The Video Game Skills You Can Use In Real Life
One of the things we hear a lot of when we celebrate our favourite video games is that they’re a world to escape into and completely cast away from whatever worldly responsibilities we really should be doing and that we can feel good and be good in these worlds. For a lot of people that makes them essential.
Escaping your boss or that painful university assignment is an instant pleasure hit when you’re dropped into Kings Canyon in Apex Legends or thrust into the wild west of Red Dead Redemption 2. During high school, I logged over 2,000 hours on Team Fortress 2, and I’m slowly, but surely, approaching that number with Overwatch. It’s easy to think “Wow, what a waste” — but hold on, what if it wasn’t?
The Bleeding Effect Is Real
The Bleeding Effect was a fictional disorder explored in Assassins Creed, where prolonged use of the series’ “Animus” technology would cause the user to start learning the traits and abilities of the ancestor they were emulating. This led to the modern-day protagonist being able to leap from building to building and carry out modern-day Assassin missions with the skills of his ancestors. I’m not saying video games enable gamers to be globetrotting assassins who can take down armed combatants with a single parry. What I am saying is a little more evergreen, and completely related.
“They’re all skills that have been marked as what we need to live and work in the 21st century… Video games, the good quality ones, can actually help to develop some of these.”
The idea of being immersed in an experience for a long enough amount of time for the experience to start bleeding through into your real-world experiences isn’t something to shrug off – the video game multimillion-dollar industry runs off selling simulations and emulations of real life, so the logic is sound. Thinking about this led me to Dr Joanne Orlando, an academic at the University of Western Sydney, Bankstown, investigating the impact of technology on children, particularly to do with games.
Dr Orlando said that there is a lot people can take away from games, mainly to do with problem-solving, resource management and teamwork. She calls them 21st-century skills. “They’re all skills that have been marked as what we need to live and work in the 21st century… Video games, the good quality ones, can actually help to develop some of these.”
So, with that in mind, what was I doing with all those hours in Team Fortress 2? Has it gotten me anywhere? I was playing a lot of soldier and demoman, two classes from the game that involved tracking your target and aligning your shots up correctly so that they’d hit the enemy directly and maximise your damage. And of that, how does my experience playing as those classes manifest into the real world? In noticeable ways.
Everybody hates driving when they get started, but I feel like knowing about watching things ahead of me in games helped me out a lot when I went for the test, and whenever I drive now. Knowing about the speed of something in front of me relative to my speed, where I’m looking and what direction I’m going is a massively help when I’m behind the wheel.
“We have to think about these simulations – they’re not real life, but they do help to get a sense of the context, to get a sense of the skills that are required,” Dr Orlando said when I brought this up, mentioning how driving games are a perfect example of “simulation games.”
“It eases you into understanding what it’s like to be a driver so that beginning phase of learning some brand new skills – I think that would be really important.”
How Do You Play?
— vic (@victorcangil16) March 13, 2019
I often think about choices in the real world in terms of these stat checks. Admittedly, most of the time I’d go true neutral and settle for the most generalist things ever (like in all the games I’ve ever played), so that shallow trolley looks great. Being able to be the neutral guy lets you explore more paths in more games so that you’re never too lawful good or chaotic evil for any choice. But let’s think about stats for a second.
In Red Dead Redemption 2, wearing warmer clothes in warmer weather (and the opposite) would negatively affect your states. In Overwatch, depending on the character you’re playing, you might be able to jump higher, shoot further or run faster. In Fallout and Elder Scrolls games, the clothes and the armour you wear all give you stat buffs or debuffs. These notions come back to the idea of 21st-century skills. Knowing that there are pros and cons to every micro-decision is something that bleeds through into the real world.
“The main thing would be that it actually leads into a real-life situation or being able to take those skills and apply them to other situations, so you wouldn’t keep doing the same thing over and over again if you want to extend your skills,” said Dr Orlando.
Team Chat Isn’t All Hell — It Teaches Leadership Skills
I hate voice comms. The sniper player always knows better than me, and the DPS player is always having a go at my tactics. But one of the great things about team-based games like Overwatch, Apex: Legends and Team Fortress 2 is that they’re functional team training simulations.
Dr Orlando said that this is a crucial part of what makes most popular games so great, so maybe it’s time to unmute everyone: “You might be playing with people you know, but you might be playing with people that you don’t know, so it’s being able to apply those team and leadership skills to working with different kinds of people.”
There’s a lot we can take away from the games that we love, and we should love them for it. It’s these things that movies and TV can’t do for us, but video games can. When games start to act like simulations, we can learn a lot without even realising it. So be thankful for those hundreds of hours you’ve sunk into Skyrim. You probably took something away from it.
Zachariah Kelly is a Sydney based Games and Technology Journalist. He’s really good at Team Fortress 2, and life.