The Life Lessons I Gained Playing Video Games
Thank God I had an older brother. Without him, I don’t believe I ever would have developed many of the skills I now possess; skills that – in my opinion – are vital to everyday life. Sure, we fought (physically and verbally) a lot and there were times when we probably hated each other’s guts, but there was one thing that always brought us together: video games. And when I say together, I mean at least in the same room initially, because the games would bring the biggest sense of competition not known since David vs. Goliath, or indeed, Alien vs. Predator, to be more contemporary.
While my parents would be aghast at the level of shouting and cursing that my brother and I were making when playing video games, we were simply expressing our passion and enthusiasm for gaming (which is what I would say when throwing a controller at his head after losing). Movies, sports, and music tastes may have differed, but consoles like SNES and later Nintendo 64 would always be the anchor to our brotherly love.
With these console wars, over time I learned about the true spirit of competition; how pushing each other to the limit would bring out the best in both of us. True, I may not have done it at the time, but I eventually understood how to lose gracefully and give props to your opponent. Barring any technological mishap or distraction, if he won fair and square, I could do nothing but accept that. On the other hand, seven losses in a row really sucks. But when you get that win, when you dig deep and pull out a victory you never thought possible, that makes winning feel like all your birthdays have come at once. And that’s when you turn off the console and walk out of the room triumphant, before he can request a rematch.
So what games would we play that would get us so fanatical and crazed like a gremlin fed after midnight? Though we call them retro games now, Mortal Kombat was perhaps the first. A true test of skill and strength (or manic button-mashing that pulls out a lucky special combo), MK was, and still is, a bit too intense for my brother and me. We liked games that were less frantic and perhaps less violent (our mother would approve). It was the classics like Mario Kart and NBA Jam that really brought out our finest performances. These two were not just competitive, but fun as hell to play.
Slowly – though it had more to do with age and maturity – the insults and fighting would lessen, and instead be replaced with genuine laughter and enjoyment. It was to be Donkey Kong that would be the first game to bring my brother and me – dare I say it – on the same team. It was one of many co-op gaming experiences that gave us a sense of teamwork that I hadn’t really known before. The knowledge that it was possible to play together instead of against each other was a real (pardon the pun) game-changer.
The NBA 2K series was a bonding experience like no other, whereby collectively, we would play as the Chicago Bulls and take on the league for a championship. High fives were had, as were shouts of joy and desperation, but whatever we did, we did it together. And that was a unifying feeling that I hadn’t known before.
Colin McRae Rally too, was a game that was different for us. With rally driving being primarily a single player scenario, in which you race against the clock rather than opponents, this lent itself to my brother and I actually helping each other – yes, believe it. We would give tips on where to cut corners to save time, where best to break before the corner, and which car setup was the most suitable for each track. In short, we wanted each other to win, caring not for our own individual times, but simply beating the AI’s times. This is where I learned the meaning of support, encouragement, and teamwork.
Of course, not every video game was played with my brother. My friends and I spent many days and nights glued in front of the TV screen to play the one, the only: GoldenEye. To those in the know, the Nintendo 64 game needs no introduction. To those unaware, GoldenEye is the Sgt. Pepper’s of video games, the one that makes you sit up straight and think “Wait, this is possible for humans to create?” Playing a game like this in a group was something similar to watching a sports game. Four of us would battle it out, with spectators cheering us on (but secretly wanting us to finish so they could play).
The multiplayer experience was eye-opening, as it completely changes the way someone sees a game. You see things in a way you never knew were conceivable, as others obviously have a different style and technique to yourself. Plus, when you manage to pull off something incredible, there are thankfully many witnesses to attest to the fact, rather than you swearing it happened in a solo game. These were glorious times for me, for video games, and for learning life lessons.
If this were a movie, this is where the fade to black would happen and “15 years later…” appears on the screen. So my brother and I definitely took different paths after the golden years of gaming. He married, had kids, and has a job that doesn’t give him much time for video games. Conversely, the time spent on video games for me only grew and grew. I play to simultaneously get lost and to find myself.
As of right now, playing online with strangers and friends alike is my go-to option. Call of Duty is big, GTA V is always a favourite, and Minecraft is practically a daily activity in my household. Heck, I read this useful article only a few months ago and now I’m in the process of beginning my own little Minecraft group. This is so that I can play with only those whom I trust, have my own rules, and to help others in my league to get better and to have a great gaming experience.
So I learned to be competitive, sure, but I gained the knowledge that gaming is supposed to be a unifying time, not a separating one. And it all started back in the day with the man that was my friend, enemy, and brother, all in one.
Jamie has been a geek for 28 years, but a writer for only 10 of those. When he’s not playing video games, watching superhero movies, or reading fantasy novels, Jamie is guest blogging on various sites and learning all there is to know regarding geekdom.