I gotta admit, I'm a sucker for a good ad campaign. Like those Gatorade commercials where you see  a string of buff athletes running around, being awesome, and making you envy their superhuman abilities? Yah. Like that.

As I get older, I really begin to understand how powerful advertising can be. So many of our decisions that we make in life originate from some sort of visual or sensory stimulation. You walk into a Pier One Imports and suddenly start thinking, "Why can't my house smell like this ALL THE TIME?" You flip through a magazine and see a car ad with some attractive person driving a stylish convertible. You quietly fantasize, "That could be me. I would look great in that car. I would FEEL great in that car!" And so it goes with almost everything in life.

Advertising helps suggest and convince us of what we ought to drive, where we should live, what sort of food we want, where we want to go for a vacation, what constitutes beauty and style, and by contrast, also what is ugly. Advertising feeds us with a ready formula, a detailed blueprint on what our lives should be. And for the most part, we all buy into it. But, there is a tricky dichotomy to this situation, and I wasn't even aware of it, until some late night gaming sessions got my mind spinning.


Like I said, we all are subject to the influence of advertising. And to be fair, a lot of it is harmless. Much of it actually informs us of things that we either want or need to know. And most of the time, the things that we see advertised are usually linked to some desire for our lives to be simpler and happier. So the question stands to bear, how happy are you?

For many people, discerning whether they are happy or unhappy is usually linked to achievements or acquisitions. We find it hard to quantify happiness, satisfaction, so we use things outside of ourselves as a barometer of some sort. "Ofcourse I'm happy! I've got a great job, nice house, etc, etc."

Ironically, the strangeness of this kind of thinking dawned on me after playing The Sims and Harvest Moon. In video games, whether you realize it or not, there is a sort of boundless confidence that you approach most challenges with. Yes, there are challenges. And sure, you may have to start over many, many times, or reset the game and start over from scratch. But the truth is, that in your mind, you already know and understand that you will eventually win. And it is for this reason that you keep trying.


You see, in video games, there is never truly any fear of failure. From the moment you plunk down your hard earned cash for any particular game, you have already declared your intention. And that is exactly how most players approach a challenge. You don't  think of "if " you might clear a level. You think of "when". In your mind, it's just a matter of time. You already know you're going to kill that infamous Boss at the end of level 10, or that you're going to unlock that new gun upgrade with a perfect record of gruesome headshots in the latest shooter. There is no doubt. None whatsoever. You simply believe on a purely instinctive level that you can and will do whatever the game challenges you to.

I mention this because in real life, we are full of doubt and uncertainty. "What if my grades aren't good enough? What if I don't get in the right college? What if I don't get this job? What if this girl doesn't like me? What if this guy doesn't like me? What if I FAIL???"


We terrorize ourselves with a million and one fears, doubts and questions every single day. But what if it wasn't like that? What if we approached all of those challenges, big and small, like a video game? You already know what would happen. You wouldn't ask yourself "if". Instead, the question would be how, or when. But either way, you would start off by embracing the notion that YOU WILL SUCCEED.

One of the things that I've always loved about video games is that they are all about problem solving. And developing a spirit of perseverance when it comes to challenges is probably one of the most important life skills anyone can ever have. Winning, in games and in life, is not always about being the fastest, or the smartest, or the prettiest, or the richest. It's about lasting long enough to reach your goal. It's about endurance. You have to know that the victory is already yours.

In video games, you often realize that there is usually more than one way to success. So even though millions of people have played and beaten Super Mario Bros, chances are good that you have your own unique way that you like to play. So it is with life and it's endless twisting roads.

Life is a lot like this.


Now some may argue that time is the one big obstacle that you can never get around. And that is true. But if you think of it that way, you're only focused on what you can't do, or might not do. And really, how could you ever really know the answer to that until you at least... try? Life is full of variables and unexpected outcomes. And even though video games have very precise and pre-determined outcomes defined by lines of code and programming, chances are slim that you know what those limits are when you buy a game.

The truth is, no one will ever "beat" the game of life, but then again, that may depend entirely on your definition of what is a victory. I once read in a book that life isn't so much a single contest with one final goal, but a series of little contests all along the way, and within each one an opportunity for success and greatness. I say, why not? Much like that old slogan from Nike, "Just Do It!"... like you would in a video game.