Fundamentals and Concepts

Life as a Game

Here’s a short complimentary video. It’s my first one doing it for blogs. I won’t do it for every blog nor will every vlog will have a blog post. Let me know what you think! If you don’t like video scroll all the way down.

It was a hot day. The platoon stood in absolute silence as their drill instructor sighed, irritated by whatever news his colleague gave. Some recruits were pale as ghosts as they tried to hide the fact that they were wriggling in their boots. The recruits were exhausted, having been woken up for an early run followed by the last three hours of drill instruction. They were interrupted when another staff member came to the instructor and whispered something in his ears. Whatever it was, it was among hushed lips. He gave out a very loud sigh and marched briskly back to his place in front of the platoon. He was not a man who would berate his own troops. It was back to business, starting with more loud instructions. Little did the recruits know that they had their barracks turned upside down, beds flipped and stuffed overall dummies made just because someone had forgotten to lock their closet.

This sounded like it was a scene from Full Metal Jacket. It sort of is, but this actually happened to my platoon a couple of times when I took basic training when I first enlisted in the navy. In my ten years that I had been around, I had heard the same comments from various people, first when I was a Non-Commissioned Member, then as a strapping young junior Officer. “Basic (training) is really just a game. Play by their rules and you’ll see yourself through.”

How does this relate to video games or even early retirement? I did not see my life as a giant magical picture, instead I saw it as a real MMO. That’s right. I went there. Real Life WAS the first real massive multiplayer online game. Instead of being a knight in shining armor that took Kill X Monster quests, I was the protagonist taking the journey to become something. Life was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but set in the world of today and I was not an adult awaiting execution. The game started from when I was conceived in my mommy’s womb.

How I Came Up with this Philosophy

I never thought that the conversation about Basic Training would be important in my life. What was stranger was that I believed in this since I started becoming super competitive on Mario Kart 64. I had no idea how to put my ideas together not to mention how put it into words. That conversation finally put the words that I needed to lay out how I functioned in life.

Most things in life can be explained by certain game mechanics. Most tasks you had to do throughout in life is like quests in famous RPGs. Any big tumultuous moment in life can be a boss battle you had to go through. Doing stupid things often had consequences, where this world’s equivalent to walking in front of a high level monster was like pissing off a biker at a bar. You earned money like a reward for doing tasks, similar to working. Interaction with other people seemed like a real life party finder at times. Also, whatever skills you needed to level, like cooking and writing, had to be worked on. This sounded like a real MMO to me. Does this make you wonder if you’re now like the character in your favorite MMO? Inception!

Think of playing The Game of Life (a board game), or one of those mobile life simulators you saw on Google Play. There was something uncanny about how those games worked and applying it to yourself. Think about it, you had different strategies from early game (childhood) and end game (death). Anything that you wanted to achieve, whether you wanted to be the richest person on earth, being a pro athlete, or even just vegging out at the end of the day was a result of your quests of the day. You could strive to be super competitive, or even be the laziest bum. It was a net result of what tasks you set yourself as the protagonist. This philosophy was made to give you the ultimate power and the ultimate responsibility.

Rules of the Game

What were my rules of the game? Based on these rules, this was how I mostly functioned.

  1. Have fun in whatever I wanted to do.
  2. Be super awesome at above task.
  3. Whatever I do, DO NOT take myself out of the game by any means necessary.

Have fun in whatever I wanted to do.

Ever since I was eight years old, holding my first Nintendo 64 controller, I knew I wanted to do something cool and fun. I told myself that I would pick a cool job, and that was becoming an astronaut. That changed over the years, until I finally settled on being a computer engineer. A lot of things I did in life was based on me liking and having fun with the task. Even though there were tasks that bore me to death (like school), I learned to cope by selecting things that I had genuine interest in and looked forward to spending time learning it to perfection. If it wasn’t fun anymore, I dropped the subject like a hot potato.

Be super awesome at the above.

In order to have fun, I had to get good. I spent so many hours trying to get good. As long I saw progress (even if it was minuscule), I called it a good day. That dedication showed at my prowess at the subject I had decided to dedicate myself to. Other people were my competition, so I had to get better to get myself out there. But I never chased for their approval. In fact, the harshest judge was myself. While that had its own set of problems, it was a very good motivator for me to get good at what I wanted to do.

Never take yourself out of the game.

I had a hard time trying to understand why I never gave up. The words above in big bold letters suggested to me that resilience. Not once in my life had I contemplated suicide. I saw that as taking myself out of the game. This was the ultimatum I gave to myself (although I don’t know when or how I gave myself that) to keep on living. I guess it was a reflection that I wanted to be an honorable person and let something else take me when I’m about to go out for real. I would rather to lose to someone else; it showed their skill in besting me (even though it was hard to admit that).

How did it help me?

By having these three rules, I was able to place some sort of structure in my chaotic life. Don’t get me wrong, there always were and will be down times, and dark hours in the game. It was the driving factor for a lot of my decisions and it will continue to be my source of inspiration and motive for the life I strove for.

Have fun.

Most things in my life derived from me having the long term goal of being awesome and fun. I always believed in having fun in both the destination and in the journey. Even though I hated studying math, I knew that studying math would lead me to becoming a good engineer. I also knew that if I no longer had any fun, it would fashion my decisions towards getting out and moving onto the next thing. I always had a long term goal for myself, even though the steps to get there were initially just two steps, later to be fleshed out to have 20 or so steps in the process. To me, this rule provided the purpose in my life.

Being awesome.

This was my motivator. A fun thing can have ways to grate you to the point of giving up. Sometimes that was the driving force for me not continuing cool things. It helped me realize the true value of myself (even though I sometimes couldn’t believe it) by having something tangible in front of my eyes. It was the reason why I strove for beyond above average, and closer to expertise. This was mostly done only if you keep on repeating the thing you wanted to be good at and improving on the past.

Never take myself out.

This was my anchor. This kept me grounded during my darkest hours of anguish and pain. I always believed that I was responsible for a lot of things in life. I also knew I would cut myself short if I decided to give up and take myself out of the equation. Even though this had led me to paths where I thought I was walking on forever with no end in sight, I knew that there was something at the end of it (hopefully).

How to Implement Game Mechanics for Yourself

Life the Game can be played once you knew what the rules were, even if they were super vague. These were rules you had to set for yourself. My set of rules could be good examples, but only you could determine that. Only by setting your own rules and limits, you could surpass them. Limits were made to be broken, but if they were not defined, it would be very hard to find progress.

Here’s a good quote from a game called NieR.

Rules do not exist to bind you. They exist so you may know your freedoms.

Once you determined the rules and limits, now you had to figure out tasks that would enable you to keep yourself within the rules and break limits. The rules were made so that you would not accidentally delete yourself from your game. They were also there to help you determine how you should and act (even by that definition is subjective). The limits were set to give you goals and to determine your quest list. If you wanted to be a bodybuilder, you had to make quests for yourself to level up your exercise skills and your body stats.

Like in any party finder, people were and always will be the biggest factor in becoming a winner of this game. Not only did you have to surround yourself with people who would be behind you 100% (like a guild), you also had to find mentors. Your elders had records, whether it be written record, verbal stories or even just talking with them could impart you knowledge, skills and quests for you to level you as a character. And finally there would always be jerks on the field. There would always be people saying (or yelling) at your direction at every waking moment. You couldn’t control what they did or say, but you could control your reaction. Your interaction with people could break or make you. Play your cards correctly and you could come out on top of whatever you wanted to do.

Life as a Real Life MMO

Have you ever thought why games were Role Playing Games were popular? They always put you in the shoes of another person. I suppose it was irony that life is a reflection of ourselves in a game. If we were playing someone else in a video game, where does this put us as in another perspective? Weird thoughts, indeed.

But I did not write about this to contemplate about our own existence. I wrote this to explain how I functioned, and I thought this philosophy could help others. A lot of people told me that my resilience was something to be admired but I could not figure out why that particular stat of mine was high. It wasn’t until someone explained to me that a particular phase in life was something I could relate to was when I could finally put words to the philosophy I believed in.

By treating my own life as a video game, I was able to determine what I needed to do next for myself. My rules, my scenario, and my own dreams were all things that I could determine myself. While other people (other players) could determine who I hung out with, who were my biggest influencers, and who I would follow were big factors, none of them could write this story for me. This story was for myself and only I could write it.

How else did video games shape your life? Did they influence you in some shape or form? What do you think? Leave a comment and share. 🙂

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