These days, it greatly behooves one to be an expert player of the blame game because it is so often played, no longer exclusively by pros, but by novices, amateurs and aficionados alike who engage in the often high-stakes dodging of responsibility for fault and pinning it on others. Whenever the assignment of accountability for wrongdoing or failure comes into question, no matter how slightly, you’d better be ready to play a match or a set or a tournament—whatever it takes to win. And by win I of course mean come out bearing as little liability as possible.

So although it isn’t required by my major and my schedule this quarter is nearing course-load saturation, I enroll in the class Introductory Blame Game Theory and Practice to become intimately familiar with the rules, skills and strategies. It begins with a survey unit on causation that is vital to the establishment of which party can be blamed. The basic idea is that if one player (hopefully your opponent) did something resulting in— “causing”—or increasing the severity of—“exacerbating”—an undesirable outcome, this player can be blamed for that, and so perhaps can this player’s teammates who may have exerted crucial influence. The extent of the blame is typically proportional to the extent of the player’s participation in “causing” or “exacerbating”.

We’re almost done with this unit, and I’m eager to start the next one, techniques for blame displacement (more commonly known as “shifting”), because that’s when the good stuff starts. From the course outline and my spectator experience of numerous matches, it’s clear you can still be involved in “causing” and “exacerbating” but still evade any culpability, even thrust some of that onto your opponents!

A friend of mine has been thinking about enrolling in the class but has peculiar reservations. Today, this comes up again in conversation.

“I know you highly recommend taking the class and having a competitive edge, but what if for some reason, it’s better for me to take the blame?” she asks when I try to convince her again to improve her fluency with the game.

Intentionally lose a game?” I blurt, appalled, immediately turning to face her with an incredulous stare, almost rolling out of the hammock I’m lolling in by doing so.

“Or forfeit,” she says, tilting her head slightly to make more direct eye contact from the neighboring hammock she’s reposing in. “I mean, that might be for the best in some case,” she adds.

“What kind of case could you possibly be talking about? You mean there’s actually going to be a situation in which you want to be blamed for something?”

“In which I should be blamed for something,” she clarifies. “I’m just saying it might happen. I want to keep my options open.”

“By being a bad player? You’ll be at a disadvantage and end up taking the blame for a lot this way.”

“Yes, but I don’t want to preclude–”

“Okay, look, this is a course in how to play, not when to play,” I tell her.

“But if I get so accustomed to playing the game, playing to win, getting good at that, I might just end up doing that without thinking it through.”

“All right, then take the class on when to play and not play also,” I suggest. “That’s also offered every quarter.”

“Is it good?”

“I don’t know. I’m not taking that class. But I’ve heard it’s good. A lot about when and how it might be too costly to play or you don’t have time, what to do if you’re totally outmatched, how to defer a game.”

“Hm, okay,” she says, eyes staring up at the sky, apparently considering this class. “Sounds like the two classes together could work out. Why aren’t you taking that class?”

“I might in the future, but for now, my goal is to be as blameless as possible. Playing every game to win.”

“That sounds too ambitious,” she says very frankly, as our eyes meet again.

“I guess I’ll get a better idea of the feasibility as this class covers more material.”

“Yeah, well, don’t blame me if this goal of yours doesn’t work out.” “Maybe I won’t, but I’ll find someone.”
“You may only be able to blame yourself.”

“Then at least I can try to get a refund on the tuition.” We pay by the class in our academic institution to let market forces work their magic intra-institutionally.

“Wow that logic is flawed.”
“Maybe so, but that’s not my fault. It can’t be conclusively shown that I am the primary cause of this possibly erroneous logic.”

“Okay, I am definitely going to take this class,” she concludes resolutely. “You’re just asking to play, and I’m not going to make it easy for you.”

“Bring it on,” I reply confidently.

I heartily welcome the challenge. It will be good practice for the both of us, and unless she jumps into this class immediately—which will require her to do a lot of catch-up work—I’ll have a one quarter head start on her. And in playing the blame game, any advantage you’ve possibly got must be kept ready to be capitalized upon.

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