I want this to be the start of a series of pieces, likely published weekly, about the incredible life lessons that I have gleaned in my years as a gamer. Lessons that I feel only games could have taught me. I hope they bring some value to your life.
— The Brave Bothan
So something I have seen as a central part of myself since I was very young is gaming. The first game I ever played was Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and my mum banned me from playing it after about two weeks because ‘it was to violent’. This negative response to my gaming would be common throughout my interactions to come – but with passion I would persevere.
Early on in my gaming years my parents relented to my constant whinges and gave me my first console, a Nintendo 64. I had been given a copy of the ‘A Bug’s Life’ movie tie in game and early on there was a mission describing one of the basic collectible items, feathers I believe, as being “Peppered throughout the land”. I thought that was a lovely description, so the next day in school (grade 2) I used it myself in a piece of written work we had to do. I remember my teacher being ecstatic and blown away by the language. She called me remarkable and gifted. I told her I had just copied my game, feeling bad to receive so much attention for just copying some words, but she claimed that it didn’t matter where it had come from it was well above a grade 2 standard. This was the first time a can remember having a really positive sense of growth from video games.
At a number of points in my life since that time games really have taught me things, generally not quite as literally as in this first example. I have said before I think games are an amazing teaching tool and are uniquely placed to be a valuable and integral aid to developing our children if we embrace their potential.
One of the most valuable, and painful, lessons gaming has ever taught me came from World of Warcraft. Like I mentioned before my very first taste of gaming was crafted by the venerable Chirs Metzen so when I say I grew up with the Warcraft franchise I really do mean it. I devoured Warcraft(s) 1,2 and 3. Fortunately when Wow first launched I had a terrible internet connection and the aforementioned anti-Warcraft mum so was prevented from playing it.
Some years later I had moved out of home – it was late into WoW’s 3rd expansion when one of my oldest friends finally recruited me into the ranks of WoW devotee. I had played Dungeons and Dragons for many years with this friend and had since moved cities so it seemed to be a good way to continue our adventures together. It was; those first few months of discovering the massive and mesmerizing world of Azeroth were unforgettable. Hours and hours spent on Skype with my friends just achieving common goals and experiencing the world together created a warm and loving place for WoW in my heart.
I got into the hardcore side of the game and began raiding. Pushing the limits of what I could do. I barely noticed the startling ‘Time Played’ messages as I logged in each day. All I cared about was the accolades I was winning with my friends in the real and virtual worlds. They told me I was a natural, one of the best they’d ever played with. I sunk more and more of myself into that world. More and more of my life goals became centered on virtual achievements and virtual glory.
Sometime later, I got married. My wife and I had loved sharing gaming time together and she had even leveled a character in WoW with me and my friends. Unfortunately she was never as passionate about gaming as I was so she never quite got the hang of high end content.
I don’t know precisely when I woke up and realised I didn’t like looking at myself in the mirror anymore. I had always been a rakish boy – but somewhere in the last 5 years I had stopped being rakish and started being blobbish. My wife still said I was gorgeous though, said she loved me – but the way she would ogle the muscular stars of vampire TV shows made me think that was more for my benefit than any representation of the truth. My mind was sharp as ever though – my fingers ennimbled from years of twitch gaming practice, I was at the height of my skills.
And then I realised that I was fat, my house was a mess, I was married to an abusive alcoholic (I promise I’ll tell that story another time but 2 sad posts in a row would set a bad image) and I had lost sight of my goals and values. I realised that I needed some balance.
I tried to achieve balance, I worked on my fitness and my marriage, my body could be saved unfortunately the same was not true of the marriage. Over the next few years I worked on all the things i’d let slip with my foray into WoW. Music, writing, fitness and more all returned to me. Occasionally I slipped back into the warm and comforting embrace of my various ‘toons’ but it was never quite the same – at the back of my head the unreality of it all always ate away at my enjoyment. I could never go back to Neverland.
The story above might lead you to believe I don’t like WoW or that I blame it for the choices I made whilst I was obsessing over it. I really don’t – to this day I count Warcraft among my first loves and still proudly display memorabilia of the franchise in my house. I still smile every time one of my friends begs me to come back and tank for them – or every time i relive a story of valor and achievement. I’m smiling ear to ear just writing this paragraph. I made the choice not to play WoW anymore becasue it was too difficult for me to balance high end content goals with the broader goals of my life – but I think that has more to do with the fact I set myself goals that take utter dedication to achieve and not a problem with WoW.
WoW taught me an incredibly powerful lesson about myself that I hadn’t quite yet understood. I am a hugely goal driven man and I can and do achieve everything I set my mind to. Weeks, months and years of grinding netted me mounts, titles and achievements in the virtual realm that made me enviable and beloved. When I finally turned the focus and dedication that WoW had trained into me to my personal and professional spheres I attacked them with the same vigor and tenacity that had made me such a powerhouse at WoW. I thrived and achieved just as much in those areas as I previously had in Azeroth.
WoW taught me that with courage, a team of people you care about and steadfast dedication you can achieve great things. For that I will always be truly grateful.
For The Alliance!