10 Things I've Learned From Gaming
Have you ever wondered whether your kids play too many video games? While I was growing up, I know my parents were always trying to find the right time limit for me, and I saw my friends' parents do the same for them. My mom would try to limit the number of hours I played, and my friend's mom had his TV automatically turn off at 11pm. But what a lot of people don't realize is that video games come with their fair share of benefits, too.
From an early age, video games taught me new vocabulary words that I was able to apply very quickly in my day-to-day speech. Back in 1998 when Pokémon Blue was my jam, I learned new words from the different attacks the Pokémon could use. I still remember casually using the word "minimize" in a 2nd grade presentation, and the teacher asked me how I knew such a big word. I just shrugged like it was no big deal, but I learned that word and many more from Pokemon.
2. Reading can be fun
From elementary school through middle school, I was enrolled in a program known as Accelerated Reader. The goal of the program was to have students read as much as possible, then give a 10-20 question test on each book upon its completion. This program almost single-handedly ruined reading for me. I was forced to read books that I had no interest in, and reading books became my least favorite chore. Besides the Harry Potter series, I hadn't picked up a single book on my own, even after I had finished the AR program. That is, until I discovered the Resident Evil series by S.D. Perry. Resident Evil is a horror game that I had played while still in high school, and I came across these novels at my local Barnes & Noble. So I thought, you know, what the heck? I'll give it a go. I found myself blasting through each of the seven novels one by one, and I discovered that it wasn't reading that I hated, it was the AR program, the concise list of books available to me, and the constant testing. Had I not played Resident Evil 4, I would have never picked up S.D. Perry's brilliant writing, and it probably would have been a lot longer before I got myself back into reading.
3. No matter how good you are, someone can do it better
Every party I've ever been to, I've come out the undisputed champion of Super Smash Bros. You can choose my character for me, we can play with items on or off (your choice again), and I'll even refrain from using the c-stick if it makes you happy. It doesn't matter, I'll win. Does that mean I'm the best? After attending my first Smash Bros tournament, I quickly realized that wasn't the case. I got absolutely blown out in round one. The guy was just messing with me. Then in round 2, I had a very close match, but ended up being knocked out of the tournament anyway. One of life's toughest lessons to learn is that there is always someone that can do it better. There is always someone who's going to be your kryptonite, but that's okay. Some people learn this lesson the hard way. I learned it through video games. There's no telling how much grief that has saved me already.
4. How to say no
I naturally want to help everyone all the time, but every once in a while, helping others can just be too inconvenient. There comes a time where one needs to learn to stick up for himself and just say "no." Now, I've always had an easy time refusing things like drugs (and alcohol before I was 21.) But when my refusal created an inconvenience for someone else, then I struggled. Team Fortress 2 taught me this skill better than anything else because players are constantly marketing their items. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone send me a friend request on Steam to beg for an item: "Dude, I really need just one key, plz I'm getting a deal from someone else and I'll pay you back later." Not only did trading experience in Team Fotress 2 help me develop the skill to say "no," but it also helped me give very open responses as to why I was refusing a request. Because denying someone's request can be an uncomfortable situation, the best way to start practicing this skill is behind a keyboard. The person I'm denying can't see me eye to eye, and I can carefully consider my thoughts before I send them. If I screw up online, it's no big deal because I don't know the person and that person doesn't know me. Understanding a good balance between helping someone out and sticking up for yourself is an important social skill to have, and Team Fortress 2 provided the perfect practice ground for me to start saying "no."
5. How to understand football
American football, that is. I played soccer all my life, but there came I time where I had to figure out what all of my relatives were screaming about on Sundays. I started watching the NFL back in 2004, and I admittedly didn't have a clue what was going on. I knew what a touchdown was and how many points everything was worth, but that's about it. To learn the rules of the game, I didn't have to look any further than NCAA Football 2003. After just a couple of games with my brother, I was in on the action, screaming about holding calls and furious that my team didn't go for it on 4th and 1. The quickest way to learn something is to do it, but not all of us are keen on gathering football gear and joining a league. Let's be honest, you're not actually learning the rules in pickup flag football. You're better off learning by trial and error with a video game.
6. How to improve my speaking skills
A friend of mine shot a Let's Play video during one of our Left 4 Dead 2 games, and he uploaded to YouTube. I didn't know he was recording, and we were casually talking and making jokes throughout. The video came out really well, so I thought I'd give YouTube a go on my own. I started recording myself talking through games, trying to explain my thought process as I was playing, and uploading to YouTube if the video came out any good. But I wasn't doing it for YouTube publicity, I was doing it to improve my speaking skills. The first couple times I recorded, I found myself trailing off mid-sentence and feeling the eyes of a billion potential viewers on me even before I uploaded. But I didn't let that discourage me. I invited friends to play (it's easier when you have someone to talk to) and even released a few of my own interesting commentaries that people found helpful. The best way to explain your thoughts coherently as they come to mind is to practice expressing your thoughts coherently as they come to mind. Record yourself. Watch yourself. Learn from yourself!
7. The importance of teamwork
A good team is more than just the sum of its parts. If you make a team of people that are really good at Counter Strike and square them off against a team of friends, I'd put my money on the group of friends. Not only have they played together before, but they know each others' strengths and weaknesses. The friends that play together often will have a coherent plan of action, while the team of really good players will focus on their individual talents. A good strategy will trump brute force almost every time in a game like Counter Strike, but that can also be extended to the professional world. I'm an IT major, and throughout my time in college, I've been in more group projects than I care to remember. The best groups were never the ones with all code monkeys; rather, the best groups were the ones with one or two code monkeys, one or two planners, and a leader. If project goals are distributed based on individual expertise, the group will function fluidly and with minimal issues.
8. Life doesn't always give you what you want, but if you put a different spin on it, it will fit
In Tetris, you'll often have your fingers crossed for a block that just doesn't show up. Sometimes there are other blocks that fit good enough, and other times you're just going to let it stack up until something works in your favor. Very rarely is there just one solution to any given problem. You might have an idea in mind how you'd like things to play out, but sometimes that's not the hand you're dealt. That's okay, as long as you make the most of what you are given. Focus on the tools you have to work with and use them to achieve your goals. Sometimes it takes a little bit of planning, and other times it just takes a stroke of luck. But hang in there, and you'll clear the blocks soon enough!
9. If someone else can do it, then I can, too
Have you ever played a video game and realized something was so difficult that it would have to be impossible to achieve? Yet, you look on YouTube and see people blowing this challenge out of the water. Speaking of YouTube, it helps to watch others do what you're struggling with. Get exposure to how someone successful approaches your problem, and learn from their methodology. In gaming, one of my biggest challenges was becoming a platinum drummer in Rock Band 2. To do this, I had to play all 82 songs in a row on Expert drums, which meant I had to learn all of the songs well enough to play them on expert. That's including Visions by Abnormality, which seemed about as impossible as video games get. But I watched YouTube videos, I identified drum patterns and sticking in practice, and I can get past the song every time now.
The same logic applies to any challenge you're facing outside of gaming, too. When I was a junior in high school, I saw an 8th grader in another marching band that was effortlessly flipping his sticks while playing in the stands. I figured if some 8th grader could do it, then so could I. The following week, I spent some time in the practice room developing my muscle memory for stick flips, and before long, I was doing them, too! Set your mind on your goals, and learn from the people that have already accomplished them.
10. Keep an eye out for Easter eggs
Whatever you do, don't forget to look out for life's Easter eggs. Explore the world, and you may find beauty in the places you'd least expect. Life is full of fun and games, and you can learn from almost anything. So pick up a game and start playing, then get out in the real world and play some more!