What I Learned from Playing Video Games

When I was young, my mother used to nag me to get off my favourite computer games. Of course I tried to find many ways around it, but as a student, I had no choice but to do my homework first. Now, with far more freedom, I find that I can explore as much as I want. It is strange though. Somehow my mother’s nagging got into me and I can’t just play computer games without being productive about it or I’ll feel a little guilty. But that’s also a good thing, because here are a few lessons I’ve learned from video games!

Hard work pays off

What your parents don’t know is that video games are hard work. I kid you not. If you aren’t willing to put in the time and effort, you’ll never be able to enjoy the game at the level that you want to. This point is particularly evident in most role-playing games. If you want your character to get stronger, you will have no choice but to take down weaker enemies for experience. Over time, you will get stronger and stronger, and you’ll even find powerful new equipment that can help you complete your main quest. In gaming-speak, they call this “grinding”. It’s termed as such because it can get pretty painful after awhile. You’re not really doing any quests, so the storyline isn’t what’s fueling you. You are most likely going to be encountering the same enemies over and over again, so you’ll probably get bored. But to get stronger so that you can overcome the next boss, or finish the quest-line, you don’t have a choice! You need to dig deep, and put in the work. Fortunately, you know that all that pain is worth it because you’ll finally reach a high enough level and get that new sparkly equipment you need to save the day.

Take time to learn the rules

I’ve recently started playing this interesting game where pure grinding doesn’t take you anywhere in the long run (google: Last Remnant). Unfortunately, the only way to learn this is through slowly poring through game guides, wikis, and playing the game itself. While it’s pretty confusing at first, I’m slowly getting the hang of how the game works now. If I didn’t take the time to learn the rules, I would have probably messed up the game by now, making it harder for myself later on. Of course, every game is different from the other, and it just so happens that this particular game features a crazily steep learning curve. But this basic principle holds true in many other games as well, especially strategy games, and epic role-playing games (RPG). Strategy games will require one to understand how each unit can interact with other units, and if the game includes resource gathering and acquisition of units, one will have to understand what are the workings behind the game’s economy. RPG games may also be that complex as there might be weapons, elements, statistics, and skill trees that you need to familiarize with, not to mention the tons of modifiers that could complicate things. While you may not have to learn everything, it is essential for you to acquire some basic knowledge regarding the mechanics of combat and character development. Without taking time to learn the rules, you may not understand how to get to where you want to go, and unguided gaming might lead you to somewhere else. If you don’t want to waste your time later, invest some time to learn how things work first!

The community always helps

No this is not always true because some communities are filled with unfriendly users, but if a game is popular enough, you can usually find a forum or user-contributed wiki that can help you with simple things such as game mechanics, winning strategies, or the trading of items. People are social creatures and video games aren’t an exception when it comes to the need for community. In multi-player games such as MMORPGs, online RTS (real-time strategy) games, and even co-operative RPG games such as Diablo III  and the like, the need for community is pretty obvious. Meeting with people, working with them, and playing your role to contribute to the team are necessities that will ensure that you can enjoy a good game. You need to learn how to communicate with others without sacrificing your own needs. Usually though, you will be able to find some nice people after awhile who can give you a good gaming experience, without trying to make use of you to farm for good loot. They might even help you with the conventions of communication, as some games require a basic understanding of shortcuts and terminology in order to communicate well with others. Even in single player games, you cannot underestimate the contribution of the community to the gaming experience. There will definitely be cases where you will encounter difficult quests, missions, or parts of the game that you may not be able to complete yourself. That’s where gaming forums come in. You’ll find people who are also trying to complete the same quests, and sometimes more heads are better than one. Many game developers may intentionally design difficult achievements that can only be completed through collaboration among the community.

Depth and quality matters

I’m a good starter, but not the best finisher. However, there are some games that I stick to all the way to the end because they are just that good. Sometimes, its the story that keeps me coming back for more. For others, its the well-designed levels that hook me in. Whatever it is that keeps you playing, I’m sure it is something that has depth and quality. Depth is something that cannot be faked, a good developer has to delve deep into his or her art to produce a work with truly great quality. It could be that a lot of time was taken to design each mission so that the complexity is perfectly balanced out with hidden hints along the way to make things easier, or the development of the characters took gut-wrenching effort to produce after countless rewrites and throw-outs. If something is good, there is no hiding it, and chances are a lot of time and effort when into make it that good. When I stumble onto a game that awesome, I know that the very same qualities that made it great are those that I want to find in my own work. If you do music, arts, sports, business, or any craft that takes dedicated effort, you know what I mean. There is no short-cut, or holy grail to a beautiful piece of work. Everything takes time, dedication and perseverance, but it’s all worth it because depth and quality does matter.

Don’t forget to save

In many games, there are points in which there is a chance of losing your progress if you fail. Thankfully, we have save zones, where you can access the save menu to save your progress before encountering a risky situation (usually a boss fight or what not). Some other games can let you save anytime you want, which is way more convenient, accept when you forget to do so! Don’t forget to save regularly, especially when you’re encountering challenging parts of the game. Losing valuable progress means wasting a lot of time and effort, and sometimes luck because many game variables have a random element. For instance, you might have gotten that super rare drop that one time, but if you forgot to save and need to restart your game, you may not be so lucky this time around. Now, how is this lesson even transferable to real life?! you may be asking. For me I tend to keep a notebook around. It’s in virtual form, called Evernote. I recommend a download if you like the idea of a virtual notebook that you can access anywhere that has an internet connection. Usually when I get a good idea, I’ll just load up a note and jot it down. When I’m free, I can explore that idea, and it’ll save a lot of time as compared to being without inspiration and needing to wait for it to strike you. That’s because most often, inspiration strikes you when you’re not able to work on it immediately. Another form of “saving your game” could be simple diary keeping. For guys, you may think that this is a rather girly thing, but jotting down the main takeaways from the day and recalling the good parts that you can be thankful for will help you grow in many ways. Everyday in life is different and valuable, so don’t forget to save!

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