October 2016 | Issue 26
An adventurer's manual: life lessons from video games

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By Lauren Hwang, Assistant Director, Learning Designer, E-Learning & IT Systems & Services

Hi there!

My name is Lauren. I’m a Learning Designer. My work involves navigating the myriad ways to facilitate the learning process – not just how to feed someone up with little instructional nuggets but to make the nuggets more gastronomically appealing and nutritious. Part of my work thus extends into the realm of innovation and includes exploring gamification as an avenue of learning. As an avid gamer myself, this is an exciting area for me!

Not only do the inherent properties of most digital games, such as goal-directed challenges and real-time feedback, align with ideal approaches to medical education, video games often provide invaluable life lessons. Here are some that I’ve picked up from my favourite games and characters:

1. Pay attention to details
To the untrained eye, a Call of Duty match may look like a mess of random players running around shooting at everything and nothing. In reality, it is more like an intricate piece of dance choreography (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right...); an elaborate interplay of players interacting with the environment and each other, where the line differentiating success and certain death can be the failure to notice that flash of pixel, the angle of that grenade throw or the decision to reload. The same applies in life. Be attentive or you’ll miss out on all the details that add up to success or failure.

2. Be yourself
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Play to your strengths and work around or work to correct your weaknesses. Just as a mage wouldn’t mêlée, you’ll be much more successful if you can recognise your personal strengths and put yourself in a position to capitalise on them while working to correct your weaknesses. As Yosuke from Persona 4 observes, "Just being born, living your life… before you know it, you’re already special to someone.” If people do not like you for who you are, it’s their loss for not cherishing someone who is authentic and true. Be yourself and you will attract others who hold the same value.

3. Show empathy and kindness always
Treat others with the same kindness and understanding with which you would like to be treated. Elder Scrolls Oblivion, Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect award Karma Meter points for getting out of hairy situations without resorting to combat. Doing good deeds in Red Dead Redemption also raises your karma meter, which results in random people presenting you gifts. Staying your blade also gets you more fame, faster than killing your charges would have. In real life, when you extend kindness and empathy to everyone, you’ll find that you will get a lot more in return. It may not necessarily be from the people that you want it from but the more often you’re kinder to others, the more often you’ll find yourself the recipient of random acts of kindness. “You don’t need a reason to help others,” says Zidane Tribal from Final Fantasy IX.

4. Never stop learning
Imagine if your chosen hero suddenly proclaimed at level 8, “I have enough spells now!” or “I don’t need to learn any more new abilities!” Just as learning new skills and abilities is crucial to the empowerment of your character, so is this true in real life. Live a life of significance. Do not close yourself off from other greater opportunities that lie in wait for you. It is only by increasing your understanding of the world and all that is around you that you will be able to make an impact, or as Ansem of Kingdom Hearts puts it: “One who knows nothing can understand nothing.”

5. There is more than one path to success
There are five ways to win Civilization V; domination, cultural, scientific or diplomatic victory or high score. You could start out thinking of scoring a win through a diplomatic victory, but find yourself in later stages on track for domination. Life seldom pans out the way we plan it. As GLADoS from Portal says, “There’s no use crying over every mistake, just keep on trying until you run out of cake.” The lesson here, however, is to keep in mind that there is more than one way to achieve that life goal we have set our sights on. When one door closes on us, don’t linger too long and fail to recognise that another is open elsewhere.

6. Always give thanks and recognition when it is due
In games like Dynasty Warriors Empires for example, your officers can walk away or defect mid-battle if they have not been given their due rewards ( i.e. salary not paid in full ). Never forget to say “Thank you” and give recognition when it is due. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, this simple act of acknowledgment and affirmation is usually lost and buried beneath the mundane monotony of repetitive tasks, flurry of activity or tension that deadlines bring. Everyone can appreciate an affirming word and this act is an essential building block to nurturing lasting relationships. As Toad tells Mario in Super Mario Bros, “Thank you Mario! But our Princess is in another castle!” – never forget the people who have helped you along the journey.

Enjoy the journey!