Sunday, February 19, 2012

The game of SKATE: The circular and the linear

SKATE is a game of elimination where a skater performs a trick of his choice and, if successful, other competing skaters  try to copy it. If a player fails to successfully imitate the trick, he moves through the letters of the word SKATE. Hence, after a first fail he's on the letter 'S' of SKATE, after failing again, he moves to 'K', and so forth. A skater that reaches the E of SKATE is eliminated. When the leading skater fails to land his trick, the next skater has a turn to lead.

But how is the first leader of the game selected? Through 'stone, paper, scissors', where two players hold up their right hands at precisely the same moment. Held as fist, the hand represents a stone; fingers in a 'V' represent scissors; and the open palm represents paper. Stone blunts scissors, scissors cut paper, and paper wraps stone, so if fist and palm are held up at the same time, the palm is the winner, and so on.

As simple as this game seems, it has tremendous depth. It is reminiscent of a teaching in eastern philosophy where it is taught that their are five primary elements in the world: fire, water, earth, metal, and wood, and that each element is conquered by one another. Thus wood, in the form of a plough, conquers the earth; the earth, in the form of a dam, conquers water; water extinguishes fire; fire melts metal; and metal can shape wood into a plough. The idea suggests  a circular relationship between the elements in the physical universe.

The game of SKATE, itself, however, has a linear theme. Players pass from letter to letter until they are eliminated and only one skater is left - the winner.

I like to imagine that the circular introduction to the game, which highlights the equality of elements, serves to remind the winner of the linear game of SKATE that he may be better than his competitors this time, but there will always be someone who can outdo him. And if not in flatland tricks, in mini ramp skating, and if not in mini-ramp, in academia or kind-heartedness, etc. This notion helps temper the egotism that may arise from being a winner, and helps maintain a sense of equality and camaraderie amongst the competitors.

This interpretation is definitely my own. And perhaps I conceived it to console myself whenever I lose (which is often!). But hey, lets not psychoanalyze me too much!

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