Virtual Playground, Real Life Lessons

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Anyone who grew up in a family of non-gamers would understand the difficulty of convincing parents to drop their cash on the latest release (in their defence, they were pretty expensive) or trying not to roll your eyes when a relative mentioned how nice it was to see you away from the screen. For some, it’s hard to see any of the benefits in gaming let alone understanding how any skill is involved whatsoever – and don’t get me started on those who refuse to believe an online game cannot be paused. Alas, video gaming is not a hobby for everyone, but for those who do dabble in the art of saving worlds from mass destruction or just like to see their farm prosper throughout the seasons, we can all agree that delving into the virtual experience equips us with some lessons applicable to the real world.

Growing up, my parents tried to steer me into a successful educational career from the beginning of my formative years by incorporating video games of learning into my precious free-time; although my debating skills definitely needed improvement since providing a convincing argument to buy World of Warcraft proved futile (apparently, saying the violence isn’t that bad was not the persuasive point my 10 year old self believed it to be). For this extracurricular activity, I had the pleasure of playing through Math Blaster which, in hindsight, actually helped boost my scores in school – thanks for turning me into a nerd, Dad. Math Blaster played like an actual video game with a character you could control and it even featured some ‘boss battles’ of sorts, so I never complained about an opportunity to play. And look at me now, who needs a calculator when my brain is wired for simple addition and subtraction? I don’t think I ever increased the difficulty past easy though because multiplication and division still escape me. When the opportunity arises, I still occasionally bring out some left of field trivia that my gaming career has bestowed upon me; “I learnt it from Animal Crossing” I say, before trailing off and accepting my official geek title.

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Once you’ve taken co-op games out of the equation and ignore the broken friendships stemming from competitive betrayal (I knew you didn’t actually have to figure out your moves in Super Smash, Patricia), there’s a few things you can learn about relationships from the virtual scene. Now forming relationships isn’t as easy as Sims made it out to be; but if you manage to meet someone new, become best friends with them and then proceed to get married on the same day, all the more power to you. Remember, it’s nice having a player two but sometimes, as it turns out, the princess is in another castle so the search must continue. It would seem that relationships in reality are a little more complex than their virtual counterparts, but you can still find a few guidelines within the binary code. Hitting your neighbours with a bug net is universally frowned upon, giving in to their selfish desires is highly appreciated, selling items at mates rates is even better and if they like you enough, they’ll present you with a framed photo of themselves – although I haven’t reached that level of friendship with anyone quite yet, I’m sure that’s how it works.

Difficulty scaling can be extremely frustrating for the regular gamer with some titles throwing you into the depths of Mordor while others let you dip your toes before bringing you straight back to safety – boss battles shouldn’t be so much easier than the actual levels, Crash Bandicoot. Real-world scaling seems to work on a more linear basis where, as you gain experience in life (read: start getting old), there’s enough knowledge stored to pull you out of any sticky situations and to deal with those pesky side-quests. With most hobbies, there’s a steep learning curve where the basics are often easy enough to master, but then it becomes a battle of persistence as advanced techniques seem to slip your grasp and it feels as if you’re making small improvements even though your investing copious amounts of time into your practise. But just like in an RPG, it’s all about grinding. Leveling up your characters, farming that metal, skinning the corpses of your enemies; you have to put in the time to reap the value, although I recommend focusing on hobbies that are more widely accepted by society at large.

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Naturally, there are some nuggets of wisdom that are not completely foolproof once applied to the real-world, although they sometimes become a nice little inside joke between gamers. For example, rather than carefully discussing a game plan with your party, running in head first voicing an almighty battlecry will have a rough 50/50 success rate; even if there’s a 100% chance your fellow teammates will be utterly disappointed by your go-getter attitude – god dammit Leroy. In a way, it’s moments like this where you realise there’s no need to take life so seriously, just grab an opportunity (or lack thereof) by the horns and give it everything you’ve got. Even though I may never learn to restrict my late night gaming sessions to the weekend, at least I’ve wisened up to a few semi-relevant life tips thanks to my couch potato ways.

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