Virtual to Reality: The Important Lessons Games Taught Me
Over the holidays I managed to pick up my very own copy of Super Smash Bros. Wii U, to see what all the hype was all about. You can only imagine my delight to find the same fighting game I remembered with so many new ideas and improvements. What surprised me, however, was how hard of a time I had with it. Super Smash Bros. 4 boasts fast pace gameplay where every second of action counts, and one wrong move can punish you extremely.
As I began to tackle the challenges that presented themselves in the game, I grew increasingly frustrated with every failure that crossed my screen. Frankly it gave me a headache. After each loss I would just shake it off and try it again, though, determined to complete the challenge set before me. I didn't succeed on the second or third tries, or even the twentieth time. Each death taught me how to improve to better tackle the mission. Each try brought me that much closer to success until I finally caught it.
Every game sets out with the mission to teach the player something. Some obvious examples of learning within games include mastery of controls, understanding of mechanics, or even special plot evolutions within the story. However, games have also done a lot to teach me real things about the real world and how to cope with it. Skills I've acquired from video games have rolled over not only into other games but into the real world as well, and I'm not just talking about excellent eye-hand coordination.
Video games have a tendency of teaching us lessons that we don't necessarily realise we are learning until we go back and evaluate ourselves after-the-fact. For those of us who have played games for as long as we can remember, this is a lifetime of knowledge that amassed by adapting to situations presented to us not only in our physical lives but in our gaming lives as well.
So forget about all those nay-sayers, who tell you that video games are for dweebs who live in their mother's basements. Anyone can pick up a video game and learn from it, especially if you are having fun doing it. What it is you end up learning . . . well, that depends on the game.
6 Important Lessons From Video Games
The following list consists of a few games that I have indulged in and felt like I brought something out of it. Keep in mind, I have played games since I was a toddler and learned some of the most rudimentary lessons on the games of the 90s. Furthermore, you'll find my list is in no particular order, and will only include games that I have hands-on experience with.
What better way to start off my collection of learning experiences than with the game that inspired me to write this list? Portal 2 is a sequel to Valves famous Half Life tie in, Portal, which expanded on the original concept of shooting portals at walls enough to turn it into its own full-blown game. For those of you who don't already know, Portal is a puzzle-platforming game where you use a gun to shoot two different color portals that you utilize to clear cleverly designed stages. Each stage becomes increasingly more complex as you clear them, and each one seems to take just a little more effort than the last.
A study came out recently that measured how a person's cognitive skills increased from playing games, by measuring Portal 2--a game designed for fun--against Lumosity--the website with multiple games designed for brain training. Before and after sending participants off for 8 hours of total gameplay, they took tests on problem solving, spatial thinking, and persistence. Those who played Portal 2 showed a "statistically significant advantage" over those who played Lumosity in all three areas; meanwhile, Lumosity players showed no significant improvement in any sort of measure.
That certainly explains why every time I came out of Portal 2 I felt like I could build something epic in Minecraft. I've sunk several hours into Portal 2 and can say its unique puzzle-platforming elements work wonders for learning to think outside of the box, especially in Co-Op mode.
Sometimes I would get stuck on a level for an hour or more tinkering with it and trying to find the best way--or dare I say the only way--to the exit. Portal 2 isn't something that you can just pick up and breeze through after your first playthrough. Each time I return to it, I find I have continued difficulty with many puzzles. I find it would take the average person multiple consecutive playthroughs to memorize every level in the campaign.
Portal 2 is a great puzzle-platformer that keeps you perfectly engaged with its wittingly humorous storyline.
Shoutout to the original Portal for teaching me clever problem solving techniques for all types of situations.
Pokemon is one of the few game franchises that I follow religiously to this day--but I didn't used to. After the amazing time I had with Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon Emerald from the third generation, my love of Pokemon just shut off for a while.
It wasn't really anybody's fault but society's. At that point, I was learning that Pokemon was for kids and since I was a girl I probably shouldn't be playing games anyway.
I didn't really let other people deter me away from playing my games, but they did manage to keep me away from Pokemon for many consecutive years. When I finally returned to it, I started to wonder why I had ever abandoned the games to begin with.
Pokemon has effectively showed me that it's okay to like something that other people think is a bit weird, childish, or different. If a game appeals to me, then I'm not going to feel bad about playing it. If you have a problem with this, you can take it up with my Mega Gardevoir.
Fable: The Lost Chapters
With Fable's unique system that changes your character depending on if you're doing good or evil deeds, it's easy to assume that I would claim my sense of morality from this game. That, however, couldn't be further from the truth. My mother set up my basic moral fibre, this game only helped it encompass people who are a bit different.
Before I played Fable, I hadn't even heard of a game that would let you court anyone, regardless of their gender. And it's not that you could pick your gender in the game and they simply didn't care enough to put restrictions on it, because the only playable character is in fact male, but they let you marry men all the same.
Fable: The Lost Chapters helped me mature, and accept that there are different kinds of love in the world, and that not everybody is going to have the same preferences. There are men who marry men, and there's nothing anyone can do to change that.
It's nice to see other video games picking up this trend over time, and providing experiences that fit closely with different peoples' preferences. Any game that brings truthful awareness to difficult social taboos is a great game in my book.
The Elder Scrolls
I unwrapped The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind GOTY Edition on my birthday after the release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion--not like I even knew the first thing about the series to begin with.
Excited, I installed the game to my PC and booted it up. My experience with it was amazing and I got a really great pleasure from playing it. It was the most open world I had ever had the privilege of exploring in its fullest then. After a few beginner missions, the game opened up and let me choose my own paths--and it definitely wasn't lacking.
When Oblivion's predecessor--The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim--finally hit the shelves in 2011, I was completely engrossed in the game. Between the PS3 and PC versions, I have clocked well over 300 hundred hours into Skyrim. The time I spent in these massive worlds taught me a lesson that took awhile to learn.
There are a lot more choices than I thought there were. To this day, I find something new every time I play an Elder Scrolls game. This concept is something that easily rolled over into reality, by making me realize how many extra paths I could take for my life.
It also works as an inductive intelligence check--If I thought I saw it all, I was definitely wrong. It leaves me with a constant thirst for more knowledge, in an attempt to learn as much as I can, but makes sure I don't forget that I can never know it all.
At the core, The Elder Scrolls series has always been filled to the brim with unique lore and boasts a completely open world to explore at any time you want. I'm excited to see what they think of for The Elder Scrolls VI.
Shoutout to Everquest Online, being the only open world game I played before The Elder Scrolls. I played some of my dad's secondary characters for him in his adventures; the awe and wonder the game struck in me inspired me to delve deeper into the world of video games.
Fantasy Life is a little known 3DS game that tackles a charming mix of gameplay I haven't seen before in a video game. In Fantasy Life, you get to live the life you want, whether that means you get to fight baddies and save the world from its demise, or you want to mix potions in some stuffy old lab.
No matter what it is you feel like doing, Fantasy Life pulls through. Go ahead, buy a vacation home in every town, and take up carpentry to make furniture for your house. You need a better shield? Smith yourself one!
Fantasy Life is a game that I will take pleasure in completing the small tasks. Everything that you are given to do feels like it has its own purpose in the world.
As I played through Fantasy Life, it slowly taught me that if I don't slow down to take everything in, I will miss a lot in life. It spins a new perspective on the world, like putting a new pair of spectacles on.
Don't underestimate the value of simple things in our world. Sometimes, the simplest of things can end up meaning the most.
Shoutout to Animal Crossing for teaching me patience; at least some obscure form of it!
Super Smash Bros. 4
Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS are stellar games. I'll admit that I didn't believe in the Smash hype before I got my hands on a copy of the game, but it truly turned out better than I ever could have expected it.
Prior to Super Smash Bros. 4, I filled my Smash needs with the original N64 game and Super Smash Bros. Melee on the GameCube. I've clocked more hours than I would like to admit on Melee.
With Super Smash Bros. 4, the game actually feels built from the ground up with competitive players in mind. I have such a difficult time trying to clear the challenges. Even without fantastic internet access to enjoy online play, the game is still difficult, challenging, and extremely frustrating.
It didn't take long for me to feel the groove of Smash, however, as I stopped getting frustrated from all of my failures and instead continued to push forward because I knew that I would make it eventually. Every hurt is a lesson and every lesson makes you stronger.
Super Smash Bros. 4 taught me that no matter how tough the goings get, I should never give up. Practice is the only thing that'll make you better, after all.
My recent revelation with Super Smash Bros. even inspired me to write an in-depth article about how it helped me deal with the stress of failure.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we are learning something whenever we play a game that we find inherently fun. It just doesn't feel like we are learning anything at the time because, well, it is a fun experience.
Video games have done well to teach me some important lessons I otherwise might not have received. The experiences and memories that I have of gaming are invaluable and I wouldn't trade them for the world.
I'm surprised at the sheer amount of knowledge that is gleamed by playing something that is so fun and exciting. After all, it's hard to realize you're learning something when you're having fun. I'm very interested in hearing what kinds of things you have learned from playing games. Sound off below!