Latest posts by Han Cilliers (see all)
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I’ve been playing video games for more than three decades, and it has taught me invaluable life lessons. It is so much more than entertainment or an escape; it even helped shaped my personality in many ways. Not only did gaming and the culture around it teach me a lot about myself, but also about life and other people. If you allow it, video games can be that catalyst for change you need.
Earlier this month, we talked about a new study that claims video games increase aggressive behaviour. Over the past few years, we’ve seen so many articles that reflect that sentiment. If there is a shooting at a school – it’s because the person played violent video games. Be that as it may, for once, I wanted to talk about the positive side of playing video games.
So, allow me to tell you about those times that video games taught me invaluable life lessons.
The shyest kid on the block gets some balls
I was always like a ghost in our house. I even got a fright from hearing my voice; it was that bad. I was timid and fearful of other people and also stopped talking for a while.
Back in the day when I started playing video games, online gaming wasn’t a thing yet. My salvation was single-player games, and I loved the solitude that came with escaping into those magical worlds. Even when online gaming did become more accessible, I chose to keep gaming a private thing, scared that if I allowed others into that space, it would somehow contaminate it. But then in October 2007, my husband convinced me to try a few rounds of Team Fortress 2. And the rest is history.
I was hooked, even though I still refused to interact or talk with any of the people who shared a gaming session with me. To make a long story short, I played well enough that I was recruited to play competitively, and I ended up forming my own clan. Naturally, I had to overcome my shyness and fear of talking. We eventually became the top team in SA, and being part of that journey changed things in me I never thought possible.
I overcome so much, and TF2 showed me that even the shyest, most timid person can shed that skin and become more. In December 2010 I started playing World of Warcraft, and my online journey continued from one game to the next. Today, there is hardly a trace left of that awkward girl who refused to speak over the mic.
Playing video games taught me that there is strength hidden inside of me to confront my deepest insecurities. I still love solitude, and I am still an introvert, but when the situation calls for it, I can step up to the plate.
Accessing my inner dialogue
With Telltale being in the news recently it reminded me about the most profound experience I had in playing Season 1 of The Walking Dead. The shocking choices you have to make in the game forces you to tap into your inner dialogue. It was the first time a game had that effect on me. It forced me to stop thinking; then demanded I reevaluate my opinion on things like mercy killing, friendship, suicide, love, survival, parenting, and violence. It was a powerful experience, and I wanted more.
In my years of gaming, I’ve come across several such moments while playing a video game. Be it something I do or see, a conversation I have, a moment, or a feeling – it would open that door in my mind and take me to a place beyond gaming.
To a place within myself. There it guides me through my thought processes or it lays bare a feeling that needs addressing. I recall games like Papo and Yo, Hellblade, To The Moon, Dear Esther – these all took me on that personal journey of discovery.
It taught me that life can teach you invaluable things even when you’re playing a video game – especially when you’re playing a video game.
Think outside the damn box
Video games are made up of rules; find the rule and you have the key that unlocks progression. However, some of the “rules” I’ve come across when playing a video game first attempted to give me a brain melt.
I love puzzle games, and I’ve come across some that demand the player think outside the box or give up. Inside, The Franz Kafka Videogame, and Limbo are a few examples of puzzle games that pushed my buttons.
But it isn’t just puzzle games that can push you to think beyond the obvious; it’s something I’ve come across in almost every video game I’ve played. There’s always a mystery to solve, a treasure to find, a secret to unlock, or an obstacle to overcome. For some reason, a lot of non-gamers seem to think gaming is only about shooting someone in the face. They’ve obviously not played a Just Cause game where you can do things like make a statue facepalm itself.
Besides the obvious challenges mentioned, it was in playing competitively that I learnt the most to think outside the box. It’s one thing to outsmart AI, and quite another thing when your opponent is human. “Outwit. Outsmart. Outplay.” should be the tagline for competitive gaming.
I’ve elaborated on three life lessons video games taught me, but there are lots more. Teamwork, remaining respectful when involved in heated online discussions, don’t give into rage, don’t feed the trolls. Stand up for what you believe especially when it’s the unpopular opinion. I can go on and on.
Playing video games have enriched my life is so many ways, and I will forever be grateful to this wonderful medium. I hope you have a few stories of your own that you’ll share with us.