I used to take gaming very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that almost a year in college was spent on an inverted nocturnal schedule that involved heavy doses of Wolfenstein, Age of Empires (AoE), and Medal of Honour. I don't play as much anymore, and most of my gaming is reduced to whatever I can run on my android tablet and occasionally my PSP. At this very moment, however, I can't even tell you the exact location of my PSP, because that's how long it has been since I last used it. It's been a different story on the tablet however, and I've been trying out that classic amongst games, Tetris. A far cry from the days of souped up computers and endless hours.
It got me wondering, though. What was all that gaming in aid of? Did it really help me, other than to entertain? I pondered over this question a lot, and one by one, some of the lessons started coming back to me. It might sound a little corny as I go ahead with this post, but it turns out there were valuable lessons for me in gaming. Unsurprisingly, most of it came from my AoE buddies, since that's the game I played the most. It also helped that I played against people I knew and met on a daily basis - close college friends.
It's easy to pick out the low hanging fruit first - years of time spent on various flight simulator games helped me on my journey to becoming a pilot. It's fun trying to barrel roll an airliner in MS FSX, but it's even more fun and useful trying to fly a plane as it should be flown. I will not go so far as to say that the skills translate directly into flying an actual plane, but the usefulness, especially on matters procedural, certainly cannot be discounted. But on further thought, it struck me as less valuable than what the others taught me.
Blackmartyr - an AoE buddy - taught me the importance of winning. There are some people with an intense focus on winning, and he was one of those guys. Even if he was taking a beating, he would do everything he could - sometimes even ethically questionable stuff - to ensure that his team wins. It did not come from an innate evil nature, though. Sometimes you run into people whom you just cannot admit are better than you. For him, in such situations, victory was a good way of proving a point to himself.
On the opposite side, RhythmSage taught me to enjoy the game. Win or lose, at the end of the day it was just a game, and the important thing was to have had fun playing. She's one of my closest friends to date, and this nature is more of a reflection of her true self, since she's generally regarded as a happy and cheerful person. We'd be on the same team, and would've just suffered a bad loss, and I'd come out of my room whining about it while she would just be calm, happy and chilled out about the whole thing. It would annoy me initially since I thought she wasn't taking this seriously enough, but eventually I picked up that skill a bit, though at far less than the ideal level a temperamental guy like me should have. In fact, she seems to have picked up more of my crankiness than she probably should've.
C and S (I no longer remember their in-game names) taught me to take pride in my work. They were obsessed about getting their armies to march in perfect formation, and those armies were usually an intimidating sight with swordsmen marching into your territories in neat little squares and laying siege to the place. They had put a lot of effort into raising those armies, and they'd be damned if the armies were gonna look shaby. It did not matter if their armies were bulldozing the enemy unchallenged, or taking a proper hiding themselves, they were always neatly organized and beautiful to look at. Of course, on the flip side they also taught me not to obsess on one particular aspect among many, since quite often their focus on neat armies let to their being distracted from the tactical details of battle.
The last, and most important lesson came from the improbably named decaLODA. A close confidante of many years, he taught me in our AoE games to not stop fighting. You may be down to your last penny and being attacked from directions you didn't know existed, but you cannot stop fighting. When we started playing this game, one of the more skilled and powerful players named Aghust used to take on six or seven of us at a time and beat us all. Most of us would get dejected halfway through and resign from the game, but not decaLODA. He would keep fighting until he was down to the last villager, whom he would hide in a faraway corner of the game map and get him to build a multi-layered stone wall around himself. Aghust would eventually discover the villager, and turn his trebuchets against the wall and painstakingly knock a hole in them, at which point DecaLODA would kill his last villager, forfeiting the game. He may have lost, but he made life hell for his enemy until the very end. It took me a long time to digest this, but it was probably the best thing I ever learned from playing computer games.
Perhaps all that time wasn't wasted after all..