Jonathan Harrison moves beyond demonizing video games to find an essential life practice they teach players.
Video games often get a bad rap for being a waste of time, contributing to antisocial behavior, or even inspiring terrible violence. Often overlooked is their potential as an unrivaled source of learning and an untapped mechanism for teaching life principles.
Men who are in their late twenties up through their forties have experienced some of the most challenging digital tests of persistence known to man. High difficulty, limited resources, and rules that could erase hours’ worth of effort are familiar aspects of video games for those of us who grew up with Pac Man, Tetris, Contra, and Battletoads. An iron will, practice, and persistence were required to ever see the ending screen of many games from the 80’s and 90’s.
And this persistence places us in good company.
History Remembers Persistence
Consider for a moment the universal trait of world changing men like: Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and Albert Einstein. All shared this virtue in common: persistence.
Consider a more modern example from the musician, Klayton (Celldweller) who embodies the very idea of persistence in his life and career path. Facing incredibly difficult odds, he challenged the traditional system and created his own record label, positioning his music in countless Film, TV and video games (Assassins Creed 2, Dead Rising 2, and Need For Speed: Most Wanted).
His secret? When asked, he said the following: “PERSIST! The only reason I’m here today is because I was too dumb or stubborn to quit the many times that I was told to or circumstance probably suggested.”
The element of persistence is vital in the many roles that men face. When I consider my success in the various roles and responsibilities of life, persistence was at the heart of every win. Here are a few examples from my own experience.
As a Husband
If it was not for my persistence, I never would have ended up with my wife. Knowing she was way out of my league, I had to be persistent (but not creepy). My persistence finally paid off, I got the date and six months later we were married.
She told me that she loves that I was persistent in this way. Almost twelve years later, a different kind of persistence is required to remind her how much she is loved, even with crazy schedules, work, and a toddler who seems to never sleep.
As a Father
I see this as an incredibly important lesson to pass on to my son. As he is learning to read, patience and persistence is absolutely necessary. I have to model for him how important it is not to give up when things are difficult, but to keep trying and sometimes take a new approach when one method is not working. It has been so rewarding to watch him do more and more for himself as he is developing a trait that I know will be key to his success in life.
As an Employee
In any season of your work life, persistence pays off. Looking for a job? Be persistent in your search, and pursuit of the job you want. Looking for a promotion? You have to be worth more before you can earn more, so persistently seek out opportunities to provide value and make a difference. Are you content with where you are in your career? Chances are you only got there through persistence, and you will not stay there long if you do not persist in the behaviors that put you there in the first place.
As an Entrepreneur
No entrepreneur can be successful without persistence. The most difficult time for an entrepreneur is during what Michael Hyatt refers to as the “Messy Middle.” Many video games can provide inspiration for how to overcome this area with proper pacing and creative milestones.
Video games area really good at celebrating the steps along the way, even in ways that are as simple as the positive encouragement through the words: “you win!,” special animations, music, story cutscenes, or unlocking new items, weapons, tools, or equipment in pursuit of your goal. All these features give a sense of payoff for your hard work. Nothing motivates like a sense of winning early on in a project or new venture.
Consider the idea of “leveling up” from video games. As you progress, your level increases. In most games, moving from level 1 to level 2 takes very little time when compared to moving from level 50 to level 51.
Too often in the business world we set our goal to achieve level 51, only to forget about the celebration and recognition of achieving levels 1 through 50. Failing to set milestones along the way can kill the motivation needed to persist.
Why Video Games Help to Build Persistence
Another key factor in persistence that video games can teach us is the required element of hope. Part of what keeps us motivated in playing video games, is the hope or expectation that what we are trying to do actually can be accomplished. That is why points, items, trophies, achievements, and unlockable bonuses in video games are so important. They give us hope that our persistence will pay off.
Next time you face a challenge as a husband, father, employee or entrepreneur, remember that if you were playing a video game, the obstacle would never keep you from winning. Vince Lombardi said it well: “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” Years later, Lightning from Final Fantasy XII said “It’s not a question of can or can’t … in life there are some things you just do.”
Our roles as men are far more important than our roles in video games, but if we examine and apply the lessons that make us successful in video games, real world success will soon follow.