For me, the most alluring part of gaming is the opportunity to play and act out different roles. Depending on the game, the player can be faced with options that each have its individual take on the story, and each choice, be it minor or major, changes how it proceeds. As a person, we act in a certain way which dictates our in-game character. The fact that each choice has consequences and that we are the person making that choice is what makes us feel immersed and connected to a game,
The reason why I believe role-playing is the strongest part of games, is because we can apply ourselves to any surrounding or context, and be drawn in to an experience where we try and think things we would never do in "real" life. A good game makes the player think about his or her actions, and consider the possible consequences.
What is interesting in this grand play, is the imitation of life, and the learnings that lie within. I have broken up the various learnings in four key sections: Strategy, Experience and Social where each section is focused on bringing up typical scenarios seen in games, and then applying them to a way of life. I will start out with Strategy since it is the most holistic and fundamental part.
In almost any game, strategy and tactics can make or break the player. At its core it is nothing more than being able to think ahead, and the better you are, the faster and more wise are your decisions. As an example I will talk about Starcraft and how strategy is applied to its terminology. Starcraft is a fast-paced real time strategy game where the player can choose between three different races. Each race has its own characteristics and as the game proceeds the player can construct more and more advanced buildings and units. The level of the main building decides which units and buildings are available for construction, and these levels are usually explained as Tier 1-3. If the game is played during a longer time one can also talk about the levels of the game progression, Tier 1-3 are then itself part of the early, mid and late game.
While starting out with just a main building at its first level, the player begins gathering resources. During this part of the game a few key moves are of great importance. To be strategic, the player needs to know its surroundings, and must therefore use one of its units to explre. Besides finding the opponent, it is also a good way to get a grip of promising strategic positions for the later parts of the game.
Depending on what is found during the early scout, the player must decide his opening strategy and can either push and stress the enemy by launching a quick and unexpected attack, or defend and focus on the macro management (i.e. the infrastructure). It is of course possible to do both but it usually is more effective to focus on one part, at least in the early parts when the resource income is low.
Units and buildings that are available during this phase are usually cheap weak, but can be proven effective in numbers and speed. However, since the game progresses the player must evolve and advance if not to be overrun by eventual opponents.
Scouting is always important, and the more advanced the player gets, the more of an active explorer he must become. During mid-game, the player needs to not only think about his resources and his surroundings, but make decisions that will shape the main strategy. In Starcraft, each race has its own key units and strong points, which must be analyzed and thought of. A strategic player knows what might come ahead, and has a counter for it, it is therefore important to not focus only on one path, but be flexible and combine different, and sometimes unexpected, forces.
It is in this phase where the player must also carefully consider his moves, and counter moves, since the power of the units gets stronger, the tide of the game can turn quickly. If it would happen that the opponent has countered the players units perfectly, it is still not a sure defeat. If the strategy has failed, one can make up for it with wit and speed. Micro managing ones units means falling back with wounded units and focusing down weak ones. By flanking or doing multiple attacks, the player can create havoc and scatter the enemy's units.
Being both strong in macro and micro management during mid game will in most cases ensure a win, and even though a player has a very strategic mind, this is where the actual skill comes to play.
In the last part of the game, each player is maxed out at its respective path, or should be. There's almost no looking back and a change of strategy can prove fatal. Scouting is now even more important than before, since a sneaky enemy attack can end the game within seconds.
No one wins by defending, but knowing when to attack and when to stand down is crucial. As always, the later parts of a game is a game between who can keep the stress down the most, and a battle of the minds is fought. When a players base is destroyed, the game is over and the victor can sit back and enjoy.
By challenging ourselves, we grow. And in a game we can even keep the count on our growth. Improving in a game is often portrayed by raising the level of the character, or with some other reward. Gaining a higher level gives a character the opportunity to carry more demanding items, gain entrance to places of higher difficulty or learn spells that before was beyond reach.
Collaboration & Communication
Playing by oneself can be fun at times, but it is always stronger to work in a group. Of course, being alone saves one from the occasional newb (a player with almost no competence), or ninja (someone that steals all the good items on first sight) but a strong team can reap great rewards. Some challenges are a bit to hard to face early on, but with an ally or two they can be cleverly taken down by complementing attacks and combinations. By doing this the player will be gain rewards that are worth more than he would get by taking on challenges of a lower difficulty.
It is also between allies that we can share ideas, discuss strategies and forge bonds of trust.
In gaming there are often competitions to decide who the best is. While not everyone may be interested in being number one, most should be interested in trying their skill against others in order to get an understanding of ones position. Asking someone to be a sparring partner is often well received and direct challenges are the most common way to play most games.
Something that is often forgotten, and not promoted in games, is creativity. But those who take advantage of their right side of the brain are usually highly embraced by the community. Being creative in a game is about experimenting, and combining unexpected things to achieve something new.
For experience, creativity is what allows a player to become professional, learning what is good and what is bad, without relying on a guide or a well-known strategy. Creativity is the difference between two players of the same skill and level and the only way to reach it is to practice and try new things.
As with everything, practice makes perfect, but it is only in games that we can directly see when we will achieve the next level. Games are created in such a way that the player can easily understand what needs to be done, and how long it will take to reach the next step. This is also a way to hook the player in to an addiction, because the realization of what is accomplishable becomes addictive. Regardless of how it affects the player, being determined is important for experience, and it makes accomplishments so much stronger. Knowing all the time that has been spent in to a certain fields, and then seeing how it affects ones character is something special.
Besides what happens during the action filled parts of a game, a lot of important decisions are made on a social level. If someone decides to join you in your cause, or help you out with a difficult enemy is hugely based on how that person has been treated.
By knowing someone, and what they stand for we place trust and comfort, which is highly required when collaborating and putting ones life in those of an ally. By playing a strong social game we gain resources that are invaluable and larger than the game itself. A lot of people find their future husband or wife, or friends for life within a game because they have faced great adventures together, or just chatted for a longer time.
Being well mannered is shown most often in what is verbally communicated towards an opponent. When gaming it is important to take losses in a good way, as well as wins. Not putting anyone down because a mistake, but suggesting how they can improve. Everyone is a beginner at first, and if the player wants to gain respect, having a strong manner is of the outmost importance. Even though actions within a game speak for itself, it is still people behind the characters.
Most things, if not all, that are required to become a successful player exists for us in our private lives as well. And the great thing with games is how simplified they make everything. For instance if thinking about learning as how a game would do it, it easy to understand what steps needs to be taken, and what time needs to be spent to reach the particular goal. By taking the simplification from games, and applying it to real life we can easily avoid issues such as stress or worry, because there is a clear plan with a beginning and an end, and in between is just a set time.
Applying video games to ones on life is not only a very interesting experiment that has been successful for several institutions such as schools recreating their grading system to match those in games. Try it for yourself and you will begin seeing new garments as carriers of attributes, and new learnings as gaining experience towards the next level.