All the world’s a game, and all the men and women merely players


September 28, 2012 by JL Walker

A deck of cards with Italian writingIn As You Like It, all the world was a stage, because we all play a certain part in life. But the world can also be interpreted as a game: you have to learn the rules before you can play. Life as a game has been my inspiration for this website. With the arrival of gamification in recent years, and with more and more generations growing up on traditional games as well as many forms of videogames, this concept may become even more true.

Look, Jack, I don’t have a lot of personal life experience, but if I have learned anything from my Sims family… when a child doesn’t see his father enough, he starts to jump up and down, and then his mood level will drop until he pees himself. – Liz Lemon in 30 Rock

Liz Lemon uses a computer game to provide insight for a real life problem. The Sims uses specific rules to simulate human life which is essentially just a more complex version of a boardgame I grew up playing, in which you choose a career and a spouse, have children, buy a house and retire.

Just like playing any new game, in life there’s an initial period in which you’re learning the rules before you can succeed. Living in a foreign country heightens this concept: when you experience a new culture, you have to learn the rules to a game you thought you already knew how to play. There’s a learning curve. Because there’s no official rulebook, if you’re lucky, you have someone to help explain the rules, especially during the early stages.

A few colorful playing cardsWhat makes living in Italy different from living in Ohio? What are the differences between big city life and living in a town?

Here are the top 5 rules I’ve learned which apply to life in Milano, but not in small-town Midwest:

  1. Many non-essential driving laws are optional if there aren’t police around. That means you should expect to find scores of double-parked cars on you morning bike commute, cars that slow down instead of stopping at stop signs and flexible interpretations of the speed limit. (There are so many rules of the road that were new to me, this is just a summary.)
  2. Food rules are different. Here are just a few: no cappuccino after 5pm, always eat dessert before drinking coffee, salad is served at the end of the meal, lunch is eaten at 1pm and dinner at around 8 or 9pm.
  3. If you’ve gotten a number to wait in line for a service (I’m thinking about the post office here, but this is true in so many situations) and just have a question, you can cut to the front of the line to ask your question
  4. No need to form an acutal line when you’re standing in line. Also, cutting in line is permitted as long as the person you’re cutting in front of doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. So, if you want to keep your place in line, be vigilant!
  5. Cheek-kissing: 2 or 3 kisses, always starting with the right cheek

Are there any rules that should be in the top 5 that I’ve left out? I wonder what the rules of the game would be for someone moving from Italy or Europe to the US?


5 thoughts on “All the world’s a game, and all the men and women merely players

  1. Richard Greenslade says:

    6) Although streets and sidewalks are chaotic in ways that often upset Anglo-Saxons, Italians are surprisingly tolerant, as long as they more or less proceed. On a narrow street with uneven paving stones and no sidewalk, cars, cyclists, jaywalkers, mothers with strollers and people walking dogs interweave at low speed. They sort of take turns and it sort of works. None of them stops talking and gesturing, and if someone blows up and starts honking or yelling the others shake their heads in dismay.

  2. […] All the world’s a game, and all the men and women merely players […]

  3. Joe says:

    I think someone moving from Europe to the US would make the exact same observation that appeared as #1 on your list, but would cite American practices of overtaking on the right on the freeway, not using turn signals, and pulling out in front of fast-moving traffic (especially at Yield signs and roundabouts).

  4. JL Walker says:

    A lot more could be dedicated to streets and driving! This is probably true all over the world, at various degrees. Anyone ever been to Vietnam? I hear it’s a feat just to walk across the street, since cars don’t even stop or slow down for traffic lights.

  5. […] Then you’re forced to start all over again and complete the level in the allotted time. In the game of life, however, you have to make your own time […]

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Date to submit applicationSeptember 10th, 2015
Time to submit my application for dual citizenship!
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