Pop Culture Intervention

7 Life Lessons I Learned From Playing Video Games

No. 3 is major.

At A Plus, we're addicted to pop culture, and Pop Culture Intervention brings that obsession to the soapbox. Through this series, we'll recommend what you should be watching, reading or listening to; explore how arts and entertainment affect us; and interpret the important messages contained within various works.

As someone who grew up playing video games, these digital worlds hold a special place in my heart. While there are many misconceptions about them, I'm always quick to point out that they can actually be educational. In fact, I would definitely have to say that video games have taught me many important life lessons.

Beyond the mental, physical, and social pluses, video games have the ability to do what books, movies, and TV shows cannot: put us in control. All of these pop culture mediums have the capability allowing us to be anyone, do anything, and go anywhere, but video games give us a first-person experience and, as a result, a totally unique perspective.

In my years of playing video games, I've learned quite a few life lessons that have stuck and that still ring true today. Thanks to these — and the memories in which they were created — I feel more than capable to face whatever comes my way. Here are the seven important life lessons I learned from playing video games:

1. “Detroit: Become Human”: Every decision matters, so make each one count.

Detroit: Become Human has a story revolving around three different androids — Connor, Kara, and Marcus — in a futuristic setting of Detroit. Each character goes on their own journey of self-discovery with the question over the rights of artificial intelligence explored throughout. What sets it apart? It's you who makes all the decisions for them, both big and small. These dialogue and action choices essentially shape the story, with each click of a button having either positive or negative results for your protagonists. The same goes for you in the real world, too.

2. “Final Fantasy”: You are never alone when you’re surrounded by friends.

With each and every installment of Final Fantasy comes an epic adventure to go on, a quest to undertake, and a baddie to take down. This could seem like a lot but the best part is that you're never alone. A cornerstone of the Final Fantasy franchise is that your main character always has a party they travel with. You either start with them, like in earlier ones, or you find them along the way, like with the later ones. Final Fantasy VII gave us Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, and others. Final Fantasy VIII introduced us to Squall, Rinoa, Zell, and others. Final Fantasy IX gave us Zidane, Garnet, Vivi, and others. Final Fantasy X introduced us to Tidus, Yuna, Lulu, Rikku, and others. This was a great stretch of games, all in succession. It was always comforting to know that, no matter what, you had power in numbers.

3. “Kingdom Hearts”: It is what’s inside us that’s important.

Kingdom Hearts — an RPG franchise infused with Disney flair — has, well, a lot of heart. Sora, our protagonist, is separated from his friends and goes sets out to rescue them with Donald Duck, Goofy, and Mickey Mouse. Sora faces many ups and downs but remains strong, and — using the weapon bestowed upon him, the Keyblade — he fights the Heartless and restores peace. The Heartless are manifestations of darkness while Sora, whose name means "sky" in Japanese, represents the light and has the capability of sealing away the darkness. He may look like a little boy on the outside, and he is, but he is able to overcome anything thanks to the light he has inside.

4. “The Last of Us”: We get to choose our own family.

Some people think of family as those we are related to, those who share our blood, but it doesn't have to be that rigid of a definition. That's the idea at the core of The Last of Us because, even though it's essentially in the zombie survival genre, the relationship between its main characters, Joel and Ellie, is very moving. These two are not related — in fact, Ellie could be looked at as a substitute daughter for Joel, whose own daughter dies at the start — and yet they repeatedly risk their lives for each other. The Last of Us is by no means the only video game to explore this, but it certainly is a memorable one to do so. No zombies could break this pair up. 

5. “The Legend of Zelda”: Sometimes just one person can do incredible things.

The Legend of Zelda, a franchise which has been around for more than 30 years, is about good conquering evil, but it's more than that. Each game follows a similar formula: the evil villain Ganondorf tries to take over and Link, our hero, sets out to stop that from happening, thanks to the help of Zelda, of course. By admittedly playing into the trope of a princess who needs saving, the game becomes Link vs. Ganondorf. Except it's not just Ganondorf, as Link has a whole army of baddies to face as well. It's inspiring to see what one person can accomplish — basically saving a whole world all by themselves. Maybe that's true in the real world, too. We can hope!

6. “Mario Kart”: Be prepared. There are banana peels and shells everywhere.

The thing about Mario Kart is that you might be leading the race but you never know what's coming up behind you or what is waiting for you around the corner. Things can change at any moment and you can go from first to last in an instant. Banana peels will appear to spin things out of control and shells will come racing at you to blow up your game, so you always have to be prepared. Also, don't get cocky because, as pointed out, you can go from being on the top to the bottom. If you're lucky, you'll get some defenses of your own to help you get through the race that we call life and you'll be able to snag any and all trophies that come your way.

7. “Pokémon”: Good things come to those who wait — and train.

Pokémon is all about catching 'em all, but that's just where the fun starts. Not only are you encouraged to discover hundreds of pocket monsters, you have to train them. Your Pokémon pals battle to gain experience and level up in order to learn new moves, evolve into new creatures, and gain strength. You're going to need their help if you have any chance of beating the Pokémon gym leaders and, in the end, become the Pokémon League champ. It'll take some time, but you're rewarded for that hard work when your team of Pokémon is able to tackle anything in their path.

Cover image: chuckchee / Shutterstock.com

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