Video Games and Life Lessons

The last time I played video games on a regular basis, I had an Atari 2600; Defender and Pac-Man were still played on new machines in game rooms. Obviously that was a while ago. I tried playing some of the newer games as I got older, but I quickly discovered that the “first-person shooter” games were not my style, and a lot of other games got me motion sick. I did not expect to pick up the habit again, but I have in the last couple weeks. It’s been enlightening.

The Games

The games that brought me out of my video game exile are Evony and Homescapes. Advertised on Twitter, both games advertised something that interested me as alternatives to the first-person shooter games: they were logic puzzles.

In Evony, you’re presented with rooms where you have a mix of set pieces: a creature, a threat (burning lava, bottomless pits, etc.), and a treasure. The goal was to release a set of keys or trap doors in the proper sequence to avoid the threats and get to the treasure. In Homescapes, you use tools in a certain order to fix a set of home-based problems (leaky faucet, electrical short, etc.). Simple enough.

However, as it turned out, those puzzles were only sideshows to the real games. Evony is more akin to Civilization, where you build a city from the ground up, with farms, mines, markets, armories, etc. They make their money by enticing the player to cough up money to buy additional powers, tools, treasures, etc. to advance farther in the game.

Homescapes makes its money in a similar fashion by getting the player to purchase extra tools to solve the Candy Crush-type games that make up the majority of the activity. All of the Candy-Crush games give you points so you can help a cartoon butler add features to his family home.

What I Found Intriguing

I am not a particularly violent person, so first-person shooter games are not a draw for me. However, I could be attracted, as it turns out, by logic puzzles and the opportunity to build something: a city or (given my recent move) a home.

What on Earth Does This Have to Do With Technical Writing?

Fine, I’ve shared my latest enthusiasm/hobby (I’m trying to resist calling it an addiction). What does this have to do with tech writing? While the logic of the games could be interesting to anyone interested in writing scripts for them–I understand people do make a living doing that–I found that the games themselves did teach some useful lessons beyond their milieu.

It takes money to make money

You have to start somewhere with any major undertaking you’re trying, whether it’s buying a home or car or starting a business. You must put in the work, regularly and often, to earn money and get what you need.

You need to take a balanced approach

Whether you’re building a real or fictional home or designing a fictional city, you need to take all the elements into account–materials, money, food, security, etc.–to make an effective whole. The Evony game teaches this by requiring the player to build up strengths in multiple areas before advancing to another level.

Small tasks can distract you from the bigger picture

You might have your heart set on redesigning the living room or conquering the world. However, before you can do that, reality sets in and you end up having to take care of little things first, like a pipe leaking, extracting a stray cat from your yard, or making certain you have all the tools you need before you can take on the bigger projects.

Money makes things a lot easier

In Evony, you can build your city faster and better if you pay actual money from your credit or debit card to get advancement packs.

In Homesccapes, you can solve the puzzle games much more easily if you have additional toys, tricks, and tools than by trying to solve them by pure logic and persistence alone.

Both of these are true when you’re trying to fix up your home, office, or business. You can make tiny, incremental progress by struggling along with the tools you have on hand, but everything becomes a whole lot easier when you save up the money to hire professionals or buy better tools to do everything right.

Do I recommend playing these games as a way to improve your technical writing? I do not. They are tremendously fun time sinks, but they don’t do much for my productivity. They also can get quite expensive if you’re not paying attention to how many advancement packs you’re buying (oops). However, subconsciously, they can teach you some subtle lessons about getting what you want.




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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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