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Ever since I was a kid I have been playing games and sports. Sometimes I would play games with the other kids in my neighborhood as a means of pure enjoyment and exercise. Other times I would play competitively in youth baseball and basketball leagues. Growing up I have learned to separate these two things and keep my true competitive edge on the field. I have always been a competitive person in whatever I do, but I have learned over the course of my life that sometimes it is important to realize the difference between when it is time for fun and when it is time for business. For instance, playing board games was always an enjoyable thing for me and my siblings. I can remember getting completely frustrated every time I lost to my older sister at monopoly, and even begged my dad to play a game with me whenever possible just to get some more experience under my belt. Eventually I learned the strategy to the game and could beat her. Instances like this have truly shaped the person I am today. I may look back and laugh at the determination that I had to win in board games, but it has always been in my mind that I would not settle for mediocre in anything.
Over the course of my lifetime I believe that play has become more media driven than ever before. For example, games like poker, darts, and billiards have become very easy to find on channels like ESPN. These are games that were only played in basements, bars, and casinos 20 years ago. Competition within these games has driven them into the media, and an increase in media attention brings an increase in interest of the games themselves. Ever since the World Series of Poker started airing on ESPN the game has blown up all over the country. More people are playing in competitive games, and a larger portion of these events come from online poker sites. Poker is just one form of play that has changed over time, but it is clear that any form of play that the media puts a spotlight on will blow up and the popularity of it will increase immensely. The National Spelling Bee is another form of play that has grown in popularity over the past few years as ESPN airs the annual event. The commitment level that the kids put into it alone is enough to explain the change in play, as competition is the driving force behind it.
All in all, when we look at play and how it has changed over time it is evident that the competitive attitude has compelled the media to exploit these games that were once played for pure enjoyment. It was about 12 years ago when I was playing tag in my backyard with my peers. Who knows how long it will take ESPN to air a National “tag event.” It sounds pretty unrealistic right now but that’s probably what we thought about games like poker years ago.