The captains and the games they play by Rick Austin

article6Captain Kirk once said that “The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play”. It’s not only a great quote but it’s also true. It’s what I always tell people when they want to know why I’d waste my time playing computer games, board games or even kite flying. It may sound arrogant, but I seriously advise anyone to remember it and use it in similar situations. After a hard day at work we all need to unwind, and playing games can take the edge off. They can be social or solitary, but the real joy is when they’re simple. It’s that mentality that makes football the beautiful game the world over.

Sometimes the types of games we play also says a lot about us on a psychological level. There are reasons we gravitate towards some sports and games and it explains why we excel at them. Looking at some of the Star Trek characters we can understand that. Ferengis like Dabo and games of chance with financial rewards. Klingons like games that are physical. Chief O’Brien enjoys being in the pub and playing darts while Tuvok will play Kal-toh which requires patience and logic. Riker will engage in silly matches of Parisses Squares to prove he’s not getting old while Kira doesn’t play games at all. The less said about Anbo-jitsu and the Tron suits the better.

But what about the captains? What do the games they play say about them?

article2Captain Kirk: He was described in the latest film as having the IQ of a genius and yet he’s quick to rely on brawn and cunning. In the original series we not only see him playing tri-dimensional chess against Spock but actually beat him. Spock argues that it’s because of Kirk’s unpredictable nature, and we can believe it. We also see him in the gym, which fits his physical aggression perfectly. However his crowning achievement is to invent the card game of Fizzbin, with rules so complex even Spock can’t follow them. He may have only created it as a distraction to overpower some guards, but Quark in DS9 brings it up and it’s safe to assume that it’s caught on. It’s hardly surprising that something so contradictory would come from Starfleet’s most adaptable and complex captain.

article1Captain Picard: Given his upbringing it’s hardly surprising that Picard would choose games that rely on self-discipline and are mostly solitary. At Starfleet Academy he ran marathons, something that requires endurance and tactics. He may have played poker too, or at least that’s what he tells the crew but it’s perfectly possible he may have been bluffing. Some may assume that poker is a game of luck, but ask any professional and they’ll be quick to tell you that it requires intelligence and shrewdness. He’s also keen on fencing, something that requires a keen eye and precision timing. Every game he plays fits him perfectly and is exactly how he commands his ship. He thinks his way around corners and waits for the ideal moment to act, while keeping himself emotionally and physically removed from the crew.

article3Captain Sisko: If there’s one sport that ever defined a captain and his style it’s baseball for Sisko. He’s more than just a fan; he’s almost obsessed with it. From keeping a baseball on his desk to remembering statistics and history, Sisko is the ultimate fan. Things like rare baseball cards or even a baseball cap are the perfect gifts for him. He even uses the game to explain linear time to the Wormhole Aliens. Yet as DeNiro pointed out in The Untouchables it’s a game of two halves. It’s a team game requiring coordination and cooperation from all the players in order to win. That sums up Deep Space Nine perfectly, with everyone contributing to the greater good of the team. But the other half is when a player is at bat, alone at the plate. It’s the time for individual achievement. When it was Sisko’s time to stand alone, he would absorb all the pressure and get the win.

article4Captain Janeway: Janeway may have spent some time on the holodeck sculpting and letting her creative side come out, but it does say a great deal about her growing creativity in handling situations as Voyager’s journey went on. However, when it comes to actual games she was an expert at the phaser-and-discus game of Velocity. Despite Seven’s claims of youth, superior speed, faster reflexes and Borg enhancements, she couldn’t match Janeway’s experience. It’s that same experience that she relied on every time she sat in that captain’s chair, in particular when dealing with the other Borg that she came across.

article5Captain Archer: We never got to learn too much about Archer but we did find out that he loved the unlikely game of Water Polo. We all know the bad joke about the horses drowning, but does anybody actually know the game? It’s a team sport, with six “field” players and a goalkeeper per team, very much like the senior crew of the Enterprise. It’s also a game that requires strength, coordination, incredible stamina, tactics and teamwork from the players. They’re racing against the clock to make a shot, and frequently the teams are mismatched due to the ejection of a player due to a foul. It fits. Archer’s Enterprise was regularly outmatched and working against the clock, and it was only through the qualities seen in Water Polo players that Archer managed to pull his crew through.

Author: Wayne Emery

Host of The Trek Mate Podcast & founder of The Trek Mate Family Network

Share This Post On

1 Comment

  1. I haven’t really played games since I was small, but this article makes me want to try them again! Thanks so much for the encouragement!

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.