I know, this is not a conventional statement to make. In fact, many people I know personally and almost everyone in the "grownup" world (that I am indeed a part of) would think this is at best outlandish, and at worst downright provocative for me to say so. But it's true. Playing through video games has been nearly as effective to me as reading literature or watching films in showing me humanity's different sides, and they've taught me many things about life in the process.

One thing many people focus on is the downright rawness of video games. It's hard to blame them; the most visible video games outside this culture are not games like Journey, they're games like Call of Duty. It may be hypocritical as these same people go out to see the next Saw movie year after year (which I detest infinitely more) but that's how it is. I'm sure the same things were said about movies in their infancy. My purpose isn't to debate the legitimacy of video games, however, it's to talk about lessons hidden inside games I've played.

Age of Empires - money management

I'll start with the most ridiculous sounding. Yes, I learned rudimentary money management skills as a lad when the first Age of Empires came out. Obviously that's not the only place I learned it, as my parents were very involved in every aspect of raising me and money skills were a part of that, but it was a very simple way to see the cost and reward system. Did I want to spend my money now on swordsmen? Or did I want to invest a little and but another villager or two to start mining gold so I could upgrade to the next age in a while? It's a very visual way to see that if I wanted something better, I couldn't buy something kind of cool now with no drawback. It's something I'm still working on.


Fable - every choice a consequence

Yes, that was the tagline of the first Fable. I remember how excited I was about this game, and while it didn't live up to expectations is was still phenomenal. Now the consequences weren't as far reaching as they were touting they would be, but it was still staggering to me that nearly everything I did would effect at least my appearance in some way. Want to eat food to heal yourself instead of use magic? Maybe you'll gain weight. Only if it's a certain kind of food though. Want to hold off healing yourself just in case you need that potion even more later? You'll get some scars. Want to use a sword instead of a bow? You'll get huge and buff instead of tall. Obviously these aren't always realistic outcomes, but it still was impressive to me. And honestly it's how life is. Want to play with legos with your daughter instead of run in the morning? Maybe you'll gain weight. Just maybe...

Mass Effect - humanity at work (and an awful guilt complex)

I have my Final Fantasy XIII run on hold right now, and I'm actually playing through Mass Effect for a second time. This time I'm a renegade. Many of you love that side and use it as your standard run, but I always have to make it a special, dedicated playthrough in these choice games for one reason: I feel like a monster doing so. Crazy right? It's a video game, obviously these things aren't real, get over it. But there's just something about being that dismissive and commanding that doesn't sit well with me. I'm doing the "renegade" choice at almost every juncture (except I've noticed that cuts you off from many story points and even quests so I waver sometimes) and I feel like a dirtbag. What did Liara ever do to me to deserve such treatment? Why am I actually encouraging Garrus to think like this? I'm having to dissociate myself from the game frequently. When any medium points out your humanity in such a fashion, I think it's something to take note of and respect. NOTE: I'm not saying anything negative about my friends who love being bad in games; I just have a stupid crazy guilt complex.

Eternal Sonata - music appreciation

 Now don't get me wrong, I've been way into video game music since the 16 bit glory days of Chrono Trigger, Earthbound and Secret of Mana. But Eternal Sonata literally flipped a switch in me somehow. If any of you like whimsical, colorful games and haven't played this, go buy it. Fantastic RPG. Basic background: it's a story of Frederic Chopin (yeah, that piano playin' guy) in his last moments on his deathbed in a coma of sorts. You play as him in a dream world in his head, and seeing as how it's in the brain of a composer almost everything is music related from the town names to the weapons you use. The in-game music is phenomenal in its own right, but every now and then they have a break. They'll play actual Chopin music to a slideshow of sorts and exerpts from his life (which I never knew was as crazy as it was). Sure that sounds boring, but to be honest I look forward to it each time. I find it fascinating and the music is wonderful. Because of this game, I am invested in classical music. To give appreciation to that statement, I was in my junior high and high school bands every year. I took a humanities class in college, and a large portion of that was dedicated to classical music and the differences in periods, etc. In short, I've had exposure. But I now actually listen to it (most especially when I'm writing papers) and I feel a better person because of it.

I'm actually going to truncate this blog. I thought it would be much shorter and so I have several other examples, but this is getting long. Surprising as it may be to everyone (including myself), there are many lessons out there in our main form of entertainment. If you open your eyes to see them you'll definitely pick them up, and it's been extremely interesting to me doing so as I've been preparing to write this the past few days. Of course, if you want to shake your head at me and say a cigar is just a cigar then go for it and I won't fault you at all.