This post is a nostalgia trip down memory lane, looking back at games I played and thinking of what they probably taught me.
Tetris was the first video game I ever played. It came in some sort of handheld device which ran on batteries that seemed to run out every week. Before you ask, it wasn’t a Gameboy (I never had one of those); it was literally a device with a tiny little screen in which you could play Tetris and Tetris alone.
Me and my brother played it obsessively. Since we only had one device, we took turns. I would always misplace the “Z” shaped pieces in the early game and that would always come back to bite me in the ass. So I guess that’s the first lesson I learned from gaming, as early as age five: planning ahead is always better than winging it (even if winging it is more fun).
Tetris is not the game I most fondly remember though. As great a game as it was, I was blessed with being a child in the early 90s, a time when consoles made their way to the living room. One of my earliest memories is of the day I received a Sega Mega Drive that included the game Aladdin (I found this Youtube clip of the first level of the game).
Here’s the thing about the Sega Mega Drive and Aladdin: before playing it, I had never so much as glanced an eye at a console. This was probably ’93 or ’94. I didn’t even knew what consoles were! Be it by influence of my brother or just by curiosity, my parents got me one and it just so happened to have Aladdin included.
So playing Aladdin was truly a thing of wonder for me. A revelation. All of a sudden, there was this medium that responded back to my actions. It was unlike any kind of fun I had ever had. Like the main character in the story – hopping through the streets of Agrabah looking for his Princess – I was introduced to an incredible sense of discovery.
What I learned from Aladdin was of a different nature to what I think I learned from Tetris. It sparked my curiosity and it instilled in me the need to be persistent, but it wasn’t a particularly puzzle heavy game; it was very mechanic so by virtue of practice, you would eventually get through the levels.
That said, there’s something to be said about resource management and what you can learn about it from a platform game. In Aladdin, you collect apples that you can throw at your enemies, essentially working as ammunition. Being diligent about collecting a resource and using it wisely was a lesson that the game laid on you from the very beginning. It is probably a contributing factor to me having some mild OCD…
Championship Manager 2
Fast-forward a few years (and a few thousand hours of Mega Drive gameplay) and we arrive at Championship Manager 2.
I’m gonna put this out there nice and early: professionally, I wouldn’t be the person I am if it wasn’t for CM2. It was on par with any good book, any good teacher, any good lesson I ever learned.
Through gameplay, CM2 taught business management concepts that traditional courses would take years to explain.
I’ve been a line manager for most of my adult live. Throughout my career, I’ve had to set up my teams in a manner that enabled them to be successful in the short, mid and long-term. I’ve had to consider fall back positions, redundancy and safeguard points as well as succession planning. I’ve had to manage profits, margins, revenue and costs. I’ve had to constantly adapt, manage adversity and deal with change.
The above are all indispensable ingredients to be successful at CM2. if your main striker is 31 years old and might retire, you need a plan to replace him. If your wages exceed your box office, you’ll bankrupt the club and get sacked. You need a balance between young and experienced players. You need to win games on a weekly basis without sacrificing your ability to win titles in the long run.
The above are all concepts that you can easily translate into a management role in real life. From a professional point of view, learning those concepts at the age of 10 – while having fun at it – was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me.
CM2 was the second iteration of the franchise that eventually became Football Manager, a game that has sold millions of copies and is considered the supra-sumo of all football management games. There’s just nothing quite like it. Today’s version of the game has more options than what I can wrap my head around and real-life Managers have acknowledge that they use it to simulate scenarios that their teams and squads might face. Back when I played CM2, the decisions you had to make were a lot simpler so I can only imagine how much someone might learn from the game if they pick it up today.
While I played CM2 obsessively for years, no other game took over my life the way OGame did (and no other game has done so ever since).
OGame was the first online game I ever played and it was quite the game to sink your teeth in. As a player, you essentially commanded a number of different planets, spread across a number of different galaxies that were shared with other players (both friends and foes). Like CM2, it was a management type of game, except here you were developing your military prowess to conquer others and climb up the ranks.
The thing about OGame was that it was always on, 24/7, 365 days a year. There was no pause button in OGame. As a player, you would issue commands that might take hours, days, weeks to be completed. In the meantime, you would carry on with your life and hope that whatever measures you left in place to protect your planets while you were AFK were sufficient.
Playing OGame was one of the most taxing things I’ve ever done. For about 6 months, my life revolved around the schedules and demands of my colonies. Me and other members of our Alliance would network all the time, both to protect each other and to plot against others. I would wake up in the middle of the night to perform this or that task and go half-heartedly about everything else during the day because I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to spare.
I learned a lot from OGame, particularly on time management, how to juggle across multiple tasks and on how to negotiate with others. I played it at a fairly competitive level which meant I had to constantly make the right decisions about how to use my resources, outline conflict strategies ahead of time and forge alliances both from a position of weakness and one of strength.
CM2 taught be a lot about managing my own teams, whereas OGame taught me a lot about dealing with people that you don’t manage. Both have proven equally valuable.
There are many other games, across a number of different genres, that have taught me something. For this post, I decided to stick to the handful that I feel have been more impactful, which brings me to HearthStone.
I started playing HearthStone in September 2014 and I never stopped. I pretty much play every day for at least 20-40 minutes (which is the duration of my commute to work and back home). Like most of the greatest games I’ve played, HearthStone is incredibly easy to learn, deceptively hard to master and a lot of fun.
If I was to include board games / physical card games in this list, I would definitely mention Chess and Magic the Gathering. Both, for the same reason: they are games that require you to think abstractly about problems and figure out the right solutions based on, at times, very limited information. HearthStone is the video game that has followed chess and MTG in my life.
I’ve never been a big fan of “numbers” but all of these three games have helped maintain a somewhat respectable ability to calculate “things” on the fly, which is a valuable skill in all aspects of life. In HearthStone, you have numbers all over the place: the number of cards in your hand, the number of cards in your deck, your life total, the attack and defense of your minions, the number of minions on the board, etc. Each turn only takes a max of 90 seconds so, quite often, you find yourself adding and subtracting quite a lot to ensure you optimize your plays. You also need to consider probabilities; knowing the percentage of a certain card coming up from the top of your deck gives you an edge over opponents that don’t consider such nuances. HearthStone is problem-solving-under-pressure at its best and problem-solving-under-pressure is one heck of a skill to have in real life.
I could’ve probably listed a few more games.
Instead, I would love to hear what your notable games are and what you’ve learned from them. Hope you enjoyed this post!