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What Video Games Taught Me

I’ve rescued princesses, slain a slew of baddies, avenged my fallen comrades, fled from zombies, amassed vast fortunes, and saved the world. Yes, I’ve played many a video game in my thirty-some years on this planet. I’ve enjoyed many genres across a variety of platforms and consoles, and I’ve learned a lot from my adventures. Now I pass that wisdom onto you, and encourage you to share the lessons you’ve learned from gaming in the comments.

The path to success isn’t always obvious…

“I can see it,” my nine-year-old self said, tapping the TV where a blue gem winked coyly from an unreachable ledge, “but there’s no way to get to it.” My babysitter, Michelle, took over the PlayStation controls, hopped Spyro up a few steps, glided around a tight corner, and snatched that sassy gem from its perch. At that moment, my eyes were opened to the fact that not every problem has a clear-cut solution…

…but there MUST be a way.

…but that doesn’t mean the solution doesn’t exist. Video games, like life, require grit, tenacity, and a willingness to explore unconventional avenues. Sometimes you need to reverse-engineer the solution by looking backward from the end result. Sometimes you need to be patient and acquire new skills or gear to make it happen. Of course the lesson here is not that every person who wants to can be the Queen of England if they try hard enough, but rather that it’s better to assume that a solution is possible and go for it full steam ahead than to assume the situation is hopeless just because it’s difficult.

Stand on the shoulders of giants…

There’s a certain sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a game or a task without outside assistance. That said, spending so much time banging my head against a wall that the pursuit loses all joy and becomes a chore is actually counterproductive. When I get to that point, I need to seek out the necessary resources to get un-stuck. There are YouTube videos, blog posts, articles, and knowledgeable friends aplenty to help me on any given quest, and there’s no shame in asking for help when I need it.

…but don’t cheat, because it wrecks the whole experience.

Sure, a bomb Sims mansion is only a few rosebuds away, but at what cost? A major factor in my enjoyment of any video game I’ve ever played is the feeling of having overcome a challenge to accomplish something cool. Cheating destroys both the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment, thereby removing the purpose and the joy from an undertaking.

Make good choices.

When it comes to making a choice in a game, the savvy player will research the consequences of each option before making a commitment so as to generate the most desirable outcome. Although in the real world the future isn’t a Google search away, the same basic principle applies: weigh your options, consider the consequences of each one, and make the best choice you can. Of course there have been plenty of times when I encountered consequences I did not foresee, I definitely kick myself less when I know that I applied sound reasoning and made my choice thoughtfully.

Be thorough.

Good things come to those who are detail-oriented. Borderlands 3 is a prime example of the payoff for thoroughness: Eridium crystals and Crew Challenges are usually tucked away in corners of the map where quests won’t take you. As a serial worrier who delights in being over-prepared, I cannot recommend exploring every nook, cranny, and potential outcome more highly.

Save often.

Have you ever felt the triumph of completing something so difficult you don’t think you could ever repeat your performance, followed by the gut-wrenching disappointment of realizing you didn’t save your work? Video games taught me that it’s not enough to rely on autosave for progress I’m truly invested in – I need to double check, triple check, and make a backup before I can breathe easy.

Some people are fucking awful – but you don’t have to be.

There are some people who get so invested in a game that they can be outright cruel when things don’t go their way. Whether they’re spewing abuse over the mic or sliding into your DMs with a nasty comment, their words can hurt no matter how thick your skin may be. You don’t need to stoop to their level, or justify yourself to them, or argue with them, or engage with them at all. You can delete, block, keep your chin up; and if you want to, you can even cancel out the shittiness they put into the world by putting extra kindness in: sherpa a newb, compliment someone’s play style, just radiate sunshine and burn all the negativity to a crisp. 🙂

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[Photo credit: Joshua Hoehne via Unsplash]

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