life lessons learned playing video games

An interesting conversation with a friend in which I find myself defending the position of video-games-are-ok has prompted me to reflect on the question of what video games have done for me.

  • lesson 1: practice makes perfect. This is a lesson I’ve learned/had reinforced doing lots of things, among them playing video games. For certain types of games, I can really see a difference from day to day in how well I do. One example is Ikaruga, a space shooter that’s both super awesome and super hard. I’ve also learned that sometimes it takes a while for the learning to sink in. Play for an hour, then stop, get a good night’s sleep and come back the next day and I’m better at it, guaranteed. This is true for many things in my life.
  • lesson 2: persistence pays off. This is a bit of a variation on lesson 1. If I make a goal, say, finishing a game, or beating it on hard, or whatever; if I persist I will attain my goal. Depending on how far I am from the goal, it make take more or less time. Persistence works, and works well, in many areas of life; it works better, I think, than most people realize!
  • lesson 3: A is A. More specifically, games are programmed to operate according to rules, and their programming is what it is. There’s no point in arguing about whether it should or should not operate the way it does (except maybe for game designers!). And the computer can’t “cheat”, it’s just doing what it was programmed to do! A is A, take it or leave it! I find this especially valuable to remember when I’m faced with a truth that’s difficult to face.
  • lesson 4: fun is only fun when it’s fun! When I find myself beating my head against the wall trying to get past a certain level, or just go a little further, it’s time to stop. Usually there’s a limit to how much progress I can make or how long I can enjoy a given game. This is true of many things I do for pleasure (i.e. just about everything!).
  • lesson 5: participation is more fun than just watching. Watching video games is ok, but playing is more fun! Watching sports is ok, but playing sports is more fun! Watching TV is ok, but living my own life is more fun! Participation is harder, but I get more out of it. There’s a limit to how far this goes, but the relative value generally holds for me.

That’s just a few, and there are other ways to learn all of these. I just happened to experience these lessons playing video games.