What Video Games Can Teach You About Life

gaming-consoles-lorenzo-herrera

Well hello, you. Would you stay a while and listen?

Because as someone who’d grown up with video games, I feel that I have an interesting article for you today.

I used to think that mindlessly hacking away at fake monsters was a waste of time. But now I see the purpose of all those hours sunk into the old DOS games like Flashback or Heroes Of Might And Magic.

It’s so that I can now write you a listicle. Let’s start with the first item on the list.

Imperfect gaming teaches you to finish what you start

If you’re an RPG enthusiast, you’ll probably recognise these steps all too well:

  1. Create a character, preferably your beacon of paragon.
  2. Choose a class. You’ll be the best thief ever.
  3. Come across a rare item that thieves can’t wield, so you decide to build a warrior instead.
  4. Learn that warriors suck at fighting mages, so you try creating a mage killer.
  5. Rinse and repeat without actually finishing the game.

Compare this to the imperfect run: You accept the highs and lows and just chug more health potions or hide behind barrels to get through the tough parts.

You plod along, knowing that your righteous paladin doesn’t have the answer to every situation. That’s imperfect gaming.

Weirdly enough, I’ve completed more games being an imperfect gamer than by aiming for a perfect run.

That’s life though, isn’t it? Sometimes we muddle our goals with the desire to do things perfectly. Then we end up not completing them, ever. That’s exactly why we need to accept imperfections in this game we call life.

There are no save points in life

One plus side to real life is that we can’t save-scum our way through it. There’s no making a bad decision, then rolling back to a previous save to choose a different option.

That means you’ll have to take ownership of your actions. You’ll need to live with not knowing what would’ve happened had you done that other thing.

This alone should hint to you that life was made for us to stumble through. We might not even make sense of it when it’s game over. And that’s the fun bit.

Maybe you fall sick when training for your marathon. Or your car breaks down when you’re already late for your meeting. And when that happens, you’ll always feel as if your solutions were haphazard. Like you’re simply winging it.

Let’s say book a Grab to the office, or make up for your training by running to work. You might employ those solutions while feeling as though you could’ve done a better job. But that’s the point. You need to let go of the idea that there’s one best way to deal with your problem. Because there never is.

Levelling up is never easy

Have you ever played a game where the sole mission was to veg at home? I know I haven’t.

Oftentimes, you start right in the thick of things. There’s a dragon to slay and you’ll need to work on archery skills. The world’s ended and you need to leave the bomb shelter.

You don’t go into games expecting your character not to step outside their comfort zone. Even chill games like Stardew Valley require you to slay monsters for them blings.

The lesson here is pretty straightforward: You don’t level up by sticking to the familiar or easy tasks.

It’s the same with life. Most of your levelling up is going to happen during moments of discomfort. In fact, I don’t think anyone has ever grown through watching Netflix or eating a doughnut. I mean, I guess you could argue the latter, but I digress.

One percent better

The good news is that you don’t have to take on the final boss right away. Games show you the path of incremental growth by putting you in situations you can barely handle. Not too hard, not too easy. That’s where you get the most experience points for your current level in the game.

Similarly, you always have to take stock of where you are in life and adjust accordingly. Already comfortable running five kilometres every day? Aim for ten. Easily publishing one blog post a week? Try two.

You need to find the dungeons in your life that give you the best experience points for your current level. It’s you against yourself. So don’t look at other people slaying dragons and feel bad when you can’t do the same.

That special moment is never going to come

Ever finished a game with a bunch of special potions you’d saved up for a big battle that didn’t happen? Yeah, we do that in real life too.

We reserve our best clothes for the special events. We save that special vintage for a future celebration. We save our best efforts for the right moment.

Well, guess what? That moment will never arrive. Because now is that moment, always. Now is where you have the most power, the only time you can take action.

Your boss battle isn’t that public speaking gig or doctor’s appointment in the future.

It’s here, now, when you prepare for that speech. It’s you making the best health choices long before meeting your doctor. It’s the mundane things in life that may culminate into one of your best moments in the future.

What’s the right thing, you ask? That, you’ll have to figure out for yourself.

Habits can make or break you

Even in video games, we tend to fall into hardwired patterns.

You arrange your hotbar a certain way. You use only a select few spells. You trade with a few familiar dealers. Why? Because we’re creatures of habit.

For instance, consider your buffing strat before each fight. You see a mob and it’s automatic: bless, haste, armour. Or if you’re a thief, it’s: sneak, backstab, invisible, flee.

Isn’t that what we do in real life too? The only downside is that it’s very possible to set detrimental shortcuts for our everyday tasks.

Alarm ring, cast snooze button. Pass a Krispy Kreme, add six doughnuts to inventory.

We function off habits because our brain loves conserving energy. That’s good for survival and all, but not so for growth. So we’ll need to remember to keep an eye on the hotbar we’re setting in our lives.

Because habits work both ways, and they can either make or break you.

You are the Chosen One

I know that it’s idealistic of me to liken life to video games. After all, some of you may be playing on Hell difficulty, and you’re looking at me saying, “That’s it? Tips for Easy mode?”

But if I were a video game character in your life, I’d be Cain from Diablo. You remember him, right? The dude who ushers you into every new game, giving you tips and tricks along the way?

Why Cain? Because I’m an NPC in your life. You’re the main character. And it’s my job to tell you to seek out your main quests and thrive. So suit up, get your axe ready—preferably one you can wield—and go fulfil your destiny, o Chosen One.


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81 thoughts on “What Video Games Can Teach You About Life

  1. Interesting read, thanks for sharing! Games/play are also super important for social + physical (less for video games) development, as evolutionary we and animals use play to experiment and even practice vital skills in a safe environment. Videos games do this too with social and cognitive skills which I think is overlooked a lot.

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    • Oh yes. I believe I’ve learned a lot through video games, and it’s really an underrated source of knowledge. All those hours spent playing Romance Of The Three Kingdoms (DOS version) as a kid sure did help with my conversations of China’s history. I even think that Assassin’s Creed did open my eyes up to the Renaissance era. Thank you for your wonderful comment, Trent!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Reblog: What Video Games Can Teach You About Life by Your Friendly Malaysian Writer | E.J. Robison

  3. This was so motivational, esp the part about everyone being the main character in their lives while being NPCs in others’.

    Always a pleasure to read from you☘️

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  4. What an oddly motivational post, Stuart. :D

    By the way, I pictured your “add six doughnuts to inventory” as literally adding them to myself instead of stuffing them in a backpack.

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    • I don’t know what you mean. I’ve always used pictures :P

      I do flit back and forth though. Sometimes it’s just so nice to write without worrying about image formats and all that. Always glad to have you around, btw!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not a gamer, so some of your argot went above my head, but the comparisons were meaningful, especially the one about saving things for “someday.” There are a few people in my life who do that too much, though I’m not immune either.
    And yes, donuts, mmm. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm. I won’t do that obnoxious thing I’ve done before where I impose a link on you, but I know you’re partial to going back and seeing people’s older posts, so if you’re ever inclined (and have time – don’t use this as a distraction tool now ;) ), type “donuts” into the search bar on my page. You’ll get my 2 donut-themed posts. I can tell you’re a fellow D-lover.

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  6. Loved the parallel between real life and video games! Although I am the type of person who makes soup on some enemy’s camp while admiring the Northern Lights in Skyrim, I’ll admit that this has never really helped me defeat the dragons ahahah 😅 When I have to study or improve a skill in my life I also often think about my Sims, that slowly improve their “painting” skill by making horrendous paintings at the beginning ahah
    But you’re right! Life is a bit like a video game for sure!

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    • Ha. My problem with levelling up my characters in game is that I’ll reach a point where I question my dedication for improving my characters’ lives but not my real life.

      It’s an interesting feeling to have. I love the roleplaying aspect of Skyrim too!

      Oftentimes I do things that aren’t related to the game at all, hahaha.

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  7. I love the Fallout reference. That was the only RPG video game I actually played. I’ve had characters that ranged from super intelligent to super dumb; explosive to sneaky; charmer to brute. Lots of variations. And the best part about RPG video games is that when you’re bored with your character you can just make a new one and start over. Not so much with life. If you’re bored with life, you really can’t start over. You can only work with the time you have left, which longevity is not guaranteed. So we gotta make the most of it.

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    • The ‘perfect run’ idea was based on games exactly like that. When you build a charmer, for instance, you want to spend every point perfectly in the exact skills you need.

      But life is more like bumbling through the game and investing points in useless skills that we didn’t know were useless. Then we adjust our course and pick the skills we prefer. So we have a couple misspent points, but we have to learn to deal with it.

      Thanks for this wonderful chat, JB!

      Like

  8. When I was teaching my son how to drive the first words out of his mouth were “this isn’t like the video game.” I totally agree on the relationships to life but if the player doesn’t see the connection life can disappoint.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love video games, especially back in the day when I had more time as a kid. I do still spend time playing on our Nintendo Switch. I also like the PC game Morrowind. When something big happens in my life or I achieve a new level of laziness or not caring, I tell my fiance “I have to rest and meditate on what I’ve learned.” Or we hum the battle music when we’re mad at someone. I also like to play Pikmin after work so I can experience what it’s like to see actual work getting done. I think in some ways video games are a metaphor for life, and in some ways not.

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      • Maybe because it’s the first one I played, and I also just think it’s so iconic somehow. Even the graphics are endearing. Although you can’t beat Oblivion’s NPC’s. Skyrim seems to skew too “realistic” for my taste. I actually like less advanced graphics. It’s like they make my imagination work harder to fill things in. I was playing Skyrim and got turned off when there were some scenes of slow-mo killing and it just didn’t sit well. Lord knows I’ve played my fair share of violent games, including Fallout which showed the slo-mo, but it didn’t bother me then. It was just a game. But with so many school shootings, watching realistic violence just turns my stomach to think that shooters enjoy things like that. I’ll stick with my retro games and Switch :)

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  10. O wow! Is there nothing you can’t speak to Stu?! I’ll admit this is way out of my league yet as a parent of not one but 2 boys, can I avoid it at all? Hah! Wishful thinking. So gonna store this post away for that day when I have to take a deep breath and plunge into this gaming world I know nothing of and bring out the life lessons. As always, thanks for this powerful resource man!

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  11. Good Evening Stuart,

    Ya know what?
    I was quite into RPGs, although more into the ones on PS1 platform…because even though I don’t have it anymore, I could play it on my laptop. Also, unlike PS2 games and all…it won’t consume a lot of data. (the size of the video game)

    My favourites were Chrono Cross and Suikoden…and also Digimon World 2 (and Digimon World 3).

    I did that pattern before, playing it till the end…and then, repeat. I tried different characters.

    Then, when I found out about the ‘Walkthrough’ (guide to play the game) online, I started playing them by following the ‘Walkthough’…so, I can get better…better equipment, which I never knew about.

    Yup, video games like that are like…a world, and how we play it…is like a reflection of how we play life itself.

    No ‘Save Points’ means, no going back and no do-overs. It is something that I eventually got to understand when I see people talking about ‘if’ in the sense of, if things we different. It is because we are who we are and we got here to this point because of the things we went through. If things were different, it won’t be ‘us’…but a different version, which is ‘not us’. (it is mind-bending)

    Whatever it is, I sort of…stopped playing video games. It was amazing, but…one reason is that it makes no sense in the financial part.

    Well, think about it?
    I worked so hard in a video game to earn lots of money…to buy expensive equipment and runes and stuff, and I got them.

    What is the question?
    What about the money in this reality?
    It is like, I worked hard to build a life in that video game with high-leveled characters and all…but this life, this reality…it is like, the life in that video game is far more important.

    I think that one bad thing that I could do, is play a video game like ‘Harvest Moon’…where the character could ‘get married’ and ‘have a baby’, which is wonderful…but in reality, I am still single.

    What is wrong there? Can you see it, Stuart?

    Anyway, I am transitioning…letting go of all of the ‘Joker’ items and influences.
    It started about two weeks ago, when I met someone and spent time together. I realized that I was not ‘A Joker’ nor thinking about it while being together…but, rather…I was a ‘poet’.

    Anyway, I have to go out for family dinner.

    Nafest

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    • Ah, I’ve missed your long discussions here. It’s been a while, and it’s good to see you again!

      I love the part you mention about games not being financially viable. Because I came to the same realisation playing The Sims. There I was, spending so much time trying to upgrade my Sims’ lives, but what was I doing with my own life?

      I haven’t played video games for quite a while now, but I do enjoy relaxing sandbox games once in a while, like Stardew Valley (which is interesting because you mentioned Harvest Moon).

      And that’s interesting that you’re transitioning, because I remember you bought quite a bit of collectibles that were pretty niche. But life is a continuous journey of finding ourselves, isn’t it? Have fun with your new acquaintance!

      Like

  12. Even though I’ve never been a video game player (my limited knowledge comes from arcade games when I was a teen.), A fair argument can be made that they hold some redeeming value. I know from watching my son decades ago that many games require problem-solving and perseverance.

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    • I actually learned quite a bit from video games, such as geography and history (Romance of Three Kingdoms, for one). It’s a pretty interesting educational tool if the game makers know how to harness it. But to be fair, it’s also mostly for recreation, so there’s that, lol. Thanks for stopping by, Pete!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I am definitely not a gamer but I love the metaphor you wrote here to describe life, particular the habits. I am very bad a games because of my bad habits of pressing certain the wrong way or the wrong combination and it is so frustrating… just like life 😆

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  14. Yay, was super excited to read this when I saw it! Is there a game that has particularly influenced your outlook on life? For me, it’s Bloodborne — it’s an unusual RPG, and it’s notorious for being insanely difficult

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    • I’ve gone through several phases. For me, my DOS era games would be Pizza Tycoon and X-Com. Then came Baldur’s Gate. After that it was Skyrim. Haven’t played the latest games since I don’t have the proper systems :(

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Every single point reflects on Genshin Impact!
    I love to play that game but it’s also difficult at times, as you mentioned, it’s true that the more you try and the more you acquire skills, never give up!
    You did a really good job in this article!

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  16. So much truth and practicality. Thank you. Many very helpful points like , “ That means you’ll have to take ownership of your actions.” Nowadays, many will do something and when it does not work, or it caused harm or negativity, they run away or blame others. Life will never be perfect. We will make mistakes, but we will also make good decisions with great outcome. Thanks.

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    • Ah, I’m very familiar with the people who blame others for every little thing, and it can be tiring around them indeed. Great comment here. Thanks for sharing!

      Btw, you might want to update your Gravatar account or details in your settings, because your current address points to an old website that filled with ads, lol.

      Like

  17. Love this post! I’ve been a casual gamer ever since I was a kid playing on my older siblings’ SNES. The way you crafted this post was fun but also very true; relating real life to how you progress in games is a great way to change your perspective on day to day life. Would you mind if I reblogged this with an excerpt and a link back to the original post? 🙂

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    • Of course I wouldn’t mind the share. In fact, I should be thanking you :)

      Oh yeah. I’ve spent too much time playing video games growing up, so I might as well make something out of it. Glad it’s turned out okay.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Every time I play a new game I look for a new experience, I look for for a new challenge, and I look to be a new character class…..and within 20 minutes I’m back to being a sneak archer/sniper again. 😂😂😂

    Thanks for the article. I often see video games being classed as a “bad” activity. But I think that as long as you are present and getting value from it, and not just playing out of habit, they can actually be very rewarding.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    • I actually learned a lot of facts and language from video games. The first one that comes to mind is the old DOS game, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which educated me on the happenings of that era.

      And thank YOU for this wonderful comment!

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      • Video games can be great educators for sure. (It’s obviously important to have balanced sources of education of course =P)

        I think with some games and design teams, the amount of research they do, and what they add to games is incredible. I particularly benifitted when learning economics from games with that kind of element to them. It helped me work through engaging models to see how the rules I was learning worked in the real world. I couldn’t get that from a book or a lecture, but it helped supplement what I was learning from both of those. Like everything in life it’s about ensuring balance.

        Good luck in your next quest my friend!

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  19. The sims is a great example of being able to achieve big goals and dreams in little time, which decreases resistance getting started. The sims makes things achievable and give us the sense that we can do anything we want to do in no time and without residence. It allows the sim to emerse themself into whatever they are doing and stay focused on said task until they are masters at it. This applies to real life too. If we work hard enough, we can do anything we set our hearts to. In the sims, hustle culture doesn’t feel like a chore, and we get rewarded for our efforts when we level up. What’s even better is that we can level up fast.

    Depending on the video game, they can be quite educational for children. My family plays video games from time to time. I have no problem with it as long as it’s age appropriate. We have a Nintendo switch which we mainly use for the family.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I haven’t played much games recently, but every game I played was imperfect by default, because even though I can play fighting games, it doesn’t make them any easier to play them as a blind person. I always wanted to play an RPG though, but I couldn’t play one because I always got stuck on the maps.

    I really hate the concept of reincarnation though. I mean you go through a life, and somehow you manage to reincarnate into a human soul once more. But instead of carrying the memories of the previous life, you get a blank slate. The very idea invokes rage within me.

    Aside from that, I agree with everything you say in this article. I think I’ll be Hazama from BlazBlue, who roasts people, but not Yuki Terumi, who delights in the suffering of others. People usually confuse the two in that game.

    Thanks for an entertaining article, Stuart!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll bet that games will be a tough one for you no matter the genre, unless they were designed with accessibility in mind. And reincarnation is an interesting subject for sure. I myself like to think of life and death as ‘before and after I existed’. I assume that my death will be just like before I was born, which is nothing. Interesting thoughts to have, thanks to you, Tanish!

      Like

  21. I’m not into video games but my son has picked up a handful that I allow him to play. Minecraft in particular is a lot like playing with Legos. His imagination can run wild, he can explore things his friends have built and he can play with my husband too. I’ve been extremely impressed by his ability to pick up on it and to learn things like coding. A valuable skill in today’s market. Fabulous post my friend. Thanks for helping me to see things differently!

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    • Whoa, if your son can pick up coding, then he’ll have one of the most future-proof jobs in the coming generations. I say this as someone who’s worked in a coding bootcamp, and the field will only continue to evolve and provide more opportunities.

      I haven’t played Minecraft before, but I have played Terraria, and it’s almost the same thing, so I can imagine the fun. Bonus points for bonding with Rob while playing. What fun!

      Like

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