This post has been modified and updated on steemit!
You can learn so much from games. In fact, gaming is compelling to us precisely because it teaches us. Games provides a safe training ground to learn the skills we need in life without risking real danger. After playing and designing games professionally for over 15 years, here are the four greatest lessons I’ve learned.
1. Take Responsibility
Back when I played on the Magic: the Gathering Professional Tour, I would regularly play games with tens of thousands of dollars on the line. I regularly got “unlucky” with my draws and could regale my friends with stories of these “bad beats.”
Telling these stories felt good, but I spent most of my time focusing not on how luck turned against me, but on what I could learn from the experience. Where can I make different decisions to help the odds be more in my favor next time? I use my failures to focus in on how I can change my behavior and learn so that I will grow.
Things will always go wrong. You can’t control fate, but you can control your responses to it. Take responsibility for everything in your life. Take the attitude that you are the author of your fate, regardless of the circumstance. This empowers you to learn from every setback. Always ask yourself: “What can I do better next time?”
2. Work Hard
If you want to be good at games, you have to play a lot of games. The more practice I put into playing Magic, the better my results. In 1997 I won the US National Championships. I then became the first US National Champion in history to not win the World Team Championships. I was devastated.
It took me nearly 6 years to work my way back onto the US National team. Once I made it, I practiced non-stop to ensure that the title would come back to the US. I even flew out my teammates to ensure they practiced with me. In a dramatic final match, we were able to secure victory at the World Championships in 2003.
There is no substitute for hard work. Be willing to work hard if you care about a goal. If there is one universal difference between champions and everyone else, it is this.
3. Have Concrete, Measurable Goals.
One of the beautiful things about playing games is that they provide concrete goals and feedback. Achievements, levels, and point totals make progress easy to track. When we set goals in life, it is often very hard to measure our progress. Life goals such as “Be Successful” “Have a Great Relationship” and “Be Happy” are very difficult to quantify and the path to achieving these goals is often very obscure. How do I even know if I am on the right track?
In games, you know what your goal is, you know the rules, and you know whether or not you’ve achieved the goal. Furthermore, games regularly provide you with rewards and feedback that help drive you forward. Concrete, measurable goals make learning and improving much easier.
Use this knowledge to “gamify life” and make your goals and progress more concrete. Goals such as “Get in Shape” can be refined to “Have 15% bodyfat by December.” You can also add in rules and subgoals along with rewards (e.g. Exercise 20 minutes 3 times a week for the first month and get rewarded with a new game purchase). Using this basic system, you can use the fun of games to help accomplish real life goals.
4. Enjoy the Process
Its cliche to say that its not about whether you win or lose but its how you play the game, but its true. Above, I told stories about some of my tournament victories and defeats, but honestly those are not the things that have stuck with me the most over the years.
What gives me the most joy are the friendships I built and the amazing experiences we had together. Winning and losing a game (even with big prizes on the line) rarely matters in the grand scheme of things. If you don’t stay focused on enjoying the process and the day to day of your life, none of your lofty goals matter. Having goals and wanting to win is great, but don’t lose sight of the fact that winning at games or your life goals isn’t worth anything if you can’t enjoy the experience and make meaningful connections along the way.
In Short: Own your Path, Work Hard, Work Smart and Enjoy the Ride. Now get out there and play!