A Gamer’s Guide to Life, Part 3

You’re a gamer, so you’ve spent a healthy amount of time platforming, jumping, shooting, and dodging, fingers flying over the controller in a precise ballet of digital coordination. You’ve memorized levels, challenged and re-challenged bosses, collected every coin, unlocked every power-up, and proudly seen your name on top of the leaderboard.

On second thought, maybe calling it a healthy amount of time is more than a little ironic. In any case-you can worry about that mountain of Red Bull empties and the permanent butt-shape in the sofa later-you stuck with it. Your single-minded perseverance saw you through to the end credits of that New Game +7 playthrough.

Or did it?

Because maybe you didn’t see it through. Maybe that boss in Dark Souls just kicked your ass one too many times, so you bailed, got bored, rage quit, blamed the bug-infested game and idiot developers.

I’ve known lots of gamers-and I bet you have, too-who have invested every waking hour of their life in chasing some arbitrary goal in a game, yet have trouble holding onto a job or a relationship, passing a class, or maintaining a baseline acceptable amount of personal hygiene. They obviously have the ability to focus, concentrate and commit. Just not to real life. Why?

The answer is pretty obvious. Games are carefully and diabolically designed to reward the player at frequent intervals, to provide a steady drip of brain-altering happy chemicals that seduce the player into just sticking with it a few more minutes, which turn into hours. We’ve all awakened from the Civ all-nighter and blearily wondered where the hell the time went.

But everyday life and the (shudder) real world don’t work that way. Life sometimes unexpectedly rewards us with surprising good fortune, but mostly, the big payoffs come at the end of a long process with little or no immediate reward. In real life, you can’t overturn every trashcan you see or break your cooworker’s desk in the hopes of finding a hidden pile of gold or a sweet magic sword. Well, I guess you can. But you’re gonna be disappointed.

I’m told that Entertainment Buddha‘s demographic is mostly males, 20-40. Having once been in that slice of pie-chart myself, let me say that I know the challenges well. It’s a time when we’re still using the instruction manual that came with our childhood and teens and it isn’t doing us any good. We want success now. We want toys and partners and money now. After all, in games we are rewarded immediately.

By the way, have you noticed that there are fewer and fewer real grown ups in your world?  I don’t mean chronologically, ’cause there are plenty of those. I mean grown ups, mature people, who have mastered the big secret.

Which is?

It’s simple, really. And one that you, as a persevering gamer, can apply to your life. The big secret is delayed gratification. That’s it. The ability to put off the really big reward for later and not chase after every little momentary perk or pleasure or cheap reward that comes along right now. This is so important, it might be the entire definition of true adulthood.

You see, at dozens of junctures throughout your day-and tens of thousands during your life-you have choices. Not fake choices like in an RPG, but real ones. Almost always, these choices involve short term pleasure versus long term gain. Do you do your paper now (short term pain but long term reward) or waste the next four hours watching random YouTube videos(short term pleasure, long term pain). Do you get your lazy ass off the couch and work out (short term pain, long term reward) or stuff another wad of stuft-crust pizza into your piehole and continue your days-long Tanked marathon (short term pleasure, long term pain).

I hope you’re not one of them, but there are some dudes (and ladies) who never make the choice to put off the reward until later. They’re usually the ones with the maxed out credit card, repossessed car, and a steady stream of jobs that somehow, all had unfair and demanding bosses.

Here’s the awesome, terrible, scary truth: your entire life is nothing but an endless series of choices. It’s all you got, the rest is just smoke and mirrors. Make a bunch of bad choices and you lose. Keep making good ones and pretty soon, things start to go your way.

As a gamer,  you have the determination. You know what it’s like to flex that obstinate, intractable muscle that sees you through to the end. But when you use it in a game, you get the gold immediately or ding the next level in WoW. 

What if you used your powers for good? Your own good.

What if you used them to grow up?


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

Tags : gamers
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.