things could still happen but there is an opportunity to right your wrongs in those moments. You are allowed to “screw up” and still come out on the other side without some of the severe ramifications you may face outside of the fence. You are given a chance to recover and learn new habits that develop change. I know not many people view these scenarios in the same lense as I do, and I’m not asking you to do so, but for the sake of my example please come with me on this journey. In this game, you get that freedom and you get the opportunity to “screw up”. Just like in real life when you screw up you let down other people. And, just like in my view of things you get another chance to make it right. The Mind gives you a chance to stop, think, and assess before going back into the game and trying again. When this finally clicked with me it’s like I had an epiphany. Everything seemed to make sense. This felt like the perfect game for my group. This felt like THE GAME FOR MY GROUP! As you go on you get several chances to get it right before moving on to the next level. Each time you move up it gets harder. Like in life when you find success you are given the responsibility to continue that success and often times what worked in the past is not always what works moving forward. The Mind is no different. Although the idea is exactly the same, the task becomes harder and the variables become more uncertain. The more cards you have in your hand the accurate you must be with your timing. As you keep going the stress builds, the anxiety builds, and the sense of failure becomes more prevalent. You are just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for someone to make a mistake one too many times. I could not tell you how many times in my career I have talked to youth who struggle with success because of those exact same reasons.

Eventually, in this game you will either make it through all the levels or you won’t. Throughout the game, you are given chances to right your wrongs and rewards for your team’s success. When you win it’s a great feeling. When you figure out how to work with your teammates and you can all get on the same page and finally discover how to overcome this game called The Mind, it’s amazing. In contrast when you lose you can’t help but think about what you could have done differently. You wonder what tactics you could have done to change the course of the game. Should I have responded sooner, should I have waited a little bit longer. I should not have been so impulsive, I should have trusted my count, I should have trusted your count. You can’t help but wonder what could have been if I would have done X, Y, or Z differently. Similarly to life in here if you don’t start to figure out how to be successful long term you will fall and eventually you may not be able to pick yourself up. Sometimes it ends up being game over.

Needless to say, this game brought on a lot of feels for me. I could not initially put my finger on what was so amazing about this game. A game that seems so simple, a game that is so unassuming had such an impact on me. I can’t believe how impactful this game was and I feel it will be moving forward. This is such a simple game that I can teach anyone to play. For me, though it’s more than a game. This is exactly what I have been looking for. This game embodies the whole essence of my group and what I hope to accomplish by doing this group. A game is a game when you want it to be, but when you change the focus and look at it as a tool, it becomes a vessel for success.