A game of SET. (Photo: Wendy Scherer)

I Would Probably Beat You at SET (And I Don’t Feel Bad)

A game of SET. (Photo: Wendy Scherer)

Do you know the game SET?

It’s a card game of visual perception that has won a ton of awards — but that’s not why I love it. I love it because…well, because I’m great at it.

I’m not being conceited. It just comes easy to me; in fact, I was shocked to find it does not come naturally to everyone. I’ll elaborate, but first I want to tell you about the game.

When I’m playing SET, I am entirely and blissfully in the moment — and I’m in it to win it (which I usually do.)

SET is a race to find sets of three cards where the features on each of the cards are either all the same or all different. There are four features to compare: color (red, purple or green), shape (oval, squiggle or diamond), number (one, two or three) and shading (solid, striped or outlined.) It’s an all-out competition, with no taking of turns and no element of luck — the player who finds the most sets wins.

SET is challenging, fast-paced and very exhilarating. Especially if, like me, you’re great at it.

But I’m not writing about SET to brag (okay, maybe I enjoy the bragging part just a little) or to provide the makers of the game with free advertising (although if you’ve never played, I strongly recommend you give it a try). I’m writing about SET because it’s a lot like life. How so, you ask?

My Top 10 Ways Playing SET is Like Life:

  • It’s a game of speed and agility. Think (and see) fast! No one is sitting around waiting for you to catch the drift, if you catch my drift.
  • SET requires logic and spatial reasoning skills. Much like packing a suitcase or organizing the Tupperware drawer.
  • It’s easy to learn but hard to master. Seriously, if this doesn’t define my life, I don’t know what does. I know you feel me on this.
  • It’s competitive. As are so many things in life. This happens to appeal to me since I’m just straight-out killer competitive. I blame my father for this. Don’t judge.
  • It’s about finding patterns. This one is deep. Yes, the game is literally about detecting patterns, but think of it as a metaphor for your life. Notice any patterns? Yeah, those.
  • If you see something, say something! Hesitation and second-guessing can cost you the game — or the job or the parking spot or some other great opportunity. (This applies to foiling bullies too, of course.)
  • But…sometimes it requires holding back. Who among us hasn’t pulled back so as not to hurt someone’s feelings? Or so people like us? Or so we can fit in? Or so others will keep playing SET with us? (No one likes a sucker’s game or a cocky winner, after all.)
  • Focus and concentration are key. You may think you’re a great multi-tasker, but it’s nearly impossible to do anything well when you’re doing something else at the same time. Pay attention!
  • It’s more fun with a friend. It just is, even though you actually can play set alone or online.
  • You get better with practice. Just like playing golf or the piano. With every endeavor, we bring our natural ability to the table — but there’s always room for improvement.

Aside from the fact that playing SET is great for my self-esteem, I love that it takes all of me to play. Which means that, for a little while, I’m not worried about my workload and deadlines or the laundry piling up or what my kids are up to. When I’m playing SET, I am entirely and blissfully in the moment — and I’m in it to win it (which I usually do).

You can try the game online. If you like it, you are invited to come play with me. It’s possible that I’ve alienated the many friends I’ve crushed in the past.

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