By: Frank Cirinna
Videogames are a large part of our modern social society. Whereas when I was a kid my parents told me videogames were a waste of time, now, I find it hard to even think about the notion that videogames are entirely useless.
I could go on and on about psychological effects, how videogames do not cause violence, or about a ton of other things, but instead I’m going to list off three valuable life lessons I learned in videogames.
1. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again
For anyone who has ever played a Mario game, or even better, anything from the NES/SNES era that was difficult (I’M LOOKING AT YOU BATTLETOADS #RageEngage), you will see clearly that you will die. A lot. At the same places. Again and again.
While toning my reflexes and increasing my skill in the game at hand, I did learn a valuable life lesson. Try. Try. Keep damn trying, because I know I can jump over this pitfall.
While less prevalent in modern Triple A games, we still see it frequently in indie titles, modern retro-classic Nintendo games, hand held games, on cellphone games, and in all Mario ripoffs.
For me, the game and level that really hammered this home for me was the mine cart level on Donkey Kong Country. Damn you hard to time jumps and bait life balloons which cause me to die more times trying to get them, than actual lives earned.
2. Philosophy, Science, & Culture
I have learned so much in these fields. So many different games are created by highly educated designers, who put their favourite things into their work.
Learning about Japanese culture through different videogames, about evolution and theoretical sciences, as well as practical things like how to clean a wound, how to light a fire, ways to read people and pick up on their lies, best ways to climb things, and a lot of other little random nifty tidbits. As we strive for more realism and depth in videogames, we will also achieve more learned outcomes from realistic gameplay.
The game series Zero Escape has taught me in depth a lot about psychology, sociology, and other things like Prisoners Dilemma, Game Theory, history, Schrödinger’s Cat, and so much more. And 90% of that game is just a novel. It’s a visual novel.
Seriously, and it’s probably one of the best modern game series, especially on handheld consoles. The BioShock series alone taught me so much about economics, social structures, governmental structures, and things like Collectivism, Objectivism, Exceptionalism and more! And they make it fun and enjoyable. Learning by accident is the best kind of learning.
3. My Actions Have Consequences (Sometimes)
A core gameplay element of many modern videogames is choice. The ability to influence the story, choose who lives or who dies, or see something come back to bite you in the behind is enough to learn this importance.
The Mass Effect series alone has a set of choices that deserve their own article and explanation (hello Geth-Quarian war and racial/religious undertones), but that sometimes isn’t even that much.
By that I mean at the end of the day, all of your choices don’t matter. The 4 endgame outcomes are basically all the same. It shows us that our choices, in the grand scheme of things don’t matter. Kind of life real life in comparison to the world and universe around us. But that’s getting too deep, and sad.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 is a game in which your choices make an impact which affects your game, and your outlook on choices. It’s one of the only games I can think of where a large majority of the cast can die, and the game goes on. Some people you choose to kill, some you choose to let die, some die because you can’t save them in time, and some die because if you let them, the game will become either easier or harder. But all of these deaths can be avoided.
Why is this a life lesson? Because usually in games, you get a game over or a reset when something like this happens. With newer games with choice, our rash or quick actions can lead to a long term outcome which negatively affects our experience. Just like life.
Verdict: So What?
I know that these aren’t all things exclusive to games, and a lot of it is barebones or basic, BUT for some young gamers, this can be their first exposure to things like this. As time goes on, games will develop as an art, and a medium which can enrich our lives. I for one LOVE learning through games. I’m just thinking now about how 16 years ago, Reader Rabbit was a big deal for learning. Oh how far games have come.