Most of them won’t lose you much weight, but they won’t dumb you down, and you’ll soon realise that they’ve taught you more than you bargained for.
It’s a sad state of affairs to see that right now, in the year 2018, video games are still regarded as a mere child’s distraction, or a way for social rejects to find some semblance of enjoyment in life. Not to sound too much like a video game enthusiast, or worse, a journalist, but games have taught me and countless others just like me an innumerable set of skill, vast amounts of worldly information and even basic physics, well before I ever took it in school. If you can spare about eight to ten minutes out of your busy schedule to take a dip into some of my geeky insights, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two about how video games have shaped this generation for the better… and sometimes worse.
Disclaimer: Though I’ll most likely be referencing games that Egypt has been stereotypically known for, that doesn’t mean that we’re not keeping up with the latest trends in video games, so expect to see some diversity.
Real-Time Strategy (RTS) Games - Legit Life Skills
Warcraft, Generals, Red Alert, Etc....
Tiny soldiers, slightly less tiny tanks, building adorably misaligned little bases and all things in between, strategy games have always been the more studious gamer’s resort for killing time than anything else. Though most players will go for the tried and true “move everything that moves to where the bad things are” technique to swipe themselves a victory, RTS games are way more than just power-play simulators.
What they actually teach you: Regardless of setting or level of violence, RTS games (at first) passively teach folks to plan ahead, see what resources are available to you, make informed decisions on what should and shouldn’t be done during the course of your game, and that, in essence, everything in life boils down to two things; risk and reward. Later on in difficulty, they’ll aggressively penalise you for squandering resources, performing dumb and ultimately lacklustre actions, not studying your opponent and the situation at hand, and generally just for being rash and haphazard. Sounds kind of familiar to actual life, doesn’t it? Yes friends, you use these basic skills every day, but have you noticed how the younger dude who spends more time in Starcraft kind of has a better handle on multitasking and foresight than you?
What they don’t teach you: How to actually win a war.
Role Playing (RPG) Games - Actually Applicable Mathematics
Final Fantasy, Path of Exile, Dragon Age, Diablo, Etc.
One of the purer forms of roleplay out there, role playing games typically have you playing an avatar (not the blue one) in an alternate reality spanning anything from Tolkein-esque fantasy to star wars sci-fi, to current day vampire societies and many, many more obscure worlds. You and your player character will embark on adventures fraught with peril, magic, applied algebra, multinomial equations, drago-wait…
What they actually teach you: These games are basically just colourful, stylish testaments to the power of mathematics. Yes, Dina, the same courses you continue to flunk are what these games are all about; how powerful or barely useful your character will often depend on pages upon pages of attributes, statistics, numbers, multipliers (some hidden) and algorithms that govern just how eventful each press of a button should be, all thoroughly immersed and rooted in numbers. Whether you like it or not (and if you genuinely care about your meagre virtual avatar), you’ll be learning all manner of actually viable mathematical fair and risk/reward assessments that the game cleverly disguises as “hints.” Why throw fireballs when you can perform something aesthetically less sexy, but numerically much more effective? How can you effectively get your character to a much higher ability tier with a few arbitrary points and a fucking excel sheet’s worth of attributes and skillsets laid ahead of you? Who knew fun could be hard?
What they don’t teach you: Throwing fireballs, speaking to dragons, where an orc’s G-spot is, chemistry (potions aren’t real) and the limits of human imagination.
Online (or local) Multiplayer Games - Dealing with People
World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Fortnite, Etc.
Ah yes, the Internet. If it wasn’t all the cats, niche pornography and liveleak giving people all the entertainment they could ever need, video games have been bringing the whole world closer together with the indispensable addition of multiplayer. Everybody knows there’s strength in numbers, and with strength (and numbers) come untold amounts of fun, but also, education.
What they actually teach you: It depends.
Competitive Multiplayer: With fast-paced twitch-shooters like Call of Duty or expansive, unnerving battle royales like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, you become conditioned to have peak situational awareness; where am I going? Where is a good place to hide? Where would people stash items here? What are the chances I’m going to be running into somebody else? How long will it take to drop them with what I have? So many more questions go on within split seconds, leading up to a confrontation. You learn to think quickly on your feet, find a solution as fast as possible, study your abilities and those of the folks around you, and all the while hone your hand-eye coordination to scary degree. In all likely scenarios, you won’t be spec-ops any time soon, but your hands will be quicker, your eyes will catch things nobody else really does, and you’ll start to think a bit outside the box in your own way.
Cooperative Multiplayer: Now this is where those HR skills really shine. Though there isn’t any imminent danger looming behind the scenes (except maybe arthritis), you generally want your virtual life to be in tip-top strategic shape. Playing something cooperative with your friends puts things in perspective much clearer than you’d think; Player two is a lot less dependable in a pinch compared to three, but three has much steadier aim and lay of the land than two. Four isn’t too selfish, but has a habit of wandering off to his death. I’ve learned more about people’s inner turmoil, psychological tendencies, habits and even their favourite shade of green playing games with them, and after a while, you start to see who works best for what before they even touch a controller, just by the way they act or the stuff they say. No, video games aren’t psych classes, but they help you gauge people’s effectiveness for a task, their weaknesses, their strengths, and it teaches you how to adjust and acclimate to working with a bunch of folks in any setting. Also, social skills.
What they don’t teach you: Combat, how to effectively fire a gun, how to dismantle and reassemble a gun and most importantly; how to be loved.
Bonus: When it comes to games with a setup like Counter Strike or Rainbow Six: Siege, you will be rung out like an old pair of underwear if you don’t know how to aptly invest your money. Buying a fancy gun now for an early game might sound like a good idea, but try convincing your teammates about how solid a plan it was during the late game, while you beg them for spare change for two bullets and a stick of gum. Foresight, planning and proper monetary investment all in a menu.
Sports Simulators - Teamwork and Athleticism
FIFA, PES, NBA, GT, ETC.
Whether you’re virtually dribbling, digitally dunking or not-so-realistically racing, sports sims are as varied as they are entertaining (which is to say, very), and each one sets itself miles apart from the rest with its own spin on ancient physical activities.
What they actually teach you: Apart from thoroughly yet passively studying your team’s movements, maneuvers, techniques and playing styles, you’ll learn the true values of teamwork above all else. Seeing as most examples of sports sim revolve around team-based sports, knowing who to confide in (whether it’s AI or a real, fleshy person) can mean the difference between victory and defeat, all the while teaching you how to adjust to sudden shifts in plans, spurs of the moment and metaphorically (virtually?) thinking on your feet even more. Also, they legit teach you how to play a sport at its most basic fundamentals and even some advanced moves, except racing, that’s just…not safe. Do not try it.
What they don’t teach you: The kind of physical endurance, stamina and mental willpower it takes to even begin playing any of these activities in reality. You might know how Messi does any of the strange ninja shit he does on the pitch, but you won’t be able to do any of it just from memory. Try going outside?
Games that Don’t Teach you Shit
Some games are just fun, with almost no educational or life benefit besides an extremely healthy measure of escapism. Though that might not mean anything to a discerning young aspirant such as you, it still helps to just take a load off and be dumb every now and then.
Icy Tower: What the hell did you think this would ever give you besides a headache? No, it doesn't teach how to jump, scale a tower (with no stairs no less) or walk on ice.
Pepsi Man: Pepsi makes you fat, and you can’t run very well (or very far) if you’re out of shape. I suppose it teaches you the value of exercise? Or how Japanese marketing is the most magical thing ever.
Sonic the Hedgehog: Sometimes, things should just die.
Minesweeper: The only thing Minesweeper ever managed to teach anybody is the angle required to toss a desktop clear off of a balcony.
Each and Every Fighting Game: THAT IS NOT HOW YOU FIGHT. YOU SHOULDN'T FIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Really folks, you can learn anything anywhere if you look hard enough, but with a medium as whimsical and overwhelmingly immersive as video games, you have a diverse new way of peeking behind the world’s often closed doors. You're literally watching and writing your own movie with each game, all the while using your mind to overcome incredible odds, it's as much a learning process as it is a reprieve from typical learning. Just remember that they are, in the end, beautiful forms of escapism, and not a means to an education (but they can be a means to a job).