A Gamer’s Guide to Life: Part 2

Let’s review, shall we? Here’s what we’ve established: we’re all gamers. We’ve all spent way too long in front of a monitor or television, controller in hand, trying to beat the boss or get to the next level. We’ve all heard that nagging voice – it usually sounds a lot like a parent or spouse – asking us rhetorically why we are wasting our lives playing games.

Why, indeed. I mean, what is this life we’re wasting? What’s the goal? More to the point, what makes life worth living? What makes us happy?

Think about a time when you were really, deep in your gut, happy. Not just chill. Or wasted. And not just jacked on endorphins because you ran a marathon. I am willing to bet that you felt so good because you pushed yourself a little and in the end, accomplished something awesome. You muscled through the bleeding finger stage and really learned to shred on guitar, or you worked your ass off paying for school and going to classes and didn’t think the day would ever come but suddenly, there you are with degree in hand. And you did it. No. You did it.

It felt good, right? Lots of studies have shown what’s ultimately a no-duh, no brainer idea: what makes us happy is challenge and accomplishment. Specifically, pushing past limits, setting goals, and making them happen.

We’re not talking about little, whimpy goals like “lose 10 pounds” but bigass goals that basically require a reboot of who you are or what you do. Those are the kinds of goals that really motivate you. Not to bum anyone out, but at some point, one of those big goals will be forced upon you, goals like “survive cancer,” or “find a new career when my old one went belly up.” It’s good to know that you have some strategies already sitting in the chamber.

I know. It would be nice – and way easier – if things (and that includes people) made you happy. Watch a few episodes of Hoarders or Jerry Springer, or even just think back on your own experience, and you got to admit, the shiny new toys and shiny new relationships don’t keep the shiny for long. Whole philosophies have been built on this one idea.

I promised that this series would take your hard-earned gaming skills and let you apply them to something important – not that games aren’t important, of course. Let’s start with strategy games and what they can teach us about…well…strategy.


It’s been a few years since a good one (well, Starcraft 2 was pretty good) made a splash, but once upon a time, the market was awash with real time strategy games, from Command and Conquer to Age of Empires to Rise of Legends. There were two basic strategies that players used then, and still use today.

Turtlers spent most of the game building up massive armies and piles of defensive units behind uber-fortified walls and towers. When the enemy attacked, the turtlers played the game of attrition: sooner or later the foe would (theoretically) expend all their units and resources trying to invade, and the turtle would (hopefully) mop up the map from the now depleted enemy.

At the other end of the strategy spectrum were the rapid expanders, who tried to capture as much of the map as possible and as quickly as their resources would allow. The obvious downside was trying to defend the ever-expanding territory.

So, what’s your strategy? When faced with a challenge, do you hunker down and turtle, or act on impulse? Let’s say, for example, you think it’s time to ask for a raise. Do you spend your time constructing elaborate scenarios about why you deserve it, waiting and waiting for just the right moment-which, by the way, never seems to come-immobile and afraid of failure? Or do you brashly just say screw it, and hit the boss up for that raise right now, not really sure what to do or say if the bossman says no.

Watch some professional eSports Starcraft matches. What winning strategy gamers learned is successful players do a little of both. They do their research, they gather reasonably strong resources but put at least some attention on putting themselves out there. When the time is right, they act with confidence, they expand, they move forward. But-and this is important-always with a plan for what if. 

We’re not talking about the dreaded and often touted “fallback career” that your worried parents tried to suggest when you said you wanted to devote your life to being the first professional Rock Band bass player. Have a fallback career and at the first sucker punch life throws at you, it’ll look pretty tempting.

In strategy games, winners don’t just throw all of their units into an all or nothing rush, they make sure that somewhere on the map, they have a hidden base, churning out units for when the strike force gets wiped out. Same in life. When the boss shoots down that request for a raise, go to plan B. Good players have a plan B.

So, when you want that raise: turtle a bit first. Gather some intel. Do what you can to create a position of strength from which to act. Make yourself frickin’ invaluable by being so good, so reliable, and so positive that even if you get shot down, you can regroup from a place of power. You can’t turtle all the time, or twenty-five years down the line you’ll wake up and wonder where your life has gone. But you can’t do the lose cannon thing, either. Most of the time, it doesn’t work.


“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”









Mark Steighner

The author Mark Steighner

Mark Steighner is a composer, playwright, teacher, musician, and videogamer from the Pacific Northwest. He’s also a grandfather and older than the rest of the EB staff combined. Just goes to show that one can put off actual maturity for a really long time.