Forbidden Island

Posted on August 29, 2014


The title sounds more provocative than the post actually is. In the family I grew up in, we enjoyed playing board games.  I continued that tradition in my family.

My daughter has a game called Forbidden Island.  The object of the game is to gather four artifacts on an island that is in the process of sinking, and get off of the island before it sinks and you drown.  This, however, is a cooperative game.  All of the players either succeed together or they all drown.  It doesn’t matter which player gathers any or all of the artifacts.  It matters that the team gets the job done and gets out of there.  Additionally, each player takes a particular role in the game (e.g. pilot, engineer, diver, navigator, messenger, etc.) selected by drawing cards, each with unique skills.  You need not only the skills of your own character, but also those of the other players to win the game.

There are also different difficulty levels on which the game can be played.  My daughter and I have gotten to where we can succeed more than half the time on the “elite” level.  It is literally a fluid situation so success is not guaranteed.  The way this happens is we discuss before each turn who should do what.  We exchange ideas about what to do and what actions need to take priority.  If we disagree, we need to decide what the plan is before we take any action.  If we try to implement two or more independent plans, we are going to drown.

There is an analogy here to conflict resolution in marriage.  I would suggest that we need to redefine what it means to win an argument.  The traditional view is that winning an argument means that your position is the one that prevails.  In marriage, this is not how the game is won.  If the argument left you both feeling hurt, misunderstood, and alone, it was a loss even if your position was the one that prevailed.  Winning the argument is when the issue is resolved without doing damage to the relationship.  Winning is when both partners feel understood and valued.  Marriage is a cooperative game, not a competition.  You play cooperatively or you both drown.