Persistence: Gaming's Greatest Teaching
Playing Rogue Legacy, Spelunky, Volgarr the Viking, Hotline Miami, and Risk of Rain, games that can be excruciatingly difficult at times, and these games have me wondering what it is that keeps me crawling back for more. The simple answer would be that some of these games have leveling systems that just plain work. The sophisticated answer? These games are helping players like me build a strong sense of persistence.
The aforementioned titles are all about countless retries, repeated moments of “I can do so much better, let me have another go.” Maybe it is merely the stats that keep me from rage quitting, I'd probably fully agree with that point if it wasn't for Volgarr the Viking, possibly the hardest game I've ever played, which has zero stats whatsoever – and even forces you to start from the beginning of the game every time you decide to log back on, retro style.
As tedious as restarting the game sounds, it doesn't keep me from playing the hell out of it. My increasing persistence allows me to memorize each stage and eventually even master them. If Volgarr kept count of how many times I've died in my five or so hours of playtime, it'd be embarrassing to repeat here. Nonetheless, my persistence reigns true in this title especially, and nothing stops me from trying again and again to clear each stage.
One of my proudest nerd moments was the time I beat the Forgotten One (above) from the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow DLC Resurrection. The entire DLC was this one, huge boss fight that had me pulling my hair out for a good hour and a half. The sense of relief I felt when I took the beast down is not exclusive to gaming.
I get the same feeling when acing a test I thought I'd done poorly on even after studying hard. Or after I've written a piece of fiction that receives positive feedback from multiple critics. Sure, it was one test, and sure, the critics might have been a few friends and family members - but if you're persistent, you have permission to feel a wave of relief at the finish line.
My theory is that enduring consistent struggles in something like a video game can carry over into the real world. As a student and creative writer, persistence is armor I want and truly need. Basically, small victories like slaying the Forgotten One might help me shake off potential rejections when I try to get my writing published someday.
Rogue Legacy (above) tallied up my playthroughs recently after I'd completed the game. I died two hundred and thirty-four times. Two hundred and thirty-four. That's a pretty insane number of deaths. Why I kept jumping back into the castle full of things that wanted to kill me – and did kill me – could arguably have been because of the title's level functionality, but I'm willing to bet it's because, subconsciously, I knew I could do better.
Failures in life can't be undone with a simple respawn or redo, but you can always pick yourself back up after you've fallen and try again. Especially, I've found, when it comes to writing. Your skill with a pen improves over time, practicing constantly with some inevitable flops. Keep your pen in hand long enough and you could write something people really dig.
J.K. Rowling was famously rejected twelve times when trying to publish her phenomenon Harry Potter. Lesser known fact, after being rejected because his story was too violent, author Chuck Palahniuk wrote an even more disturbing piece to piss his editor off. This work is today known as Fight Club, a book that spawned a cult classic film directed by David Fincher. When life (editors, coaches, parents, et cetera) knocks you down, and it will, come back swinging. Hell, start a fight club.