5 Real Things I Learned From Video Games

So there’s this huge debate going on at Collapse Board about Lana Del Rey, who has a single out called Video Games. To my mind, it’s an inferior version of Lisa Germano’s Puppet, all about how her no-good boyfriend takes her completely for granted and ignores her and plays video games. (Am I the only one who thinks it sounds like Coldplay?) I made the suggestion that instead of whining about it, she should “woman up” and play the games herself. After all, these are some of the very useful things I’ve learnt from playing games.

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1. Break it down

If you ignore a problem in a video game, it doesn’t just go away. It sits there in your journal, and your failure to deal with it just stacks up among your other problems. The only way to get through it is to deal with the list one problem at a time, one quest stage at a time, until you’ve ticked one more item off the list. Eventually that list will shrink, and you get used to the feeling of accomplishment.

“Save the world” is impossible; but “deliver the envelope” is not so hard, so do that first. You get used to breaking down that eye-watering challenge into little steps and ranking them in order of priority. Once you’ve been through all those tiny quest-stages, you suddenly realise you’re at the end of the list and have saved the whole world, and it really wasn’t as insurmountable as you thought it was going to be.

So the real life challenge of organising a conference or a wedding might seem daunting, but you can deliver the envelope, right? Just fire off an email – “do you have availability on this date?” – tick it off the list, and move onto the next step. Easy!

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2. Flatter, bribe, intimidate

The first thing you learn in almost any roleplaying game is that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s the only way, ultimately, to get things done. The trouble is, not everyone is as forthcoming with information as you’d like them to be.

One of the interesting consistencies across roleplaying games is that it’s always much easier to bribe than it is to flatter, and harder still to intimidate. A failed attempt at flattery just makes you look like a suck-up, and intimidation can backfire even when successful – they might help you once, but shun you in future. Appropriately-delivered bribery is almost always your easiest, surest bet.

Real life application: offer to do favours-in-kind. You need the design team to knock up a cover at a moment’s notice? You can offer to proof-read the text on their new ad. Even the bravest hero(ine) spends most of their life on FedEx Quests, so do likewise – you need those proofs dropped down to the other office? I’m going that way, sure I can take them.

Of course, every world of adventure has its own brand of currency, and the universal currency of offices is cakes.

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3. If at first you don’t succeed

Tenacity is a dual-edged sword in games, because if you just keep trying to do something which is obviously too hard for your character, you’re just going to wind up frustrated. In real life, this is normally the moment at which you look around to see if there’s someone else you can ask to do it for you. It’s a more efficient use of your time and resources, which is everything in video games.

However, you can level up. Even shooters and action games normally have some type of character improvement which means that what was impossible before is easy later on. So don’t get depressed in real life when what you’re attempting just seems too hard. Just put it on the backburner and come back when you’ve “levelled up” and improved your skills.

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4. Choose your battles

Don’t bait trolls. Or giants. Or anything that’s too big for you. All that should be obvious, but it’s amazing how many people waste time either arguing excessively with someone who gets off on annoying them, or pick fights that they clearly had no chance of winning. The actual skill in roleplaying games is resource management, and that includes taking care of your own energy levels. Before entering into any conflict situation you have to ask yourself what you stand to gain by doing so, and whether it’s really worth the damage you might cause to yourself or anyone else. Quite a lot of the time, the correct response is simply to give your antagonist a wide berth and ignore them until they go away.

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5. Nobody respects a noob

Oh no! So you’re dressed in rags, no coins to your name, and people keep addressing you as “you there”! That’s not very nice, is it? After all, you are the future saviour of humankind. Elfkind. Whatever.

The thing is that in real life, just as in video games, nobody gives a rat’s ass about your potential. It’s your accomplishments that speak for themselves, and people only trust you with the big things when you’ve proved you can handle the little things. Respect is something that you earn along the way.

And if it’s annoying that people talk down to you when you’re still weak and inexperienced, you can always cheer yourself up with the inward knowledge that nobody else has any idea of what amazing feats you are capable – and look at how surprised they’ll be when you impress them all with your unique Chosen One abilities.

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4 comments on “5 Real Things I Learned From Video Games

  1. I stumbled upon your post via the “Video Games” tag and was initially frustrated because, once again, this song has seeped its way into my reader unwanted. But the more I read, the more I liked, haha. Your take on real life comparisons are comical, yet true. If only everyone can imagine their work aggressors as yetis.
    And, way to “woman up”! Guys like me love it when their girlfriends play video games with them. The whole “it’s me or the video games” thing shouldn’t even be an issue–it’s just a mostly in-home hobby that has years of negative stereotypes tied to it.
    Cheers!

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