Video Games: An Overlooked Source Of Life Lessons

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Video Games

I’ve talked about how video game characters left their mark on me. How certain characters acted as mentors, friends, and fathers shaped me into the 21-year-old I am today. While writing the respective article (click here if you want to read that), a thought came to my mind. Video games really are an overlooked source of life lessons. And if you’d only study them for a bit, you may find some serious pieces of advice and coaching. I’m thinking of turning this into a series, so stay tuned for the next parts. Until then, let’s delve here into the most obvious (and yet ignored) food for thought and lessons found in video games.

The health, stamina, and armor bar

Video Games
Different bars and symbols from games

This is probably the most “in your face” one. Your doctor, your mom, your school tells you to stay healthy. However, in a subtle way, even video games tell you that. How? You’ll surely remember the pop-ups saying “keep your health bar high so you’ll be able to survive longer”. That’s a piece of medical advice in and of itself. In video games, as in life, we need to keep our health close to 100 to be able to tackle the challenges laid ahead of us. Sure, you could approach a fort with 10 HP (Health Points), but you’ll probably meet your death sooner rather than later. Therefore, like in video games, eat valuable food, use medicine, keep fit and you’ll survive long enough to see the end credits of life.

Speaking of fitness, the stamina bar tells you how much effort you’ll be able to make. Note that with upgrades, games tell you that you’ll be able to do more and for longer periods of time. How does that apply to real life? I think it’s a subtle way of saying “practice and exercise regularly”.

“Yeah, Adrian, but we don’t use armor in real life. We’re not living in King Arthur’s medieval times!”. I don’t think that’s meant to be taken literally. Sure, in video games, players use armor to bolster their capacity for damage. But in daily life? Let’s view it this way: armor can be anything that helps you be more resilient to adversity, physical or mental. It can be education, experience, and tools that you use to not take as many “hits”. For example, your armor may be studying from 3 textbooks instead of just the one your professor recommended. This way, you’ll fortify your chance to get a better grade with minimal mistakes.

Your minimap and extended map

Video Games: An Overlooked Source Of Life Lessons
Section from Assassin’s Creed Origins’ map

No, I’m not saying you should keep a map by your side at all times, at least not a “literal” map. Inside video games (and real-life for that matter), your map serves a plethora of functions. You’ll use it to explore your surroundings, chart your course, and see the areas you haven’t unlocked yet. Aside from the obvious usage of a map, I think we should put it into perspective.

In life, you’ll need direction. You’ll find that without a charted course, you’ll stumble in the dark. Sure, you can still progress this way, but it’s a more chaotic type of exploration, and many experts (including Jordan Peterson) advise against it. Games usually put a marker indicating where you’ll need to go on a map. However, you don’t have that luxury in life, as you need to put your own marker. Exploring in video games means you’ll defog more and more on the map. This translates to preparing for your goals by whichever means available to you, so as to be prepared to meet your goal and not step into uncharted territory. Go unprepared, and with no clear direction, and you may find “enemies” too high-level for you to beat, both in games and real-life.

The journal and objective list

Video Games
The journal from Metro Exodus

Who would’ve thought the technique of journaling that motivational speakers talk about can be found here? You’ll often find in games that the main character puts their thoughts about the world, themselves, and other characters, to paper. They write about their questions, about the next objective, about what makes them happy and infuriates them, and about how they can improve. Experts like Robin Sharma and John C. Maxwell among others also advise journaling, so I say give it a try.

Video Games
Objectives and mission details

Often, in the corner of your screen, you’ll find your current objective displayed to you. What does this teach us about life and how does it apply? Motivational speakers have been talking about this for decades: keep your goal in sight. Always try to know where you’re going and what you’re trying to accomplish. How do you find the next goal? Video games advise talking to other characters, finding pieces of evidence, studying clues, reading. I think that in real life we should take different educational courses, talk to those who’ve been on the road we are, read books, work, and bit by bit, the goals will slowly uncover.

Skill menu and inventory

Video Games
Skill system in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

In video games, you often have a list of skills you can unlock and an inventory with the items you collected along your path. You’ll do a lot of studying and planning. For example, to unlock the skill of taking down 3 enemies at once, you’ll observe that you first need to unlock an acrobatic skill and a takedown skill as well. How do we put this to use in real life? Let’s take cooking for example. Before you prepare a complex steak, you’ll need to learn how to prepare the vegetables and what temperature should be used in the oven. Video games teach us to acquire all the skills we need before attempting to apply a more summative and elaborate skill.

Most games have a quick inventory menu somewhere on the screen, so you’ll know how much equipment you have at your disposal. If they don’t, you’ll need to check the big inventory. This way, you’ll know if for your next target you’ll have enough bullets, grenades, spears, traps, etcetera. You’ll also know if you have all the materials you need to craft your desired equipment.

Video Games
Inventory in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

What should we learn from this? Simple. Be organized and take time to make a list of the things at your disposal. It would be a shame to cut your finger and not being able to find your bandages, for example. Or that you travel to your other place believing you have enough flour, only to realize you don’t, and the nearest store is 10 miles away. Or to go into more complex territory, before you organize an event, you should make sure you have the manpower, the advertising, the financial resources, and the other necessary things at your disposal.

For future parts

In this article, I’ve covered some of the most evident lessons from video games. It may seem a bit far fetched to compare a video game map to your chart in life, but I strongly believe that we can take value from anything. I believe that, if we look through the right lenses, we can learn something from anything.

For the next articles in the series, I will delve into more complex life lessons. They will range from practical skills to emotional intelligence, to tragedies of life, to general culture aspects. Keep on gaming!

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