Birthday Musings — 4 Things I Learned From Playing Video Games

I’ve been gaming for 228,000 hours. Have I learned anything in that time? Yea, a bit.

[Originally published: Feb 28, 2012]

As of 11:57 pm EST on this day, February 28th, I will be 31 years old. That’s kinda shocking to be honest. I can’t believe how quickly time flies. Seems like only yesterday I was just a little squirt; running around, picking my nose and playing with My Little Pony.

A lot of things have changed for me over the course of my life, but the one things that remains forever constant is my love for video games.

It’s an odd thought, really. I’ve been playing video games for 26 years now. That’s about 228,000 hours of Space Pirate hunting, Triforce searching, zombie shooting, Tetris-building, C-C-C-Combo breaking, Bahamut summoning, Dragon Installing, and Hadoken flinging. A lot. Now some might find that a complete waste of time. I find that video games helped shape the way I am now, in the most positive way imaginable.

Video games, the interactive stories that they are, have helped me tap into my creative side. Taking me to far away places, making me a hero that would save the world. That helped get my lil’ mind racing about all sorts of stories to write, to draw. Anything at all that helped to express my inner artist.

But that’s not the only thing video games have helped me with. There were a lot of things they’ve taught me over the years that have real world applications.


Lesson #1: The Konami Code can only help you so much.

I know the Konami Code. You know the Konami Code. Everyone knows the Konami Code. It was our bread and butter. It was our secret weapon. That super secret sauce of tasty god-like awesomeness.

It was our crutch.

The Code did give us extra chances to get through the hard stages of Contra and many other Konami games, but many relied heavily on it. A bit too much, perhaps. Some believed that so long as they used the Code, they’d be fine. But it can only help you so much if you’re getting killed at the same spot over and over again. Even 30 extra lives can’t help you out then, yea?

Contra - NES

You will continue to eat dirt if you don’t get good at this game.


How It Applies To Real Life: Stop sucking! Get out there and practice!

If you wanna stop dying at that same spot, gotta do your homework. Why do I keep dying here? What can I do differently? After a while, you’ll get good at the parts you weren’t doing well at before.

And the same applies to real life, too. Want to get good at drawing? Practice! Want to learn a new language? Practice! If you want to be good at somethin’, quit your bitchin’, get in the kitchen, and create your own recipe for success.


Lesson #2: Anything you can do I can do better

Back in the day, when the Nintendo 64 was the awesomest awesomesauce ever, my buddies and I would play GoldenEye 007. The Multiplayer game was truly a match of wits and cunning. It was also the most broken thing ever, as one of my compatriots would always be the top dog; knew where everything was (spawn points, weapons, etc.) and all the hiding spots. Also didn’t help matters much that you can see where everyone was because of the split screen. Still, there was this feeling of trying to best him; beat him at his own game. ‘Course that never happened, but it was something to strive for.

goldeneye 007 N64 multiplayer

See? SEE!? What kind of advantage can you have with this!? Sorry, still hatin’…

Oh, and there were the fighting games. Street Fighter II was the go-to game and I used to dominate~!

Okay, not really. I got whooped. A lot. But that wasn’t for a lack of trying! Nowadays, I’m trying to get back into fighting game shape. But then I see vids like this and think I have a ways to go:

Evo moment #37


How It Applies To Real Life: Competition can be a good thing

Going up against someone who is better than you can make ya stronger! I know, obvious, right?  But having someone do better than you at something you thought you were good at can not only bring you down a couple of pegs (enjoy that tasty humble pie!) but can also give you something to strive for. “I wanna be like that guy”. Suddenly you have a goal! And what do you do? Ya work towards it.

Come to think of it, this goes hand-in-hand with Lesson #1. Stay hungry and keep eating those awesome recipes of success. Combine these two and become the Awesome Person of Awesomeness that I know you are. Go on!

W-wait… read the rest of this post first (>.>’)


Lesson #3: When in doubt, fiddle about!

Growing up, we didn’t have the Internetz (at least the Internet as we know it today), so we didn’t have things like GameFAQs to head to when we were stuck. We could speak to our buddies when worse comes to worse, but that would only be helpful if your friends have played the game, too.

So the only recourse you had was to stare at the screen and try everything. EVERYTHING.

I present you with “Exhibit A”, a memory of my childhood adventurin’:

Link to the Past Dungeon 3

This is the last section of the Skull Forest Dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. When I first got there, I had absolutely no idea what to do. I spent a few days thinking that I was missing a key or something similar, or maybe I had to push/pull/blow up something.

I took a break and went off to the other dungeons, completed them, and headed back to that bug-faced thing. And then I decided to use a magic item — one that throws out fire — wondering if that would help. And it did. Why I didn’t do that sooner is beyond me, but the important thing is that I kept on trying, took a step back, and went back to it.

How It Applies To Real Life: You’ll be a problem solver. For reals!

Whether you’re figuring out a pushing block puzzle in Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals or try to get past a guard in Metal Gear Solid, you’re trying to figure out the best way to proceed. So how exactly does it help you out there? Well, studies have show that video games can help you in becoming a better problem solver, as you’ll be more likely to experiment with different methods in order to figure things out.

And it’s true! While most folks I know tend to throw their arms up and give up, I find that I tend to tinker with things more, experimenting with different techniques, until I figure things out. I like to tinker around until I have a better understanding of things. And I feel that I’m all the better for it.


Lesson #4: Even the best of us need a helping hand.

So many games nowadays star a Macho-Macho-Man (’cause developers know that you’d like to be a Macho Man). Men with large swords hoping to compensate for something. You know who you are…


Cloud Strife

Cloud’s compensating for a lack of an actual personality *dons fire-retardant armour*

But even these bounty hunter/space marine/lone wolf/confused boys/whiny teenage boys tasked to save the world can’t do such a huge task alone. They need help. In First Person Shooters, it’s your squad. In Role-Playing Games, they’re party members. And they all offer their power, advice, and moral support. Ya can count on ’em in a pinch.

Final Fantasy III

Stand by your buds. You’d be surprise how much you can do with their help. Even take down megalomaniacs.

How It Applies To Real Life: No man is an island.

Okay, so this one’s something that I didn’t learn from video games (yes, I’m cheating! :o). But it’s on here because I think many gamers forget how important it is to go to your friends. I’ve made friends over the years, and I’ve lost a lot of ’em. Mainly because I let the friendships die by not keeping in touch. That’s my own fault, and I own that. But I’ve also been fortunate enough to make friends who have been my rocks. They’ve given me advice, listen to me bitch and have been there for me through all sorts of insanity both at work and in my personal life. I honestly don’t think I’d been able to keep my sanity without them. Well, I’ve been reasonably insane, granted, but… ack, forget it. 😛

Just remember: Friendship is magic. Like Pixie Dust and bon-bons.


Don’t Mock the Power of the Game

Video games have been given a bad rap by so many people; vilified and accused of polluting the minds of the youth. I say that they can be just a good a learning experience as anything else, really. It just depends on how you choose to view it. Do you simply play the game and end things there, or do you sit and think about what you took away from it? Is there a bigger picture? Maybe you learned how to better communicate (that’s important in those Team-based FPS, if I recall, and it applies to real life too!), or maybe a puzzle you solved in a game could actually help you solve something in real life (stranger things have happened!).

For every experience you have, try to take something away from it, regardless of what it is. You’ll be the better for it.


In Conclusion:

Stay hungry, not thirsty (because you don’t want to deprive your body of vital fluids). Keep on practicing and keep your eye on the prize. Aim for those clouds with your mighty fist!


When everything’s dark and you’re confused, shoot that light arrow. It shall light your path, and all shall become clear.

Legend of Zelda - Light Arrow


And when you’re really stuck, lean on your buds. They’ll be of comfort to you.

Final Fantasy X Blitzball Team


Oh, and watch out for Red Turtle Shells. Right bastards, they are.

The Armory – Red Turtle Shell

Because Learning Is Fundamental


Oy, I feel old! What kinds of things have you learned from video games? Share your memories in the Comments Section!