As a child growing up in the 1990s, my favorite thing to do was to play video games. As much as I loved video games, I used to witness just as much hate for them. Others always used to say that “video games will rot your brain.” Were you a 90s kid? If so, I know that phrase brings back memories for you. Anyway, my days of spending hours absorbed in a video game have since passed me by. Perhaps I have outgrown them; for whatever reason, video games are no longer the alluring leisure activity for me that they were when I was younger. That said, I am not convinced that they are an innately bad thing. In fact, playing video games can be a simulator for living life and accomplishing things. They give us experience in success, failure and self-improvement.
One of my favorite games from my teenage years was the boxing game Super Punch Out for Super Nintendo. I got that game for Christmas in 1994 and I played the proverbial crap out of it. It was hard. I would struggle to defeat the opponents at first, but I kept using Continues and kept playing. As I played, I learned the opponents’ strategies and was eventually able to beat them. I had a great deal of motivation to do this, but was it to impress someone? No. Was it to be the best player in the world? No. Was it money? Absolutely not. My motivation was simply for the fun of the game. Playing, losing, playing some more, losing some more but less badly, recognizing patterns, learning the opponents’ attacks and finally winning was just plain fun.
Fast-forward twenty years. The teenage me is now an adult that has exchanged video games as a leisure activity for Parkour. While practicing a particular Parkour move – Kong Vault to Cat Landing, to be specific – I found myself feeling insecure among my training partners because they were able to execute the move more successfully than me. I was having difficulty doing it while it seemed to come to them with more ease. Then, I went inside my head for some self-psychoanalysis. I said:
Why am I jealous of these guys? Because they can do it and I can’t? That may be true, but I am not them and they are not me. The reason I train Parkour is not so that I can be as good at it as someone else. And it’s not like these guys think I am beneath them because I can’t do what they can. Quite the contrary, they cheer me on and give advice almost constantly.
I had a point there. I had no business feeling insecure among my training partners. While it may be a natural predilection to feel that way, I was there to challenge myself and have fun, not to impress others. I continued:
Why did I get into Parkour in the first place? Because it looked like so much fun. Nothing about comparing myself to other people. So, just keep training, keep drilling the move and have fun. So what if i can’t do it yet? Just have fun with it.
Then, I examined my motivation for learning the move. Was it to impress my training partners? No. To impress my coaches? No. To be the best Parkour practitioner in the world? Absolutely not. My motivation was simply because I enjoyed Parkour.
The reassuring conversation I had with myself renewed my confidence and enthusiasm, so I continued to train. I still had trouble doing at the move. I would get frustrated when I would fail to land my feet on the wall after vaulting over the box. Then, I told myself:
This is just like a Super Punch Out opponent whom I can’t beat yet.
Like the opponents in Super Punch Out, I realized that I have to keep trying and failing and I will eventually learn how to do the Parkour move right. The more I drill the move, I will start to recognize patterns and learn to put all the necessary micro-techniques into place, which will enable me to successfully execute the move. That night, I never was able to do the Kong-to-Cat. As I write this, I still have yet to do it. But you can certainly bet that I will keep trying it until I do. In terms of a fun video game, I will keep playing. What’s nice about Parkour is that there are infinite Continues!
We do get positive things out of video games. The challenges we encounter in the games we play allow us to cultivate resilience and practice perseverance. By playing a game for fun as a teenager, I was able to build habits and prepare for a challenge that awaited me in my adulthood. As adults, we get caught up in a lot of real world nonsense and we forget that the secret to success is sometimes as simple as just having fun and keeping at it. I will close with a quote from Winston Churchill:
“…my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.”
Make of that what you will.
Let me hear from you
- What was one of your favorite games to play as a child? Why?
- How does that game simulate broader real-world scenarios?
- What have you learned about life from playing that game?
Send me your answers in the Reply field below. Thanks for reading, and I can’t wait to hear from you!