What does, “play stupid games, win stupid prizes” mean?
During my time as a soldier, I heard this statement a lot. ‘Play foolish games, get dumb prizes' simply indicates that you must be willing to suffer the consequences if you willingly and knowingly do anything dumb, unlawful, or against the rules. I'll tell you a story about a former soldier of mine to help you understand.
A subordinate soldier of my was looking to buy a car. It was his first, and he was looking forward to receiving it over the weekend. Myself and my Fire Support Officer informed him that he should purchase his vehicle from a respectable vendor and that he would need a license, registration, and insurance to use it... In any case, it's legal. We both agreed to accompany him to the dealership so that we could assist him in making an informed decision. The young man listened and stated he would comply with all that was briefed to him. Is there something wrong with that? Haha.
The following weekend, I receive a call from my First Sergeant, informing me that I must meet with him in his office regarding my soldier. I agree. When I arrived, I learned that he had been stopped on post for speeding and making an illegal U-Turn to avoid a Military Police checkpoint. He had no license, registration, or insurance when he was pulled over. I sighed. Didn't we tell him what he needed to know?
My First Sergeant pulled him out of some major difficulty, but I had to counsel the soldier on paper about the importance of having the necessary papers to operate a vehicle, as well as make him through two weeks of remedial training. We gave him a slap on the wrist and informed him of the seriousness of the situation. Isn't it true that the kid got the message? There will be more to come.
So a few weeks pass with no problems from any of my soldiers. The young man was told that he could not drive his car unless he had documentation of his driver's license, insurance, and registration. All he had to do was show us that he was in the process of obtaining the documents in question.
I get a call late at night from First Sergeant, telling me that I need to meet him about my soldier the next day. Again. He stopped the soldier in his tracks and motioned him down. He demanded to see all of the documents from the young man himself. Surprisingly, the soldier had made no attempt to do so. I'm still driving without a license. The First Sergeant released him and informed him that he would be at the mercy of the MPs later that evening.
I take the soldier into the office the next morning and read him his Field Grade Article 15 counseling. You might be wondering what that is. A field grade officer can punish a soldier by lowering his rank, halving his salary for two months, and assigning him 45 days of extra duty. I explained that he wanted to experience what it was like to receive a ticket. So now he was aware. He got in problems for a few more things that I found out about later and will not discuss. This young man, on the other hand, was informed what to do, what he needed, and who to contact about the matter. He was once in trouble and was given a warning and advice on how to avoid repeating the error. When a young man resolves to be tough, he finds himself into danger again, this time by the same person who saved his life the previous time. He experienced severe consequences as a result of his failure to follow orders and warnings.
Play silly games to win silly prizes.