Hakan Alpay

Hi, I'm Hakan Alpay.

I'm a sophomore at UCLA studying Computer Science and the vice president of Billiards Club. I like to develop videogames, logos, languages, and crazy Counter-Strike strategies. I also think too much, and hence this blog was born. I would love any feedback you have on my site!

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Broken Mechanics in the Game of Life

Life is a Game

Life has a series of innate game mechanics (like physics and human biology), and game mechanics created by its players (like international laws). It is a system of said mechanics with a large playerbase, yet unlike many games, lacks a solid goal. However, most of its players can agree on a set of worthwhile goals, such as achieving a high standard of living and supporting one’s family and friends.

as such, it has a meta

Ever competitive game has a meta. A meta is a set of playstyles that use the game’s mechanics in the most viable way possible to achieve the goal as quickly or efficiently as possible. In most competitive games, players will stick to playing the meta very often. For example, when Counter-Strike: Global Offensive first released the CZ-75, it was an extremely powerful sidearm, and so everyone used it until Valve nerfed it (made it weaker).

Life, being a game, has a meta too! However, you will find that a low percentage of people play Life’s meta, much lower than in any competitive game. This is because humans have a lot to lose in real life. We have families, reputations, and personal belongings. In a game, we have anonymity and few real world consequences for our actions, so we are free exploit mechanics as we wish. In real life, people are much more risk-averse, and will try to avoid doing things if not many other people are doing them, even if they are extremely viable. Such is the herding of real life.

The following is my list of Life’s broken mechanics that relatively few people exploit, but are literally there for the taking. A broken mechanic is one that is so viable that there’s almost no reason not to use it (it is thus part of the meta).

1. STEM Majors

I’d like to start by saying I salute humanities majors. If you are so passionate about a subject in the humanities that you are willing to dedicate your collegiate life to studying it, good on you! I salute you, and wish you luck. Humanities majors are difficult and fulfilling, but they are not broken. STEM majors are, particularly Computer Science.

The computer science curriculum in college involves learning the internals of computer systems, learning the fundamentals of a programming, and other aspects of CS academia. It is difficult.

But computer science industry is often about programming within some framework. Web development is often about programming a web app within a JavaScript framework like React or Angular. Native app development is about programming an app with Kotlin/Java for Android, Swift/Objective-C for iOS, C# for Windows Phone, etc. Back-end development is about managing data in a database with database languages like SQL, or running analytics against them with Python.

These are all difficult, but they are each considerably easier than CS academia, and they pay wayyyy out of proportion to the workload. Computer science has one of the highest ratios of salary-to-amount-of-work in the world. It’s ridiculous.

It’s also because a lot of people see code, and don’t want to do it. They would rather pay money to someone who can do it. You’ve probably heard about the hype of Silicon Valley. Venture Capitalists paying millions of dollars to people so they can make an app. An app. It’s mind-boggling. VC’s will pay this much money because in their perspective, it’s far worse to pay too little and have the project fail (and lose all that money), then to over-invest and have the app be successful, and finally make all that money back.

Computer science is also needed all around the world. Tech companies often have offices internationally, so you can often relocate, travel, work on vacation, etc. Tech companies also provide excellent working spaces with plenty of amenities. Honestly, there are so many crazy benefits of majoring in Computer Science, that it’s difficult to enumerate. Computer Science, and really most of the STEM majors, are broken.

2. Extroversion

People will often present “Introverts v. Extroverts” as if there’s a relative equal number of each. There are not. The vast majority of people are introverts. Despite extroversion being completely BROKEN.

Extroversion will help you with your presentation skills.

If you learn to come up to people and make friends with them, that will largely eliminate your stage fright, because you’re getting used to little versions of it every day. Extroversion will also force you to talk more to fill the void of conversations, and this will help you articulate your ideas faster and more coherently; super useful when presenting.

Extroversion will help you find a group of friends you enjoy.

If you’re an introvert and end up hanging out with people in your proximity, and eventually befriend them, you’re at the mercy of whoever is in your proximity haha. Because you didn’t go out of your way to meet lots of new people and find who among those you really like, you’re kinda stuck with who you’ve got. And even if you don’t like them, you’ll be too scared to venture outside of your friend group to find better friends because you’re afraid of losing the friends you have. Bummer right?

If you’re extroverted, you don’t need to hang out with half-rate people. You have the courage to meet a lot of people. The more people you meet, the more likely you’ll find high-quality people who you enjoy hanging out with or collaborating with. A lot of those people will be introverts, and that’s ok. Having good connections with high quality people you trust is also invaluable for job searching. If you are good friends with a high-quality person who gets a respectable job at a good company, and a position opens up that you are qualified for, they may suggest you to their boss.

Extroversion will help you find love.

I’m serious. People, especially young people, like teenagers and college students, don’t like to make the first move. Across the board. Gone are the days of America where guys “like the chase”. These days, guys like convenience, and will often date a girl who shows she’s into him if she’s good enough. It’s true.

If you are extroverted, approaching a person you are attracted to will be infinitely easier.

They are not gonna date you if you never talk to them!

You have to get out there, talk to that hot girl who you admire, and see if you have compatible personalities. If you do, then you’ll have to befriend her, spend time with her, and listen to her. These are all things that will become easier with extroversion. If she reciprocates, and you genuinely have fun being around each other, when you ask her out (also takes extroversion), she’s much more likely to agree to become your girlfriend.

You can’t always expect the other person to make the first move, and if they don’t, think that it was never meant to be. It might have worked if she knew who you were!

Extroversion will help your popularity.

This one is more helpful if you are like me and enjoy popularity. Here’s an example: You get into a new school. You are tired of your high school and eager to make new college friends, so you don’t wait until the school starts. You get on Facebook, join groups for your school, find people you think you’ll like, friend them and talk to them. Maybe you make your own group for a certain aspect of your new school and invite people. Maybe you make a tool for people who are going to your new school to aid the transition.

You weren’t lonely last summer because you had people to talk to, and now when you arrive at your new school, you already know a fair amount of friends, and a lot of people know you. Makes finding even more friends, opportunities, textbooks, etc. much easier when you have a sort of mini-celebrity status.

Sound familiar? Yeah I did all these things before UCLA. The key is to not network for the sake of networking. Don’t even think about it like networking. Think about it like finding people you genuinely enjoy being around, and helping them with stuff so that they help you in return. Trust me, you can have a lot of genuine friends if you want. It just takes the courage to listen to what they have to say, and help them with things in their life. And charisma, but that comes with extroversion.

3. Being Nice to your Superiors

This is a biggie broken mechanic. When you’re in school, make friends with your teachers and professors if you can. There are a lot of benefits. They will be nicer to you in a small class. They will answer your questions in office hours and tell you hints about the test that they won’t tell the class. They are mature and will be a breath of fresh air to talk to compared to occasionally immature kids that surround you. They will present opportunities to you, especially if they are in the same major as you or are doing research! They will make coming to class every day much more fun if they enjoy your company and you do in return.

Teachers dote on students that they like because very few students try to befriend them or present them with lots of respect. So few that this becomes a broken mechanic.

Same with bosses in your job. Bosses know when an employee is trying to brownnose. Your job is not to brownnose, but to befriend. Treat your bosses respectfully, be prompt, and actively think out loud with them about how to solve a problem the company is facing. Bosses love when their employees are thinking about the bigger picture and trying to work with them on overarching strategies. That shows to them that you are ambitious about your job, and aren’t just a work monkey.

Knowing your bosses by their first name will make climbing the social ladder much easier, in addition to making literally every work day of your career much easier.

4. Side Projects

People often ask me how I know how to do something. Their first assumption was that I was taught it by someone. The answer for 99% of my knowledge is that one day I randomly felt like making some random thing and then happened to learn a lot while making it.

People largely don’t do side-projects. There’s this idea that you’re already working enough for work/school, why do more? It’s time to relax. I’m here to tell you that working hard is how you live.

Hard work begets human vitality.

I’ll say that again for the people in the back. Hard work begets human vitality. You’re only going to major in one to three things in college (unless you’re a masochist). Other aspects of life will be taught to you in General Education courses. Your high school experience was practically all General Education.

The truth is that you’re not going to be taught classes on all of the practical things in life. Your general education classes are often humanities, which are important to being a well rounded citizen, but won’t teach you how to use a chop-saw. The only way you’re going to learn these things is by doing side projects.

Want to learn how to make a music video. Don’t take a course. Get a camera, some friends, write a script, and record and edit a music video. Want to learn how to repair a leaky pipe? Don’t go to a trade school for plumbing. Watch some YouTube videos, read some articles, and go repair a leaky pipe. Want to learn work working? Come up with something you want to make with wood and make it. You’re not going to learn everything in school (unfortunately). To fill in the gaps of your knowledge, you’re going to have to learn by doing.

Also if you’re in Computer Science, you’ll often be hired based on the quality of your side projects! So make those web apps because you’re not going to learn how to make them in school (unless you take that elective).

Also, again, few people do side projects. So if you do them, you’ll stand out, people will find you interesting. Another great way to find good friends, girlfriends, means to ends, etc.

That’s all for now!

Think about life as a game with mechanics. Then think about successful people. What are they doing/do they have that you can use in your own life? A lot of them are white men. Well you can’t really change your skin color, and unless you want to become a man really badly, I wouldn’t encourage doing it to become successful.

What else do they have/do they do? They have charisma and extroversion. This helps them find people they trust and network. If they’re in America, they have a loud voice. Americans love to elect people with loud, projecting voices, regardless of political experience.

They worked their way up the social ladder. It may not always seem like it, but most of them had to be hardworking and nice to their bosses to do so.

A lot of them who weren’t born on wealth are STEM majors. They worked in a field with a lot of money and demand, and were compensated quite a bit. STEM majors aren’t always famous and in the limelight, but they are often financially successful. It’s just the Zeitgeist.

They had side hustles. A lot of successful Americans had a business as a side hustle. America is a great environment for startups, and this makes side businesses viable. If it’s not a business, maybe they freelanced, worked as a consultant, or built useful things on the side.

Think about other things people you perceive as successful are doing that you are not. Think about the amount of effort they’re putting in, and the amount of value they are getting out.

If the value they are getting out is fantastically out of proportion to the work they are putting in, you have yourself a broken mechanic of the game of life.

It’s your job to find these and exploit them if you want to get ahead. I understand not everyone is super ambitious and wants to make six figures, but please consider the following.

You personally may not believe you need much in life to be happy, but remember your parents. Your parents paid a large proportion of their life and wealth to birth you, support you, educate you, feed you, clothe you, and help you become successful. If your parents are putting you through college, they are paying a lot of money on top of that. Eventually your parents are going to retire from their jobs and collect retirement payments, but those aren’t enough to live comfortably.

You may not care much for money yourself, but you need to earn enough to support yourself, and your parents. Your parents basically made a massive investment by giving birth to you, and subsequently paying for your college education. It’s now your responsibility to make good on their investment by returning value to them in the form of supporting them when they become too old to work.

How is this related to broken mechanics and the meta of life? Playing the meta of life will greatly help you become successful and earn a large amount of money in a stable, respectable job. With that money, you can live comfortably yourself (with your life partner if you so choose), but more importantly, you can support your family so when they retire, they too can live comfortably.

That’s why even if you’re not an ambitious person, you should still play the meta. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your parents.

That concludes my guidance! If you find any more broken mechanics of life, text me about them and I might make a Part 2! ;)

About the Picture

This was taken along the crazily busy route to Port Authority in New York. It’s a wonder I wasn’t hit by a truck on the way there. But it was fun nonetheless. :)