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5 Lessons I Learned from RPGs

I play a lot of video games and they’re usually RPGs. Why? In short, because I like them. To expand on that, the complex stories, characters and worlds engross me fully. The art is beautiful, the gameplay is fun, and the escapism they provide is top notch. I love these games but, in a lot of ways, they’re more than that; they’ve reinforced some important morals in life that I would not have stressed or exercised without them. So, in honor of my favorite genre, here are five life lessons I’ve learned from RPGs.

1. Always Look Behind You

They say that hindsight is 20/20, that looking at what happened before will teach you lessons and give you better insight for the future. RPGs taught me that the saying is true: what appears behind you can be valuable.

That’s usually where the game designers hide the treasure chests.

I know, I know, the manifestation of the saying is different, but the meaning is the same. In RPGs, you will appear in an area, whether it’s a forest or dungeon, facing forward in the direction you should proceed to complete your quest. What Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts taught me is to turn around and tread the way you came. That is where the treasure or rare items are. And what you gain is valuable! Whether it be treasure, a side-quest, or a secret passage to a new place, turning around and being observant is important in RPGs… and life. I would have never found 5,000 gil if I blindly walked forward. If I didn’t turn around and take in my surroundings, the 101 Dalmatians would still be lost and afraid. RPGs takes abstract life lessons and transforms them into something solid and digestible. This is a great one: look and learn from what’s behind you. Thanks Square Enix.

2. Learn to Read a Map

In today’s world of smart phones and GPS, some think that map reading is a thing of the past. How untrue is that? When you’re at an amusement park looking for the one coaster you came to ride, how will you find it? When you’re at the zoo desperately searching for the giraffe exhibit, what is going to help you get there? A map. Maps are extremely useful pieces of paper and the information on them is invaluable. Learning how to decipher a map is important, and probably will always be.

I learned most my map reading skills from RPGs. In Persona 5, utilizing the map to get to the goal is key. Navigating the Palaces efficiently and scoping the terrain is a crucial part of the game that makes it fun and engaging; it makes you feel like a Phantom Thief. In my current RPG adventure, Octopath Traveler, the map sucks. It doesn’t give you any details or insight, only the general direction of a certain location. I have to use my map reading skills and sense of direction from previous games to navigate the terrain. They are skills I am grateful to have.

When I’m in the city and someone tells me to talk north, how are I supposed to know which way that is? I’m not Magellan! But thanks to RPGs and Never Eat Sour Watermelons (an important life mantra), I now have a better clue of which way to turn. And walking through the zoo is child’s play. Go RPGs. Now I wish they would teach me how to fold up those darn maps. They’re impossible…

3. Work so You Can Play

One of my least favorite parts of RPGs is the grinding. Battling horde after horde of monsters in order to level up; doing boring tasks like fishing, flower arranging and tedious mini games to develop a skill to help in the journey. What a drag! But isn’t that a great life lesson? Isn’t that, essentially, just life?

Training and practice is hard, but we must work in order to play.

For example, most people don’t like their day job. Sitting at a desk all day hurts your butt, dealing with stupid people hurts your brain. But you work to make money so you can go on trips, buy nice things and experience life. Guess what everyone, you’re grinding!

Both in-game and irl grinding is dull but it teaches patience, motivation, productivity, and enhances your character stats. It is a hard but necessary lesson. Maybe if you imagine filling out paperwork as EXP grinding a dungeon it will help your work output? Try it and let me know.

4. The Importance of Planning

Most of the RPGs I play are turn-based; I like being able to analyze everything mid-battle and make calm, confident choices. Going into these battles, I consider a lot of things. Where is the battle taking place? If it’s in a snowy area, I will equip Fire magic because, most likely, that will be the regional elemental weakness. What is the state of my inventory? I need to stock up on supplies and upgrade my weapons before a dive in. Being observant and taking your time before running into a situation will always be a smart move.

Persona 5 incorporates planning and strategy into every aspect of gameplay. How you interact with the game depends on how you spend your time; you only have a certain amount of hours in a day and it is up to the player how to use them efficiently. Even within dungeons, safe rooms allow you to talk strategy with your party members. Choosing “How is everyone doing?” gives you information to determine if your party can continue on or if you need to heal; “What’s our progress?” lets you know your positioning in the Palace, how far are you and how much farther you need to go. Asking yourself and your “party members” these questions irl can give you the foundation to form a plan and make good choices.

Incorporating this strategy into your gameplay will help you not die. Incorporating it into your life will help you not regret.

5. Everyone has a Story

I remember a moment in Drivers Ed that really impacted me. My teacher was talking about careful driving and all that jazz and mentioned something important: “The cars you could be hitting aren’t just cars. There are people inside them and those people have lives you can ruin if you don’t drive safe.”

In a sense, that’s mirrored well in RPGs. In recent games, towns are filled with NCPs that each have their own stories and individualized dialogue. Game writers are amazing in this way; they think everything out so far and give each world such deep realism. And, just like my Drivers Ed teach said, caring about those people matter. Talking to NPCs and helping them can be beneficial for you; being an involved citizen in your world can help the progression of your story. Making allies, trading and doing side quests for people come with rewards, a helpful hand in battle, or information that aids your story. And it’s the same in real life. Be involved. Talk and help others. Be wary of your choices because they will affect other players and NCPs. One way or another, be considerate will help you, whether it’s in experience, allies or knowledge.

Everyone has a story. Learning others will help enrich yours.

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