Overconsumption of video games has been correctly derided for being a addictive time sink. Especially young men are at risk of losing opportunities for experiences and growth due to time being spent on electronic entertainment rather than “productive” pursuits. Like many other vices, video games can be a fun pastime if used in moderation. Even though these points are true, there are significant benefits to be had for the discerning consumer of video games. I’ve recently been thinking about how I like to play video games, and the real-world lessons I can draw from my personal playstyle.
Personally, I generally avoid the fast-paced first-person shooter/action games dependent upon fast reaction times and having less internet latency than the twelve-year-old Korean kid fighting against you. Strategy games, where long-term decisions combined with tactical adaptability are the keys to victory are where you’ll find my attention. I find it enjoyable to have to use my brain to solve strategic problems. “What is the tradeoff I have to make with this decision?, What are the risks I have to assume by taking this shortcut compared with the slow and steady route?, Should I conserve my strength and forces or use them early on?”. Such decision-making divorced from real world consequences is quite intellectually stimulating.
In general, I usually take a conservative approach to video games. By this I mean that I’m careful, spend sufficient time to prepare before venturing forth, conserve consumables until they become absolutely necessary and I also often repeat patterns I’ve found to be successful, rather than seeking out novel approaches to solve situations. In many ways, this mirrors how I act in real life. Having these personal attributes mirrored in video games has allowed me to look at myself in a way I didn’t before. Thus, video games have been useful in my pursuit of self-knowledge.
In the same vein, video games provide a test bed for trying out new approaches to life without costly or long-term consequences in the real world. In my personal case, I could try out a more aggressive and reactive approach to problems in video games. The lessons I learn from the consequences affecting the pixels under my control can be used to alter my real-life behavior. Great personal benefits can be had if video games are used as a tool in this manner. That being said, it deserves mention that any tangible benefits require a conscious mind analysing the patterns of your playstyle with known goals in mind. Without this you’re just spending time mindlessly playing, while not inherently bad, fooling yourself into believing that you’re achieving some greater goal for your personal development would be unwise.
This method for aiding your personal self-knowledge journey along isn’t limited to video games. I’ve also noticed similar patterns for how I approach hiking. I typically choose known routes, with only limited exploration (although I’ve become bolder in the last year). I also always “overprepare” before venturing out, packing more water, food and supplies than I’ll likely need. The message I want to put forth is that being conscious in your daily life and looking behind the surface layer of the activities you engage in can have long-term benefits.