Thursday, February 20, 2014

Required reading: a gamer's strategy guide to life


One of the tricks you learn early on in life is to view tedious or unavoidable situations in familiar and fun gaming terms.

Stuck on a bad date?  Think of it as a chance to raise your Social Rank with that particular NPC.

Need to study or do your homework?  Shit, son, that's going to add at least +5 to your Academics or Knowledge scores.

But rarely do we ever stop and look at life itself as one, big game.  The perils in this approach are obvious - we'd kill every other randomly encountered stranger in the hopes of grinding up levels or dollars - but there's also a lot of good that can be gleaned from this methodology as well.

Oliver Emberton took this idea to the extreme(ly awesome) with a recent article titled Life is a game. This is your strategy guide - and it should be required reading for every mother's son or father's daughter what that calls themselves a gamer.


What makes Emberton's guide so compelling - other than his writing, which is as concise as it is excellent - are the nuggets of wisdom he's plucked from his 34 years on this humble dustball of ours.

Consider his take on youth:

"The first 15 years or so of life are just tutorial missions, which suck. There’s no way to skip these."

And then young adulthood:

"As a young player, you’ll have lots of time and energy, but almost no experience. You’ll find most things – like the best jobs, possessions and partners – are locked until you get some.

This is the time to level up your skills quickly. You will never have so much time and energy again."

And you'll have a good idea what you can glean from all of this.  It's the sort of advice your parents and extended family tried to give you on the eve of your high school graduation but you ignored - if you're anything like me - because you thought you knew better.

Perhaps it's because I'm now much closer in age to Emberton than my high school self, but I wish more that someone had put together a strategy guide like this for me when I still had my college years ahead of me.

If you're in that situation - or if you're looking for a great read regardless - head over to Emberton's site and read this is your strategy guide in full.  It's only 1,300 words or so long, it's full of wry, pixelated graphics, and it ends with this somber call to arms:

"At the start of the game, you had no control over who you were or your environment. By the end of the game that becomes true again. Your past decisions drastically shape where you end up, and if you’re happy, healthy, fulfilled – or not – in your final days there’s far less you can do about it.  

That’s why your strategy is important. Because by the time most of us have figured life out, we’ve used up too much of the best parts.  

Now you’d best get playing."

Words, I feel, we all should pay attention to regardless of where we are in our strategy - although I'll quibble that the best parts are all in where you find them.