Monday, March 11, 2013

Luck of the Dice

This month, teamTEENauthor is blogging on this topic: do you believe in luck? 

I come from a culture of dice. 

I’m a geek, which for me means that I play a lot of games involving dice.   I roll fists full of them every week.  I own jars of dice: matched sets for all the different kinds of games I play, and a big clear bowl for all the extras. 

Wait, let me get you a picture. 

These are just some of my dice. 

(I once wrote something where I mentioned six-sided dice, or as we call them in geekdom, D6s.  A critiquer suggested I cut the six-sided part, because aren't all dice six-sided?  I forgot that this is true in most peoples' worlds, but not in mine.  If you look close, youc an even see our 36 sided die.  Why do we own that?  I don't know.  But we do.)

Why own so many dice in the first place?  Partly because after many years of playing games, they just seem to collect over time.  But partly because when a set of dice isn't rolling well, you just have to switch it out over time.  Some times, some dice are just plain bad luck. 

There is some truth to dice superstition, as most gaming dice aren't perfectly made.  I had a friend once who chose her set of dice by taking the jar at the game store and rolling them all.  Then she picked up all the ones that rolled the highest number, and rolled them again.  She kept narrowing it down, taking only the ones that rolled high, until she was down to the number of dice that she needed.  Then she bought them.  Everyone swore her dice were lucky, and they probably were.

But there are other reasons for dice superstition.

Sometimes dice superstition is all a matter of etiquette.  Won a game but want to be a good sport about it?  Wow, my rolls were on today.  Lost a game but don’t want to feel bad about it?  Man, I could not roll for anything.   It’s not me.  It’s the dice.   The truth is, the best games are the ones in which your rolls truly do not matter.  It’s your own tactical ability that wins or loses you the game--but blaming the dice becomes a matter of good manners.  Of course I’m not better at this than you.  It’s not you.  It’s the dice.

Do I believe in luck?  I believe in skill--that if you practice at something you’ll get better at it and succeed more often.  I believe in chance--that sometimes things just happen to people, and there’s no rhyme or reason or master plan.  I believe in God--that some things in the universe are ordained by a higher power. 

Luck, though?  I think our perceptions or luck, or the lack of it, are mostly our brains trying to pick out patterns and make sense of the world around us.  When we’re focused on bad things, it seems we’re unlucky.  When we’re focused on good things, we couldn't be luckier.  The patterns that arise over time are almost always the sets of things that we’re paying attention to. 

But when my dice don’t roll well?  I switch them out.  You can’t be too safe, when it comes to dice.

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