Gaming My Way

22 Mar

Personal Development Through Gaming

There are two main ways I look at this topic, as I see the uses of video games and tabletop games as quite different when looking at the idea of personal development.

First, I want to talk about video games. David Sirlin talks about this concept in his book and articles Playing to Win. The idea is that, as you get better at games, you have a way to objectively measure your progress in how often or how effectively you win at a game. If you begin to win more often in a multiplayer game, it’s likely you have become better with the skills that game requires. If you begin to finish a single player game with a faster time, on a harder difficulty, or with fewer lives lost, you could make the same claim. Now, this may not always matter, but perhaps the skills the game tests are actually useful. For instance, I’ve been playing a lot of Minesweeper lately.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Minesweeper is a game in which mines are randomly placed throughout a grid, and when you click on a square, it tells you how many mines are around that square. Using logic, you’re supposed to figure out where the mines are hidden without clicking on a single mine. If you click a mine, you lose. So you figure out strategies you can use to find mines with little chance of clicking on one. It’s a game that involves both pattern recognition with a bit of critical thinking. And if you want more challenge, there’s a clock that keeps track of your time so you can see how long it’s taken you to figure out where they are. The game can be strangely addicting. And as you get better, you know you’ve become better at recognizing patterns and can think about them in a new way. Although you’re specifically figuring out what you need to win, it may just be that those skills you learn could be useful elsewhere. Many jobs are looking for people with critical thinking and logic skills after all, and while Minesweeper won’t get you the job, it may just keep your mind in shape. And if you throw time in the mix, then you can train yourself to work through pattern recognition and logic in faster amounts of time by trying to beat your last record time (or in my case, just finish expert difficulty before the clock reads 999).

As far as tabletop gaming goes, it’s a bit different. In tabletop gaming, you get to create a character who could be just like you, an aspect of yourself, or completely different. Regardless, this is a chance to try things you wouldn’t try in real life because you don’t want to deal with the consequences of those actions, or you just wouldn’t want to do it real life anyway. But if you try it out in a game, the only consequences you face are in the game. Maybe you’ll fail to stop the riot happening in town, but if you do, it’s only your brave counterpart facing the angry mob, not you personally. Perhaps you wanted to try being bad, and do something like pulling of a heist. While you might never consider actually doing so in real life due to the harm you could cause others or the consequences you yourself might face, such as being thrown in jail, in a game, you only deal with characters in the game world, and if your character gets caught, well, your character ends up in jail and you roll up a new one (or try to escape). So you get the experience vicariously with your character, no one gets hurt, and you get an idea of what it might be like to try it. Or maybe you wanted to get a better idea of what leading a nation might be like, a position not open to many people, and a tough one to get. Well, play a king, or a president, perhaps even a dictator! Then you can see what it’s like to be stuck in that position for awhile and have to deal with the responsibility of running a nation. You also get the private jet out back and the treasure of the royal family.

In the end, you can try just about anything, and have it only effect those the characters in the game controlled by you, the other players, and your GM. Then you could even consider how you would deal with those same consequences, and decide if what you chose in the game was the best way to deal with a situation, or if there might have been a better way to handle it.

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