Recently, I have been thinking about how video games have helped me to hone certain skills of mine in the real world.  Unfortunately, not everything can be as fun as a video game, but many of the approaches that I make while gaming are very much similar to how I deal with things IRL (although, it certainly would be nice if real life allowed for just forgoing stuff like rent and food so that I could just save tons of money to the point that I never had to worry about using it or running out of it).

So here is my top 5 list of things that mirror my real world strategies long after I update my save file and shut off the system.

1) "This Too Shall Pass"-AKA The Patience of a (Level 99) Saint

When I my daughter is crying or fussing (and believe me, if you have a kid, the crying seems to last FOREVER, even if it's only 30 seconds), the car won't start, or Fate invariably throws a big angry middle-finger-waving road block into my path, the first thing I do is start looking at my options.  Much like the random battles that pop up in RPGs, these major annoyances and problems are battles that I must deal with strategically and efficiently.  However, even when up-to-my-ankles in nasty, soul-sucking grind, the one thing that keeps you going the whole time is the Goal.  It might be that mighty tasty burger you're hoping to score later today, or that fabulous new coat that fits in all the right places, or perhaps, yes perhaps, it is simply the reward of being able to sink into the folds of your Very Comfy Couch and plug into your favorite digital universe to unwind.  However, there is a Goal and that Goal, regardless of how far away it may be, keeps you going even when you have to stand in line at the pharmacy for three hours and they keep mispronouncing your name over the intercom in an embarrassing manner.

2) Bootstrapping-It isn't just for the Aspiring Middle Class!

You know the person who cuts grass for green Rupees in the Zelda games until they can buy the bow and arrow instead of waiting until halfway through the game when enough money just happens to be come available due to cumulative money-gathering?  Yeah, that's me.

I will forgo things that I want so bad that I can practically TASTE IT until I have at least saved enough for the possibility of my car breaking down or my inevitable need for emergency vet care because the cat decided to swallow an entire roll of twine again.

This "Oh Crap" money is money that I need to squirrel away because often-times, I need it, and I hate going into debt of any sort.  Case in point-credit cards.  I only use a credit card insofar as I have the money to pay it down to 0 at the end of the month.  Most video games don't have credit cards, but some do have barter or trade systems, and there is a reason that the term "costs you an arm and a leg" was coined in the first place.

The nice thing about games is that most of the time, I can forgo essential stuff like, say, food or rent expenses.  And it's not like you need to buy a wardrobe of clothes-beyond the basic armor and such, you pretty much wear the same thing for the entire game (imagine this next time you're playing Pokemon and it is pretty disconcerting to realize that the main characters, not to mention the random people who stand out in the grass and underground Zubat-guano encrusted caves 24/7, are somehow clean and well-groomed).  Before I know it, I'm up to some insane amount of money, gold or what-have-you currency, and there is no way I could use it all.

So in the real world, I use this same cautious approach in all of my dealings.  I save for a rainy day and when I can't get what I want, I wait until I have the ability to get it.  I saved up and bought my Tempurpedic bed outright with cash.  Of course that meant sleeping on a lumpy old creaky mattress for a long time, but it was worth it.  And getting a big 42 inch TV was amazingly wonderful, but we waited until we had saved up the 380 or so dollars to buy it and the wall mount (which I haggled down the price for due to the fact we paid for it outright), but we suffered with a 20 inch set that sometimes separated the green, blue and reds in the picture for at least two years before we got the money together.  My cautious, "work hard until you get rewarded" strategy is one of the many strategies that you can use in a video game, and while you may not necessarily have so much fun with the endless battles against Rattata, (ie: that sexy PS3/3DS/WiiHD/iPad/etc that you have been lusting over) you're still going to reap the reward of not immediately dying every time you get to a boss battle (ie: credit card interest rates).

3) Step Away From the Problem (And Revisit It Later)

In most games, you'll get to a point where you want to pull your hair out or snap the controller in half in frustration.  Usually, this involves not being able to get past a door on the main body of the  game, or simply not being able to FIND the next leg of new story because of issues with linearity.  It may also be a problem with finding one small piece to the puzzle, especially if you're playing something like, say, Windwaker, and you're forced to sail for an ETERNITY to find scattered and random maps that will supposedly help you actually get to the dungeons that you'd rather be exploring instead of pointing your ship in one direction and hoping you don't crack from the cabin fever before you finally get to your destination.

So when you get to that point, what do you do?

I'll tell you what *I* do.

I take a deep breath.  I step back.  And I either save the problem for later, or I calmly start thinking of ways to deal with the issue.

Most problems, especially when I lose something I really need, or just can't bring myself to look at one more piece of clean laundry that is begging to be folded, or deal with the huge stack of haphazardly stacked dishes that I must do by hand-all can usually become more manageable if I just step away and come back in a bit when I'm less overwhelmed.  I'm usually glad I did, because in a different frame of mind, the same problem can be seen in a different light and that different light often leads to different solutions.

4) Big Things are Done in Small Steps

Yeah, I know, Ganondorf is raping the land and the Great Evil is sowing the seeds of apocalyptic destruction and you're trapped in an underwater madhouse with people who want to cut you up just to see what color your insides are.  But you're just going to have to focus on beating the Cute Fluffy Bunnies first.  The Final Boss can wait and you don't quite yet need to worry about whether you are up-to-date on your airship knowledge.

Pretty much every big problem gets done in small steps.

20 page senior paper getting you down?  Write a section at a time-break them up and the whole thing will be done eventually. This is exactly how I finished my college exit paper by the due date and 90% of the other people in my class had to ask for extensions.  Of course, it did help that I was comparing Gozu (a Japanese horror film) to Freudian dream analysis, so it was quite fun indeed.  But i would never in a million years just sit down and write 20 pages of text.  In that direction lies madness.

Pretty much every single accomplishment that I have ever finished has come from small steps towards greatness.  Too many people are "all or nothing" types who spend hours back to back or even days constantly working on something only to neglect to finish it because they were so over-zealous that they burned out.  The only small mercy here is that in the real world, you very rarely actually go up in flames when you burn out.  Unfortunately, some of our video game character avatars are not as lucky.

5) Don't Worry Too Much About the Post-Game Content or the Possibility of A Sequel When You're in the Middle of it all

A lot of people I know are obsessed about what happens after you die-after this life comes to an end.  Will there be "post game content" where you get your angel halo and wings or demon tail and horns, respectively?  Or perhaps there will be a "start new game" on harder difficulty so you can dodge even more flying turtles and ravenous man-eating plants.

Whatever is coming next, the question shouldn't be to obsess over whether or not there is or is not something waiting out there to glom onto the moment your last breath passes through your lips.  Part of the enjoyment of a game is to enjoy being in the thick of it-the smell of defeat on the breath of your opponents (well, just tell yourself that it's defeat because the alternative is kind of...well...gross), and to reap the awards of the ladies (or manlies) who fight, verbally spar, and/or sleep by your side.  It's a question of building the life you've been given, and doing the most you can with what you have, where you are.  While it may be fun to ask questions about an afterlife or other "post game content", you might as well be wondering about what sort of bowel movement will come of your tasty meal.  It simply ruins the enjoyment of the experience, and sometimes, just sometimes, when you can allow yourself to live in the moment, somehow What Happens Next just doesn't seem to matter nearly as much.