Video games are just simplified versions of the challenges we face every day. As someone who has spent a lot of time over the years gaming, I have always tried to get something long-lasting out of what I was doing. I like to think of them as puzzles involving the concepts that make the world work. If you can master a video game, you can apply that to your life in a beneficial way. I decided to share one of my greatest lessons I have learned.
In a video game, how good you are is almost directly proportional to how much time you have spent playing the game. Maybe in the past you have played a similar game which gives you a slight edge at first. Maybe you do research on the game to learn strategies beforehand, and that might help too. But the bottom line is still that the more you play, the better you will be. What’s more, is that most people tend to be at a very close level with the same amount of play time. Education, background, age, enthusiasm, effort, and even intelligience combined don’t seem to have anywhere near the effect on a player’s skill as the amount of time he has played.
This phenomenon naturally leads me to two hypotheses about why this is the case, and by extension, how they relate to things in the real world. First, is that in reality, the more time you spend on ANYTHING, the better you will be at it. We certainly know this to be true, but I don’t think it explains the whole story. In reality, spending a lot of time on something does not always make you great at it. Likewise, some people are very successful NOT having spent much time on something.
Maybe the underlying aspect of gaming is that games are simple, and the most efficient use of one’s time so as to maximize skill just happens to be simply playing the game. There aren’t many other options, and in this case, maybe the most obvious choice is the best one, which leads to the phenomenon we have seen. If this is the case, then you could apply this concept to real life by saying that the more time you spend on the RIGHT things, the better you will be.
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So how do you know what to spend time on? I don’t really have an answer to that. Setting goals and checking results seems to be pretty tried and true. Maybe what you are really accomplishing is just figuring out what you should be spending time on. And maybe if we know that the PURPOSE of setting goals and checking results is to figure out what is the best way to spend your time, we can be more focused and utilize the process much more effectively.
The second hypothesis I think contains aspects of the first one but approaches the problem in a different way. Perhaps it is not the simplicity of a game that makes time the best skill builder, maybe it is the fact that a game has clear, defined, finite, and predictable rules, processes, and interactions that allow one to quickly understand the big picture of the game and simply master everything over time.
You don’t necessarily have to be creative, since everything has pretty much been done before and by someone else. You don’t have to be that smart, since you can learn almost exclusively from experience, and you don’t even have to have a great imagination or concept skills because nothing is very theoretical; it is practical, visual, and immediate. You learn almost immediately if something works and you can see it with your eyes. Everything is concrete. The only way to get better is to master every aspect of the game through experience and repetition.
So how does this apply to life? If the difference is essentially the fact that the rules are easier to see and understand immediately, then perhaps we need to spend more time learning about the rules in the real world which will give us a grasp of the big picture and allow us to improve ourselves through action and repetition. For example, you should learn everything about the rules of your professional industry. Learn the processes by which companies and successful employees operate. Learn WHY some succeed and some don’t. Figure out what they did differently and why it worked. Emulate successful strategies. You don’t have to come up with a completely original idea, you don’t even have to be as good as someone else at a specific tactic. You just want have as complete of an understanding of what you are doing as possible, which will allow you to master every aspect of it. This will give you insight into whether something is or isn’t working, WHY, and how to improve.
Who knows, maybe improvement at that point will be as automatic as getting better at a video game you spend a lot of time on. Let me know if you think I am on track at all in the comments!