One of the new routines I added to my weekly activities was to visit the Soldiers who live in the barracks; to check on the morale and to offer encouragement if needed. As I was interacting with the different Soldiers, it was an honor to listen and talk with these great young people. We discussed some of the things that they did to keep themselves busy during the COVID—19 pandemic. Many shared about working out more to improve their PT score, others shared with me about taking some college and/or correspondence courses. Some even shared with me about their plans once they get out of the military.
As I was walking down the hall I heard cheering and excitement coming from one of the rooms, so I knocked on the door. Inside, were some Soldiers (two) playing a video game. They put the game on pause and greeted me. “Hey, Chaplain.” I thought to myself, I have about a couple of minutes to try to engage these young minds. So I said to them, do you know almost “Everything I Learned In Life — I Learned Playing Video Games.” — With that, I could tell in their eyes that I had them hooked.
I told them that almost every video game, contains some elements of ‘real—life’, and if we can understand and apply them in our personal lives, then we will be on the path to a more meaningful life. You see, if you can connect lessons learned from different things and experiences, your journey in life will be less problematic. I then started sharing some lessons I learned as a teenager that still ring true today because I played video games:
• Patriotic — Feeling unstoppable as I played the arcade game “Galaxian,” as I protected the earth from waves of space aliens. Never has saving the world been more honorable. The game taught me the importance of taking a stand and fighting for the homeland, even in the face of uncertainty. It’s inspiring to know that one person can try and make a difference. Maybe that’s true in the real world too. At least, that is what I still believe!
• Choices Have Consequences — In the real world and also in video games, you are forced to make difficult decisions. Most choices in video games are morally clear, one is a good choice, and the other is bad. Depending on the choices you make, there are different endings you can achieve. Just like in real life, everything you do has a consequence; so it’s unwise to haphazardly make decisions about what you should be doing. When you do make a decision, think through all the possible ramifications because you don’t want your game to end unexpectedly.
• Take Advantage of The Pause Button — In the real world, we don’t have a magic button that can stop time and halt the action. So we have to do that ourselves. Don’t forget to take a moment, relax, “take a knee, and drink some water.” If all you do is put your head down and trudge through life, you’ll miss all the beauty. The “Big Ranger in the Sky” spent a lot of time rendering the beautiful graphics we see each day. Make sure you take them in, as much as possible. Take a second to sit back and marvel at the wonders all around you. It may seem silly, but you’ll feel better, more refreshed. We can tackle all the problems in front of us if we have a clear mind.
• Failure Is Not The End Of The World, It’s An Opportunity To Learn. To be good at a game, you need to get to know the rules and to develop the necessary skills, timing, dexterity, resource allocation, etc. To master this, you may fail a bunch of times. Sometimes you fail miserably or have to scratch everything and start all over from level one with a new character. Once you get into this mindset of “failure can merely be a teaching tool,” you’ll start to apply it to other aspects of life without even realizing it. You can develop a lot of patience and focus as you go through life if you see failure as not the end, but an opportunity to learn.
• Keep Going Despite Obstacles — One of my favorite games when I was a teenager, was the game Frogger. The object was to get the frog to the other side without getting run over. You can accomplish this if you know how and when to move and understand that patience is a virtue. Like in life, knowing how and when to move and being patient with yourself is important. Once you get the timing down, you can move forward by leaps and bounds. Take some time and study the game. Figure out the way to move forward. Even if you’ve got to go back a little, that’s all right, you’ll get to your destination eventually.
• Sometimes it’s not about winning, but having a good laugh. Having your mind constantly burdened with the notion of winning and stressing over a loss or slight failure is not really going to be healthy for you in the long run. Yeah, yeah, I know the whole “winning mentality” spiel – you need to keep your eyes on the prize and make sacrifices if you want to be the best, yadda, yadda, yadda – but you know what? Sometimes it’s not about being the greatest, nor is there a clear set of objectives that you complete to win – it’s about feeling good, having fun, and being fulfilled and content at the end of the day. Games, just like life, have a competitive component to them. But being obsessive, strict, and narrowly—focused on one thing to the exclusion of everything else is not the way to go if you want to be truly happy.
Well, these have been some of the lessons I have learned during my gaming journey. I also told them, I may never be the best gamer in the world. Nor do I claim to have figured out all of life’s mysteries. However, I have certainly learned to keep my eyes, mind, and heart open, because life is full of hidden lessons. These “Life Lessons” can come from the strangest of places, as we journey through life.
“If you keep your eyes open enough, oh, the stuff you learn.
Oh, the most wonderful stuff.”
— Dr. Seuss