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Your Life as a Video Game

I loved this post on Lifehacker about looking at your life as a video game.  It’s a fitness post, but it’s applicable to everything in life and I also think it speaks volumes for why people grow bored or feel bewildered with the happily ever after.

I love level 4 of every video game.  The first 3 levels, you’re finding your footing, but by level 4, the game gets serious and drops the hand-holding, expecting you to apply what you know to solving the puzzle or moving ahead.  Level 4 feels amazing, and that is the point where I make declarations like, “I love this game!  I am going to play this game forever!”

And then I invariably hit a difficult level that makes me frustrated, or I realize that I have to wait a long time for a task to be completed in the game.  I experience a dip that I eventually get through, solidifying my determination with the game.  I am all-in.  I am going to level up and up and up.

And then I hit the game’s level 50 — not the actual level 50 but that level the author discusses in the Lifehacker article.  That point that you’re working towards.  I reach that point and while it feels amazing to be there, it also feels a little… I don’t know.  Not empty.  Not a let-down.  There isn’t a word for it, but I think you all know exactly what I mean.  That moment where you’re not working towards anything because you’ve gotten there.  And suddenly you’re like, “Wait, what is my focus?  I’ve been so busy trying to reach here, and now I’m here.  Where do I go?”

You don’t go anywhere.  You stay there.  You enjoy your hard work.

That is life.  Life is about being happy in the Level 50.  Life is about finding small quests that you can do in Level 50 that keep you interested and engaged.  Life isn’t about restarting the game and trying to get to Level 50 again.  It isn’t about chasing the next great life or scanning the app store for recently released challenges.  It’s about being happy with the life you downloaded and worked hard to build.

I was thinking about this recently because I was playing A Dark Room.  At first, it occupied every waking moment because getting wood, getting scales, getting fur — it was all such a struggle.  It took so long.  But then I got to a point where every point on the map was open and I had a shitload of steel swords and so many teeth that I could build a small castle out of discarded animal fangs.  When I got to that point, I started putting off playing because there were so many games where I was still working to level up.  But I didn’t want to close the game either.  I left it open, clicking over from time to time, but my heart wasn’t in it.

I struggling with this less with life: I like my Level 50.  This is where I am and I assume that it’s where I need to be.  I’m okay with only working the small quests now and not dealing with the excitement that comes from leveling up.  Because… you know… leveling up is a struggle, too.

Maybe that is why I like leveling up in games.  Whether I play or don’t play… it doesn’t really impact anything.  But not hitting the levels I wanted to in life?  That hurt.  That knocked me to the ground.

I don’t know.  It was food for thought.


1 Lori Lavender Luz { 01.31.16 at 12:14 pm }

What about all the levels in life you do hit — shatter, even? Is the joy there as great as the hurt with the unhit levels?

Level 50 makes me think of heaven. I remember working through the concept through Sunday School and church services. I couldn’t figure out how heaven would be so heavenly because: what would you DO all day if all your needs were met?

2 Catwoman73 { 01.31.16 at 9:20 pm }

I know exactly that ‘level 50’ moment you’re talking about. It sounds a whole lot like a midlife crisis. I don’t know anyone over 40 who hasn’t felt a little lost and unsure of what to do next. Heaven knows I’ve been there… fortunately, I haven’t gone out and bought a Ferrari or anything to try to fill that void! My husband would shoot me! 🙂

3 Vaibhav Gupta { 02.01.16 at 5:26 am }

Interesting. I have another guide that similarly compares life to a video game and it is extremely helpful to me, especially the point about ego depletion (which says you have a finite amount of willpower during a day, from which I infer exercising in the morning is easier).

You can see the guide here -http://oliveremberton.com/2014/life-is-a-game-this-is-your-strategy-guide/
I highly recommend giving it a read.

4 BnB { 02.01.16 at 7:52 am }

Sometimes my life feels like the old NES version of Super Mario Brothers (the first one), where there aren’t any saves, where if you die you go all the way back to level 1-1. Often in video games (and life, for that matter), I make it to the pinnacle, am content for a while, then I get bored and am off to search for the next big thing.

Speaking of life as a video game, have you seen Habitica (https://habitica.com/static/front)? If not, you’re welcome. Also, I’m sorry. 🙂

5 Cristy { 02.01.16 at 12:56 pm }

This analogy is so interesting to me because I feel like I’ve hit the reset button on the game and am currently entering level 2. So much to relearn and navigate. I’m hoping for level 4 within the next couple of months, but there’s also the reality of pushing for level 50.

The thing is, I pushed for level 50 and found myself at a loss. What was I going to do now? So maybe the trick is recognizing that level 50 is awesome, but there should be infinite levels?

On an aside, my first problem set involves building a game/animation using Scratch. Slowly picking through this, but would love to chat.

6 Ana { 02.01.16 at 1:27 pm }

I agree completely with catwomen73—if you have that feeling in your own life (I certainly do), I call it my mid-life crisis! Which is why I keep making up challenges & self-improvement goals…so I can keep leveling up in some small way.

7 Katherine A { 02.01.16 at 4:16 pm }

I’ve been considering and mulling over this post for awhile now. It’s been sort of a weird thing to have a baby – a sort of ‘level 50’ if you will in the infertility quest. A good thing, but weird in the sense that I actually told my husband back in September or so that I needed a hobby other than trying to get pregnant. It sounded so strange to reduce so much stress, sadness, money, etc to that point, but my life had really become so focused on ‘leveling up’ in that particular pursuit that I’d mostly neglected all the other parts of life I usually would have been working on. It seemed odd to let go – even in a temporary, small way – of something I’d put so much effort into and just enjoy where I was…

8 Mali { 02.01.16 at 9:28 pm }

I guess I haven’t reached my Level 50. I thought I might have a few years ago, but I’ve been kicked back down again. know that I place very different value on the activities that would get me to Level 50 – ie. my perfect level 50 now is very different to what it might have been 20 years ago.

It makes me think – what would my ideal Level 50 be like? Hmmm. Food for thought.

9 deathstar { 02.06.16 at 12:37 pm }

I have to admit that some days….I feel like I’ve restarted from the beginning after almost making it to Level 50 and I resent that I have to put the time in all over again. Even though I know how to play the game better now.

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