During the course of a person’s life, he or she can pick up quite a few valuable lessons. Experience is a great teacher, and the best part is that once that light bulb lights up above your head and you come to understand a certain truth of life, it can be applied to several different areas. Mastering a new skill is a typical example, where the psychological aspects apply to any sport, art, or trade. However, there is one incredibly popular activity that people don’t often think can help teach them important lessons, and that is gaming.
I can already picture a few readers snickering or snorting derisively at the mere notion that something as trivial as playing video games may have serious benefits. To those people I say: “Feel free to read on and keep an open mind.” As for my fellow gaming enthusiasts out there who have probably had similar moments of revelation, I think you are going to enjoy reliving some past moments, smiling and nodding knowingly.
1. Don’t be too trusting towards random strangers
As kids, we are taught not to talk to strangers and to be careful, but as time goes on, we start developing healthy relationships with others and meeting tons of genuinely good people. It’s easy to become accustomed to encountering helpful people, particularly within a community you feel very comfortable and safe in. It is then when we can let our guards down. Even though I knew all the right tips on staying safe online, in my laziness the hassle of remembering a long password seemed far worse than having my account hacked, which ended up coming back to bite me during my World of Warcraft craze.
Oh, and if a benevolent stranger offers to enchant your item if you provide him with the right materials, throw a fireball in his lying face before he gets the chance to run off with the goods. There are plenty of scammers out there who want to use your compassion and trusting nature against you.
2. You need to tackle a problem from multiple angles
There often comes a point in a game where you find yourself stuck. I would spin my wheels in place on more than one occasion, getting progressively more and more irritated, playing anything from Super Mario to Max Pain and GTA, and eventually things like Dark Souls. Over the years, I learned to control my temper and give myself time to breathe when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem.
I leave the room, prepare some coffee, and try to think of different solutions to the problem after I’ve let my brain relax for some 10-20 minutes. This has proven to work like a charm for both tackling bosses on hard mode and dealing with everyday problems like budgeting or completing projects in record time.
3. Hours of frustration can turn into a glorious moment of joy
Sometimes you can get stuck in a rut for hours before you ultimately complete an objective or move on to another area. I fail to find words that adequately describe that feeling of utter joy, that moment of unrestrained euphoria when you finally accomplish something that seemed impossible merely a few hours ago. Video games have taught me that sometimes you need to grind through a lot of frustrating work that may seem bleak and unrewarding if you want to get to the point where you feel truly proud of what you have achieved.
4. Failure is not the end of the world, it’s an opportunity to learn
In order to get good at a game, you need to get to know the universe and the rules well and to develop the necessary skills, e.g., timing, dexterity, resource allocation, etc. To do this, you need to fail a bunch of times. Sometimes you fail miserably, die, or even scratch everything and start all over from level one with a new character. Once you get into this mindset of “failure is merely a teaching tool,” you’ll start to apply it to other aspects of life without even realizing it. You can develop a lot of patience and focus if you go through life as if you were playing some kind of gloriously immersive RPG.
5. You can cheat your way through a lot of tough situations or find shortcuts
This one might not be very politically correct, but the truth is that we don’t live in a world of sunshine and rainbows. Not everything is fair. There are rules to everything, and when someone understands the underlying system, it’s easy to find and exploit various glitches, bugs, or overpowered items. In real life, there are many situations that you can see coming a mile away if you know how they are usually “scripted,” and in most cases there is an easier way to overcome obstacles and NPC’s that you know are coming.
For example, you know that restaurants and clubs are essentially pay-to-win – so you can throw a stack of cash at the maître d’ or a bouncer to get in. You know that a certain type of item coupled with an apology gives you a +10 boost to your “silent treatment” and “cold shoulder” resistance when facing your partner. There are tons of little tricks you can learn that will make your life a whole lot easier.
6. You’ll find rare gems in the strangest of places
If games have taught me anything, it’s that you never leave any stone unturned, any vase unbroken, or any chest unopened, even if you have to go back once you’ve finally gotten around to adding those last 15 points to your lock-picking skill. Some games will reward you heavily for exploring outside the beaten path and doing some exploration. Thinking for yourself and going outside your comfort zone might lead you to untold treasures.
Just as you will often find a rare and incredibly powerful item in a random closet down a seemingly insignificant side-passage in a game, you can find a career opportunity at a random party your friend drags you to or develop a beautiful romance with a girl or guy who sat next to you on a train. You’ll never know what you may find if you don’t go out there and explore.
7. Sometimes it’s not about winning, but having a good laugh
Having your mind constantly burdened with the notion of winning and stressing over a loss or slight failure is not really going to be healthy for you in the long run. Yeah, yeah, I know the whole “winning mentality” spiel – you need to keep your eyes on the prize and make sacrifices if you want to be the best, yadda, yadda, yadda – but you know what?
Sometimes it’s not about being the greatest, nor is there a clear set of objectives that you complete to win – it’s about feeling good, having fun, and being fulfilled and content at the end of the day. Games, just like life, have a competitive component to them. But being obsessive, strict, and narrowly-focused on one thing to the exclusion of everything else is not the way to go if you want to be truly happy.
Well, these have been some of the lessons I have learned during my gaming journey. Although I may not be the best gamer in the world (I don’t claim to be more than just mildly competent at a few genres of games, and am quite bad at others), nor have I figured out all of life’s mysteries, I have certainly learned some serious lessons through gaming, which I have been able to apply to my regular life.