24 Things Gaming Can Teach Us About Real Life


Whatever the format, whatever the genre, every day, digital games engage millions of people from a multitude of backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and lifestyles. And yes, there are a few evils associated with gaming, but these are mostly related to the nastiness that anonymity seems to breed in some (especially younger) players, as well as the health problems related to being too sedentary in front of a screen, munching snacks and imbibing carbonated drinks. But we are fairly certain that there is no causal link between what people do inside games and what they do in real life.

That said, there are a number of social, emotional and especially cognitive benefits associated with gaming. And on a philosophical level, the experience of gaming can teach us a few important lessons about real life:


  • Sometimes you just have to grind through it. There isn't always an exciting new quest or a sparkling new level to navigate or an intriguing new puzzle to solve. Sometimes you just have to stick at it, going backwards and forwards, to get the thing done.
  • Sometimes it's better with friends. Sometimes it's better on your own.
  • You may be able to carry around everything you find, but you can't use it all. In fact, sometimes a full inventory can slow you down and confuse you. The parallel with life is both in terms of our tendency to accumulate stuff we don't really need, as well as the useless mental and emotional baggage we carry around.

  • Everyone cheats. In fact, a well-chosen cheat can often add to the experience. But if you do it too often, or too much, you lose out on the joy of solving things on your own.
  • Don't write anyone off. Ever. Even seemingly minor characters and / or team-mates often have more to offer later. And stop insulting noobs. We all have to start sometime, right?
  • Always learn, and always upgrade when you can. The opportunities are often few and far between, and they may not come your way again.
  • Don't ever stop thinking – even when you're in the middle of utter chaos.

  • You only ever beat a boss obliquely and cleverly. When faced with what looks like insurmountable odds, think about a less direct, more clever strategy.
  • When you're stuck and you're not making any progress at all, try stepping away for a bit and then going back.
  • You don't play games (or life) for the rewards. You play because you love what you are doing. The rewards are a by-product, not the main reason for playing. If you don't like what you're doing, quit, and look for something you like more.
  • Failure is an essential part of learning. You have to try new things, and fail often, if you are going to learn. Just make sure that you do learn and adapt, otherwise failure is pointless. Even if you only progress in small steps, you will eventually get it right.
  • Try new things. Sometimes, just sometimes, you might try something so out-there, so whacky, that you generate an emergent solution no-one has ever imagined before.
  • Take risks. If you don't risk anything, you don't gain anything. And for goodness sake, take the side-quests… You never know until you try.
  • Listen to the advice of those more experienced than you. They've already made the mistakes so you don't have to. And pass on your wisdom when you become more experienced. Having said that, though, don't allow this advice to constrain you: there are potentially great rewards associated with breaking away from traditional ways of doing things. I suppose the trick is to know when to make those breaks.
  • Where you can, customize. Going through a game (or through life) using only the default options is incredibly boring. If you invest a little time making a character uniquely your own, you make the experience more personal, and thus more memorable and more rewarding.
  • The best way to play is to immerse yourself fully in what you're doing. Some call this mindfulness, I call it immersion. Doing something with half of your mind on something else means you're also doing it half-heartedly, and you will invariably miss out on the joy that full immersion brings.
  • Lag happens. Get over it.
  • You can make excuses, blame whomever and whatever you want. You may even be justified in doing so. But unless you're prepared to try again, you'll only be ever be a victim.
  • When you rage-quit, you might think you're hurting others, but you're only hurting yourself.
  • Newer isn't always better. Some of the best games (and people) are older and more full of flaws. What matters most is the gameplay, not the graphics.
  • Be open to fortuitous, accidental discoveries. And exploit them.
  • Look for patterns and trends. Often, the best way to win is to adopt a wider, more global view, and try and see the connections you don't see on the ground.
  • Find out where (and who) you are as a first priority. Understand your own story and context. If possible, perspective and understanding must come before you embark, as it helps to make what's next more meaningful.
  • Play the damn game. If you leave it in your inventory until you've got time, you'll probably always have an excuse, and end up never doing the things you want to do. Make the time. In life, you can't respawn. GAME OVER is game over.



  • Don't be a d**khead. You don't always have to be nice, but be fair.
  • You can't always be the leader. Sometimes you need to be a good follower.
  • Explore.
  • Accept the consequences of your decisions and move on.
  • Always maintain your sense of humor.
  • If it's too easy, you're doing something wrong.
  • Keep an eye on what's coming.

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