Jan 252016
 

I couldn't find any appropriate pictures so I completely randomly took this one because of its pretty colors

I couldn’t find any appropriate pictures for this post so I completely randomly took this one because of its pretty colors

Playing games is great! For some time you immerse yourself in a different universe, building cities or empires, defeating armies or dragons, being a hero!

And where my personal preference goes to board games, I fully understand the appeal of computer games as well (I’ve played more than my fair share of them; just a few more turns in Civilization… (And before you know it it’s 3 o’clock at night!))

The best of games you don’t ever want to stop. Let’s play once more! Just let me finish this level? More than once I’ve described a game as being addictive.

And in a very real sense, they are addictive: Action X givers response Y, which brings you closer to goal Z. Your brain is learning and it’s loving it! Reward centers are light up and so it’ll keep on doing the same thing to keep getting that buzz (until the other players really need to go home or your mom tells you that you have to go to bed now…).

This is what you paid for. You put down a fair amount of money and then you could enjoy your game for as long as it stayed interesting. Because at some point you’ll have figured it out; you know the best strategies, you beat the end boss. The learning stops, the buzz stops. And thus you stop playing.

Unless it doesn’t. Unless you get new content. New levels, new things to try, new lessons to learn, new ways of activating the pleasure centers, new morsels to feed the addiction. Still, you might say you’re just getting really good value for money.

Unless you don’t. Because maybe you got the game for free. And it really is free, you don’t need to pay a dime to play. As long as you’re willing to accept a few minor minor nuisances. Like having to wait for a few minutes to retry a level. Or like having to try a level over and over again until finally (after many times waiting for a few minutes) you bash your way through it.

Or you could remove some of those nuisances. And really, it’s very cheap. A few cents and you get an extra life, or you don’t have to wait, or you can skip a level altogether. And you can go back to playing, back to lighting up those pleasure centers like they’re a Christmas tree.

Many people don’t, seeing it for the trap it is. But many people do. Because really, what’s a few cents? And so you pay once.

Which is the beginning of a new habit. Before it was: Play => Pleasure. Then it became: Play => Get stuck => Persist => Pleasure. But now it’s: Play => Get stuck => Pay => Pleasure.

So after doing it once, you’ll do it twice. And if you do it twice, you do it a hundred or a thousand times over. A thousand times a few cents… It starts to add up.

Of course, for the other side, the company that made the game, this is a pure gold-mine! They discovered the same business model as crack-dealers: Get someone to “try” your stuff for free until they are addicted, then milk them for everything they’ve got.

“But people make their own choice in playing these games!” Just like a heroine addict makes their own choice…
Literally millions are made by pushing addictive substances on the unsuspecting public. That in my book is evil! Worse, there is absolutely nothing illegal about this!

Now, I am launching a startup around games. And there is a very strong possibility that there will be a digital / online component. For any game to be fun it has to push the right buttons, it has to provide pleasure. So the beginnings of an addiction machine, of an evil empire are there…

For now I’d like to believe I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the eye if I went down that path. But what if things are going bad, debts are due, wages need to be paid…? Taking the moral high ground is easy when things are going well, but if you’re struggling just to survive?

Maybe I should make a game in which you have to defeat the evil games corporation empire? :-)


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Jun 052015
 

My experiment for the past month was “being good”. Time for a recap.

You know, it's not easy finding old ladies you can help cross the street...

You know, it’s not easy finding old ladies you can help cross the street…

The first thing I found was that it’s hard to qualify when I have been good (respect for Santa Claus!). If I didn’t do anything particularly shitty, was I “good” that day? Is doing “a good deed” enough? And how big does that need to be? Is standing up for someone in the underground sufficient, or will only creating world peace do? And if you did something not-so-nice (took that last seat in the underground, right in front of someone’s nose), can you make up for it by doing something good? Or maybe two somethings?

I don’t really have answers to these questions. In general I “scored” a day if I felt I had been a generally good person and had done at least one “good deed”.

The second observation was that being “generally decent” is quite easy. I think this would hold for most people around; there just aren’t that many occasions where you can act like an asshole without going out of your way (maybe it helps that I don’t drive a car?). Or is this saying something about my general (friendly) disposition (and perhaps upbringing)?

The experiment for the coming period: Be productive. I have a month in which I don’t have to show up at the office. It would be very easy to sit back, play computer games, read, watch movies and hang out with friends, but I also know that though those things are great, only that doesn’t make me happy. So, the experiment is to “be productive”in non office-work related ways. I have quite a could-do list, and I’ll let you know how this fared.
Third, being actively good is quite hard. Or better, remembering to be good is quite hard. Mostly my mind would be on other things (myself) and not that many occasions would present themselves (in such a way that I actually took notice). And while some good deeds can be pre-meditated (bringing a flower home for my girlfriend), I feel quite a bit has to be “in the spur of the moment”?

One way around this would be to spend more time in pre-meditation, which is not something I really tried.

Finally, when I actually did something good, it did feel very nice!

Conclusions: I’m happy that I find myself to be generally a decent human being. It’s nice to go out of your way do to something good once and awhile, but it’s hard to remember doing that. It would be worthwhile to experiment further with being more “pre-meditated good”, but I’ll leave that for another time (see the side bar for my current experiment).


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

May 312015
 

It would happen with some regularity: I’d have a flight from London to the Netherlands, on a Friday, after work. I’d arrive on Dutch soil, tired and hungry. And there was one thing going through my mind: Hamburger!

The reason they always wrap up your burger is so that you can't immediately see that what you're buying is not what you're getting...

The reason they always wrap up your burger is so that you can’t immediately see that what you’re buying is not what you’re getting…

Rushing through customs, off to Burger King, mouth watering at the thought of a big piece of meat.

With my burger and fries in a bag, I’d head down to the train, having half an hour to concentrate on devouring the greasy goodness.

The first two bites would be awesome! Meat, fat (and probably sugar) hitting my tongue and stomach, sending waves of well-being through my brain. Life is good!

Then I get to bit three to five and the awesomeness is already diminishing. Bite six tastes like cardboard and at bite seven I’m feeling positively disgusted. I vow never to fall for this trap again.

But then next time comes round, I’m tired and hungry and again I find myself standing in line…

It’s silly! I see myself as a smart, educated individual. I actively work to optimize my own happiness. And then something as simple as a hamburger defeats me, time and again! It’s a puzzle really! Or better, it was.

Recently I read an article where they explained that the human brain has different centers for pleasure and craving. And that the craving center, the part that makes you want to get things, is many times larger than the pleasure center, the part that makes you enjoy things.

Historically I’m sure that this was a good idea. It can’t hurt to constantly crave sugar, fat, salt (and sex and alcohol) when their supply is very limited. Something you craved led to something you liked. Easy! It’s only been recently that supermarkets and burger joints provide infinite amounts of whatever foodstuff we want (and the internet and bars provide porn and beer respectively). And too much of something is not a problem for the craving center, but it is for the liking one.

Outlawing advertisement would probably make the worlds such a better place!
Burger King (and many other companies) make good use of this. If they only gave us what we liked, we wouldn’t buy as much. But give us something that we crave and the sky’s the limit (especially with a bit of help from advertisement; it’s not hard to get the craving machine running…)

Knowing this I’m hoping it’ll be a bit easier to stay away from hamburgers and the likes. But I’m sure there are many more things where there is a strong disconnect between the wanting and the having (“shopping” as an institution anyone?). If I come across any more I’ll be sure to let you know…


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Apr 152015
 

I like moving houses.

"It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice!" (This is a quote from a techno DJ (and why do I still remember that after 15+ years?))

“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice!” (This is a quote from a techno DJ (and why do I still remember that after 15+ years?))

Or better, I like helping other people move house.

There is something satisfying about lugging boxes and heavy object about, to taking apart furniture and putting it back together at another location. It’s good to share being active with a bunch of people, especially if they’re friends (I probably will not come and help you if you’re a random stranger reading this on the internet!). There is usually take-away and beer at the end of the day, to be shared with your (new found) friends. Not unimportant, when you help people move, they are much more likely to come and help you when you need to move (or need help with anything else).

But most of all, helping another makes you feel nice about yourself!

Or generalizing that: Being good feels good.

And as I like feeling good, I thought it would be interesting to see whether I can make use of this more. Therefore, my experiment for the coming time: Be good to other people.

This experiment is quite a bit like an old monthly challenge, which was to give. I remember really enjoying that month, but the whole idea then sortof sank into the morass of everyday life?
This can mean:

  • Giving compliments
  • Being constructive in work meetings
  • Helping people out (anybody moving any time soon?)
  • Smiling to random strangers
  • Surprising my girlfriend
  • Organizing things for friends
  • Making time to visit family
  • Sending out a friendly e-mail once and awhile (just did. It feels good! :-) )

I’ll let you know in due time what my observations are.

And perhaps you could take a moment as well to do something good (really, an e-mail is very quick to be sent!)?


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Feb 092015
 

This weekend was my first in a long time spent in the Netherlands without any other reason than than “seeing my friends” (and I ended up spending most of it in Germany…).

My time in the Netherlands is limited. And being very Dutch, I want to use it optimally. I know that “cramming in more” might be efficient, but it’s definitely not effective, so “seeing everybody for a little while” doesn’t work. Instead, I’ll have to make choices on whom I see when.

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

Before I knew it, before I really wanted to, I was creating a mental list of my friends, ranked in order. At first I was quite appalled by myself, doing something like this. But thinking about it a bit further, everybody has best friends, good friends, friends, good acquaintances, acquaintances, vague acquaintances… So instead of railing against this, maybe it’s more interesting to see what puts someone where in the ordering.

So, things that for me make better friends:

  • Time spent together: The more time you spend together, the better friends you become. And the better friends you are, the more time you spend together… Maybe this isn’t just a desirable “quality”, but just the definition of friendship? But that’s not entirely true, I have really good friends, whom I can’t spend a lot of time with due to circumstances (distance mostly)…
  • Trustworthiness: Finding a knife in your back is a sure end of a friendship. But it’s also subtler than that. Not canceling when meeting up (and being on time when you don’t cancel), keeping a secret, basically “doing what you say you would”. And in some cases, going well beyond that. I’m very happy that there are a few people in my life that would come and pick me up from a South American jungle if I really needed them to…
  • Enjoying the same things as I do: It’s nice if you are able to enjoy activities together, ranging from a night in the pub or club, making music, playing games or going for a (long) hike. This makes the “spending time” easier and more enjoyable.
  • Speaking with a passion, listening with compassion: A lot of talking is involved in being friends. So I want people who have something interesting to say (and say it in an interesting way), while also being able to listen to what I have on my heart. There should be a fair balance in this, with both parties contributing more or less an equal amount (over time). This also means listening to my woes, while sharing theirs (which is very different from complaining, see below), as well as support to carry on and / or to do the right thing.
  • Being fun: This means for me being optimistic, having a laugh, doing something silly, being game for something interesting and / or new. It also means not complaining or bitching, not bragging, not being obnoxious.
  • Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but thinking about all this I was a bit surprised that my girlfriend very neatly ticks all of my “friendship” boxes as well (though we still need to work on the “time spent together” 😉 ).
  • Mixing well: I enjoy large(r) gatherings, of having a group of friends together for whatever. So, “playing nicely with others” is a definite boon. This can be because you’re part of the same group of friends (that always works well of course), but also just a general “openness of character”.
  • Being admirable: I like looking up to people. I like my friends to do cool, interesting and important stuff with their lives. This doesn’t have to be “finding a cure to cancer” (though one, in a very limited way, actually is doing that!), simply being good at something and being a good person is enough for that. I enjoy being inspired.

I wonder if other people would have markedly different things in their list (if so, post a comment?). Until then however I’m just going to assume that other people are just like me and that this is what others desire as well. So, if I want to be the best friend that I can (which I do want!), the above is what I will have to do as well. I think I do ok most of the time, but perhaps I could focus on it for a bit more?

Happy friendships!


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!