Okay so this is gonna get interesting, and a deep look into how my brain operates a lot of the time. Given my vast gaming experience, and for context I played on playstation 1-4, all xboxs besides Series X/S, all Nintendo consoles, and even built my first PC when I was 10. One could say I was pretty into the hobby, and I was for sure lucky to have the opportunity to own or play on various consoles throughout my life.
Each one left its own imprint onto me, and had unique games that changed how I viewed the world. Legend of Dragoon on PS1, Ocarina of Time on N64/3DS, Mass Effect Trilogy on Xbox 360, and even Skyrim or Spore. Let me not forget to mention two big ones in my life Harvest Moon (particularly 64 and DS), and Fallout Series (mainly 3 and new vegas), both of which I spent way too much time playing. At one point I played Fallout 3 for 9 hours straight as a teenager haha, and I only stopped because it overheated my console! 😂
It made me who I am today, and I have learned so many valuable lessons from the various games I have played. Think about how you can learn things from books or shows, but intensify that by the greater level of immersion you get from video games.
Seeing Dialogue Paths
It would be naive of me to not point out Mass Effect first when it comes to this, as every single action or really the choices, that you make all comes back to haunt you later. Now many of them are actually good, like an old friend coming to save you when you need it or something. However the choices you make center around the dialogue box:
Mass Effect Dialogue Tree
Note: For more info on these dialogue wheels check the bottom for external links to interesting pages.
This was a merch joke that exemplified the common outcomes of your choices, but it shows the differences between them well too which is why I wanted to share it. You had two options mainly, as you would often ignore the right side, the PARAGON (BLUE) or RENEGADE (RED). In the games there wasn't really a karma system like Fallout, but there was a reputation system. Whether you were an amazing paragon of justice, or an anti-hero asshole, but either way you were still the "Good guy/gal".
However having those dialogue options made me think about how conversations flow in real life. What if those same rules applied to IRL conversing, and what would they look like if they were there?
Fallout Scroll Wheel, or Compass Choices
In Fallout 3 for example there was a more simplistic HUD or view of the options, but in actuality there are more options in many cases. Depending on your Charisma level, perception, intimidation, reputation, good or bad karma, and even just if you know an area like science well.
Taking it into the Real World
When you quantify conversations like this there is some that could be lost, as like in real life your relationships are far more complex. However in most cases the interactions made in a conversation are repeated and recognizable. Such as micro-expressions, body language in general, tonality, and even the way people choose certain words.
Given those indicators you can tally up an estimate of how that person feels, or is thinking, and then base your decision on what to say next based on those indicators. Granted it takes time to learn the signs, gain the skills in conversation, and be able to do it all quickly. Of which I am still very much learning, although because of this realization I have been able to interact with many people in a better way. I just wish I remembered to do it more often!
Video game dialogue options may be limited, but those limitations are not that far off from real ways of talking. You can take the ideas of choosing the renegade or paragon choices, and see if you can come up with those conversations in your own life too!
Everyone likes having a good experience with someone, whether it is a date to the movies, finally saying hi to that person you like in the hallways at work or school, accomplishing that goal you have been reaching towards, or even just simply encountering something/someone new for the first time.
These events of our lives make up who we are, and how we react to them changes the outcome of the pathways of our life. Don't get me started on multiverse theory, and how each event in your life changes you into a different universe haha!
Still, the idea of taking an event and isolating the timeframe, and actually treating it as something special; IS what creates the special memories you have, and the feelings you have when remembering them.
Heart Events in Harvest Moon
Videogames tap into this neurological commotion, and hijack (in a good way) those feelings. Giving you the positive mindset and experience, without actually having to have lived that event.
This is how video games are built, you do an action, and create an event from that action. Although in older generations the actions or events were prescripted. In many RPG's they still are even. That means when you enter a house for the first time for example, then the NPC (non-playable character) will interact with you. Welcoming you for the first time to their home, and then in subsequent visits their words will change.
Harvest Moon and the Power of Love
All in game events have to scripted in some way, whether by a random generator such as getting monsters or chests in Diablo, or the pre-scripted way in games like Harvest Moon or other simulators. Where the characters have certain text, movements, and animations for that event. Perhaps the festivals will make a good example, in the Summer time in HM you can participate in the swimming festival at the beach. Allowing for you to see a unique animation, compete in a race, and play a mini game of sorts.
Note: When referring to Harvest Moon, I am talking about the older games, that are actually part of the Marvelous era of the series. Not the trashy new games that came out after the departure of Marvelous (creators of the games).
The events that are little more prudent to the points I am making however, are the love events for the main character in HM. Whether you are a boy or a girl, there are usually about 5 love interests for you to pursue.
In the game you have the farm you have to take care of, from crops to animals, then you often have a few in game hours at the end of the day to interact with people. You can find them on the mountain doing things by the waterfall, where you can pick up plants or chop wood, or perhaps down in the city in their respective homes/businesses.
Some events will just happen over time, such as when you first meet someone, two people arguing, other suitors for potential spouses, and various festivals. However if you give gifts to characters, including non-marriage related ones, then you can increase your friendship/love score with that person.
There are different gifts that each person likes, and you gotta either find out, or look them up lol. When you give it to them consistently each day, and if they are especially ones they really like, then the level increases much quicker.
There are about half a dozen love levels, and when you reach each one a new event occurs. Allowing you to build the relationship even farther, and when they reach the red level, then you can ask them to marry.
I bring this up because it simplifies the interactions, you talk to the person, give them a gift, two interactions there. Plus participate in other events such as family drama, or in the festivals you can sometimes invite a character to join you.
Building up a relationship, and sure life isn't that simple. However sometimes it is, sometimes by giving a gift to someone that you paid attention to know that they like it, will make that person feel happier.
Skyrim (Elder Scrolls)/Fallout Series: Random Encounters
Now these games from either series are immensely big, and ridiculously complex. There are conversations you can have with some characters that can go 12 different ways, and have profound impact on the rest of the game. Times that by an infinite number of characters, and you have those games.
In skyrim for example these little events where you randomly encounter a certain faction out in the wilderness. Or perhaps when you enter a town a dragon or some vampires will spawn an attack.
Given that these games are known for mods I have to mention that when adding mods, you can actually increase the variety and frequency of events. Making the game even more immersive. Such as when there is a patrol of two rivaling factions, and then they end up fighting. You can choose a side, or choose to down them all for extra loot.
It is just interesting the level of interactivity and play you have with events, as opposed to the fully scripted kind like in harvest moon.
In Game Achievements that Permeate (+MetaGame)
One series that comes to mind is the Pokemon franchise, so when you defeat the Elite Four/Champion, then you get pushed into the metagame. In some it is a new area, and in one of the duo games there is an entire other region to explore.
Oftentimes some characters will then refer to you as champion, or have some sort of post story game.
Throughout the game your rivals will challenge you to a battle, and those events may be scripted. However depending on choices like your starter, then their teams will change to reflect that choice. Oftentimes putting you in a "disadvantage" type wise, in the rock/paper/scissors-like element system.
Role playing games like the Pokemon series often come with some sort of level of accomplishment, such as when you beat dungeons or something. Then characters in the game will start to change how they act around you.
Viewing the HUD (Heads Up Display)
Playing video games changes how you see the world, and oftentimes you won't even realize it until after the "damage" is done. I say it like that given the commonly known saying, but it is actually really cool how positive of an impact the changes are.
The HUD is a big part of your gaming experience, without having the hud it can be hard to know how your character is feeling or what is going on in the game. Unless the game trains you to pay attention to certain behaviors. Such as a panting Link in Breath of the Wild, which means he low on health or suffering from over heating.
Whether it is because of Assassin's Creed, Tomb Raider, Dying Light, or even Mirrors Edge; I now have the ability to spot where things are climbable.
In some games they highlight or paint certain objects to let you know where to go, oftentimes you can turn that off, but by having it on it helps you plan out your route ahead of time. In Mirrors Edge especially the objects you can interact with are highlighted in red, and you can choose to go under or over, or even around in some cases.
Assassin's Creed Taught me How to Scale Buildings
Given that I spent so much time playing AC: Black Flag with my former roommates. We all started seeing things differently in the world, and we went to go see a movie. When approaching the building I noticed that there were scalable levels, you can't see too well in the image, but there were guard walls that gave you access to the next level, then you could proceed higher.
One of them made me a bet of $300 to climb the building, I doubt he would have paid it, but I highly considered then visualized how I would go about it. Given my gaming experience I charted out a pathway that would have worked. This 3D visualization has helped me in creativity, work, and even driving.
Not to mention if I ever had to escape in an zombie apocalypse. I started seeing the pathways that characters can climb, and implementing that vision into my life.
Finding the Gold Loot
Now a game I play A LOT around the time of this writing, is Apex Legends. It is a battle royale type game (think like fortnite), which has a creative way of curating each legend. They all have their own special abilities, which completely change the way you play the game. I even wrote about my favorite legend here:
The actions you take basically either get you into a fight (a good thing), or help you survive the ever closing ring. In the game there are various levels of loot on the ground, including the rare golden loot. When you see those items on the floor your heart excites, and the dopamine gets released in the brain.
I actually got to the point of playing, that when I was driving to work, or handing out with people I would imagine some sort of gold loot in real life. No real benefit to it, but it is interesting how my mind is looking for it even outside of the game. A fun little after effect of playing the game.
Sleep Deprivation, Lifeguarding, and Fallout...
Speaking of after effects, this one isn't as positive, as it originated from sleep deprivation. However it is one of the coolest experiences I have had!
Basically at the time I was a teenager, and lifeguarding in my local pool. I wouldn't have worked if I wasn't capable of protecting people properly. However I had been playing Fallout a lot around that time, so even though that day I was rested, in general I was overall tired. In the game you have a special hud that allows you to stop/slow down time, and aim at your targets. It is part of the lore, and a simple way of transitioning players from the 2D games before it, and into the 3D realms.
I had gotten so into the game, which is normal for those types of games, that I started seeing this V.A.T.S. system in real life. In fact while I was lifeguarding the pool you have to scan the pool for any disturbance that could lead to a person drowning. Just watching to make sure people are safe.
In that job I was scanning the pool, which means scanning over the zone of the pool in my care every 10 seconds or so. As I was doing so my brain automatically locked on and zoomed into each person, just like the in game system.
It spawned from lacking sleep, but actually ended up helping in that case. It was a surreal experience to say the least!
Knowing Systems + Pro Mode
Speaking of various systems, there are always some sort of organization behind the hood of a game engine. Sometimes they are obivous, and other times they are so well hidden people don't find them until many years later. A good example is Resident Evil 4's adaptive difficulty. Basically depending on how well you did, the game would adapt itself to match your level. Either making it easier or harder, keeping you in the zone of flow difficulty.
Allowing you to get into the zone, and truly enjoy the game. Which may have been why the game did extraordinarily well.
Another game that is LOADED with systems is Zelda: Breath of the Wild. From temperature, to sound, and even real physics. Water/metal conducts electricity, when it is raining you can get struck by lightining if you have metal gear. Even the act of climbing is impacted by the rain.
With all that going on it may be hard to figure out how to keep track of it all, but eventually it all starts to become intuitive. In some cases in fact you just know something is gonna work, or even you won't know but you decide to try IN CASE it does. Granted there are a lot of things on screen with those systems being there, and the game is really beautiful. With all those HUD objects cluttering your screen it can partly ruin the experience, so there is a pro mode. That if you learn the systems well, or moreover Link's animations in REACTION to those systems, then you can play the game WITHOUT the hud. Leading to a much more immersive experience.
I looked for solid comparision options, and it seems that Kotaku is the only one that made a post for it (so full credit to them, and links below). Here is what I mean by clearing up your screen.
This game is known for modding as well, at least on the emulator, and with pro mode looks phenomenal.
The point is that understanding systems way of thinking, will allow you to not only enjoy video games more, but also live your life in better ways.
The point of this post was to share my experience of how videogames have impacted my life. Outside of just pure enjoyment, and not to mention the lessons learned from them.
Tools like Habitica are ways of increasing your own level by tracking the things you do in life. Treating it like a video game, and allowing yourself to get that same dopamine.
You can use Notion too for this!
A Life Operating System
Something I talk about a lot is Notion.so, which is an amazing tool you can use to organize your life. August Bradley is a phenomenal resource for that, and also talks about a Life OS in Notion too. Creating your own systems to for tracking everything in your life.
There are some gamified templates too for Notion, plus whatever you can create for yourself. Allowing you to treat your life as if you are actually leveling up, and more importantly keeping track of that progress.
The Game of Life
I always loved playing these games, and I wondered what it would be like to make my own game series. Which I started writing my future saga as a child even, and have been working on it for over a decade now. Eventually I'll get those out in the world, and the lessons learned here throughout my life will be implemented.
Videogames should extend the experience of life, and so if effort is put forth into the events, hud, and how the games feel; Whether you are conversing or fighting, it doesn't matter, then they will be a much greater impact on people's lives.
Gaming Music is Amazing
I often listen to music to just go about my day, or be more productive, or even just to feel something if I am down. One track that always gets me going is part of the finale for Mass Effect 2 (so sorta spoilers?).
Treating life as a video game also means you get your own soundtrack! One you get to choose, and feel amazing while doing things to it!
The Lessons Learned
Just like reading a good book, you get to learn from the choices and mistakes of the videogame's protagonist, but unlike a book you get to be there right in the moment with them. Feeling what they feel, seeing what they see, and often controlling the actions too. Making you literally FEEL like the hero who is saving the whole universe.
It is a great mindset that induces empathy, as well as teaches that the world is a harsh place... but people can make it a better place.
Note: I had the idea for this post late at night, and wasn't able to muster the movement to write it out then. Meaning I am really glad it came back to me the next morning!!