Friday, January 24, 2014

Live Your Life Like a Video Game

Talking about video games with my Mom really made me consider how we misuse the past.

You know that game Robot Unicorn that was popular a year or two ago? Or that game Extreme Pamplona? They're flash games in the style of 2d platformers, where you run forward trying to escape or chase things. If you miss an obstacle or a jump in Robot Unicorn you die in a splash of unicorn blood. In Extreme Pamplona they're not quite that harsh, but you know what both games have in common? You never retrace your steps. If you missed it, you missed it. If you made it, you don't spend a whole bunch of time saying, “man, that sucked that they had an obstacle there.”

Actually when you play any fast-paced video game you don't spend your time on the past. That guy trying to snipe you from over the hill? You don't sit there whining that he shot at you—you go take him out! If you take the time to stand there and feel sad and text your bff about it you're giving away a free headshot, and who does that? And if you lose a majorly important unit early on in your Starcraft match, you're either going to switch your strategy elsewhere or GG and hop into the next match. You're not going to sit there and just watch for the next ten minutes while the Zerg swarm devours you.

In video games, you live in the present and face the task at hand. Period.

Maybe I need to live life more like I play video games. It's not “no regrets”--Mamma Mia, Mario and I totally regret losing that fire-flower. But we can't stop to worry about it. That girl who rejected you? That job offer you missed out on? That really dumb thing you said to your boss on the way out of the bathroom on Friday? Sorry. It'll affect the game.

But it shouldn't affect the player.

“But real life isn't a video game, Jen.”

It is in the way that matters. You know what? The designers didn't make an impossible game. Their game might challenge you, frustrate you, and even hurt your feelings or frighten you, but in the end they made a game to excite, entertain, and—if it's an indie designer—maybe even inspire you. They get value out of giving you value, and you know that when you approach the game. You trust that. One might even say that if you finish a challenging game, it's your inherent faith in the designer that drives you on—you know the game's beatable, even if it's a new game and none of your friends have beaten it. In fact, you have so much faith that you don't even think twice about it! You just play! So, while you may occasionally curse the designer for that particularly unsolvable RPG dungeon, you're not going to take your hands away from the keyboard to sit there moaning in front of the computer screen about giant ant that just killed Ness for the billionth time. Nah, you know what you do then?

You go to google and you pull out a walk-through and you cheat.

In real life, God designed the levels. And they are really, really hard, because he knows you're worth your salt as a gamer. (Dude, he even calls you salt in the book of Matthew.) But they're beatable. They've been beaten before.

There is nothing new under the sun,” says Ecclesiastes: When you're at your wit's end, you've got walkthroughs. I'm not just talking about the Bible—it absolutely is a fantastic strategy guide—I'm talking about Jesus walking through the game with you just like that insane college kid with the squeaky voice you watch on youtube. The Bible promises that every single temptation or trial you've gone through he actually gets. “Tempted in every way as we are...” it says. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man,” it says. “Do not be surprised when all kinds of trials face you,” it says, “for in this way they persecuted the prophets before you.” The book of Hebrews spends a whole bunch of chapters explaining how Jesus gathered his XP so he can help you get yours. And unlike that squeaky youtuber you follow, Jesus knows who you are, and he cares whether or not you win.

So maybe today, try living life like it's a video game. Don't stop. Don't obsess. Don't do that unforgiving bitterness thing.

Just play.


  1. This is brilliant and inspiring. So glad I clicked on this. :)

    1. = ) Aw, thanks so much! I'm glad you did too! I should go back to updating this at some point.