213. TMTF’s Top Ten Life Lessons in Video Games

Wisdom can be found in unexpected places.

As we search for truth in literature, faith, philosophy and the lives of great people, we mustn’t overlook the lessons to be learned from BatmanDoctor Who, cartoon ponies and webcomics about video games. Speaking of which, video games have invaluable lessons to impart: useful principles that can be applied for success in real life.

What? You don’t believe me?

All right, then! Ladies and gentlemen, consider these practical principles as TMTF presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Life Lessons in Video Games!

10. Be Creative in Solving Problems

As tempting as it can be for gamers to try solving everything with violence, some obstacles can’t be shot, hacked or blown away. Puzzles require critical thinking. Some enemies require timing and strategy, not brute force, to conquer. Players have to be creative in solving problems, and creativity is an invaluable gift.

9. Observation Is Important

Anyone who plays a Legend of Zelda game quickly learns to keep his eyes open for cracked walls. Apply explosives to a damaged wall and—boom!—a way is opened. In video games, good things come to those who notice stuff. Video games teach players not merely to hear and see, but to listen and observe.

8. Appreciate Beauty

I love solving puzzles and defeating enemies as much as the next gamer. All the same, one of my favorite things about video games is how darn pretty they can be. (Yes, video games can be beautiful. Like brushstrokes or pencil shading, pixels can make lovely pictures.) Players are treated to sunrises and forests and ocean views, and appreciating beauty in artificial environments is a step toward appreciating it in natural ones.

7. Plan Ahead

Bad things happen to those who are unprepared. The person playing a Final Fantasy game will be annihilated by a tough boss if she hasn’t leveled up her characters or stocked up on healing potions. The person playing a Mario Kart game will lose if he hasn’t bothered figuring out the controls. This brings us to the real world, where the person taking a test or applying for a job will fail if she hasn’t planned ahead and made necessary preparations. Once again, video games reflect how things work in real life.

6. Stay Calm

The player who panics and starts mashing buttons will most often lose, and gamers get plenty of opportunities to panic. It can be hard to stay calm when facing that tricky jump or twisty racetrack or nigh-invincible boss, but rational decision-making is more likely to lead to success than wild overreaction. People who learn to keep cool under pressure while playing video games are better equipped to keep cool under pressure while doing everything else.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

I stink at fighting games: kicks and combos and Hadoukens baffle me. There is, however, one kind of fighting game in which I will destroy you: a Super Smash Bros. game. (My younger brother is a rare exception to this rule; he defeats me effortlessly.) As a kid, I resolved to learn to play Super Smash Bros. to enjoy the game with friends. Mastering the game took time and effort and many failures… and it was totally worth it. Practice makes perfect. At the very least, practice makes better. Video games remind us of the fact.

4. It’s Dangerous to Go Alone

With these cautionary words, the first Legend of Zelda game echoes something in another famous work: a book called the Bible. Quoth the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” In other words, It’s dangerous to go alone.

3. You Reap What You Sow

So you’re playing a Final Fantasy game, slaying monsters, saving the world, when your quest is interrupted by some woman who wants you to gather medicines to heal a wounded traveler. A nuisance? Yes. You gather the medicines, the traveler recovers—and your kindness is rewarded. Another example: You take a break from your adventure in a Legend of Zelda game to attack a chicken. You’re enjoying yourself—after all, hacking away at defenseless fowl is fun—until the chicken decides to fight back, and your cruelty is punished with death. Seriously. For better or for worse, we reap what we sow. This biblical principle is common in video games.

2. Success Is an Investment

You can’t traverse that treacherous pitfall in a Mario game? Keep trying. You can’t conquer that unbeatable boss in a Kingdom Hearts game? Keep fighting. You can’t get your client acquitted in an Ace Attorney game? Keep gathering evidence. Sooner or later, you’ll pass that pitfall or flatten that boss or prove your client’s innocence. Now consider the real world. You can’t pass a class? Keep studying. You can’t afford something? Keep saving. You can’t achieve a goal? Keep working at it. No matter where you turn, success is an investment.

1. Good Guys Win

The world is full of terrible, selfish people who seem to succeed. Video games are no different. There are monsters, jerks and villains who triumph by lying, cheating and backstabbing. In the end, an overwhelming majority of those bad guys are brought to justice. The good guys—the guys who strive and fight and sacrifice to help others—win. You know what? In our world, the same thing happens. We need to be reminded that good guys sometimes win.

O people of the Internet, what useful lessons have you learned from video games? Let us know in the comments!

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