Welcome to this post, “What Video Games Can Teach You About Success in 2022”!
Video Games? Success?
Now, I know this article may seem weird. “Video games teaching me about success? Yeah right.” I’m not necessarily saying the secret to financial independence and a fantastic return on your investments is to get really good at Fortnite, but what I am suggesting is that there are common principles for success that work in both video games and life. More than anything, video games just work as a really easy-to-understand analogy for bigger life lessons that will help even young kids understand them!
How this post came to be
A college buddy of mine and I were hanging out one day when we discovered that we both played the same game, Valorant. We started queuing up together, and naturally, the game would come up more in our conversations. But what was interesting was the way we approached Valorant. We both tried to apply the real-life lessons we were learning about to success to Valorant and would come up with theories as to what the results would be. We’d both look at some of the best players in the game and ask what made them so great. Essentially, we both looked at the game a lot differently than your average casual gamer who just plays for the sake of playing, and it got me thinking about all the things I had learned and “taught myself” through video games.
So, without further ado, allow me to share a little bit of my gaming history and some interesting “success/life principles” I have noticed in-game that apply to real-life too!
Clash of Clans
Lesson #1: The Importance of a Plan
Clash of Clans was one of the first games I ever picked up seriously (previously it was just a Hot Wheels web game or the original Super Mario Bros). Growing up (and I still am lol) my Mom had some rules about gaming 1. Nothing pyscho (magic, killing, etc.), and 2. No more than an hour per day. Now while these two simple rules might sound dystopian or apocalyptic to some kids who can play whatever they want whenever they want to, in reality, it was fine. And to be honest I’m actually very grateful she laid those ground rules in place!
Funny story: My brother and I started playing Clash of Clans before we ran it by our mom, so when she learned it had wizards and dragons she wasn’t very happy. I was so upset I just deleted the game without thinking of saving our account, so when we came to a compromise and re-downloaded the game we had to start all over. Oof.
RIP OG town hall 7 account 😂
Anyways, I mentioned those two rules we had because this is where the first lesson I learned came into play. We had to plan, and plan really well. At home we didn’t have any wifi (we lived way out in the country so we only had ethernet and it didn’t connect to our tablet), so we could only play Clash of Clans twice a week at church (after the service). In order to keep up with our friends, we had to strategize precisely about which attacks we were going to use, how much they cost, and how much loot we needed during a gaming session. Then, we would spend that loot carefully on the most important upgrades. I remember distinctly having everything laid out on several pieces of paper taped next to our beds.
Spoiler alert: it worked! (details below)
An obvious way of applying this lesson to real life is through goal setting. Goals are incredibly important for dictating the direction you’re headed, and for helping to direct your focuses to what is most important. Clash of Clans didn’t just teach me to set goals though, as it also reminded me of the importance of organizational systems in one’s life so that you are performing productively! Jacob has a great post about organization that I highly recommend checking out.
Lesson #2: Consistency is Key 🔑
The second key to my brother and I’s success in Clash of Clans was consistency. Most of our friends had a several-month head start playing the game so we were behind for a while. However, the one hour a day we dedicated over months and years really started to pay off, and eventually, we completely overtook our friends. Granted, they moved on to other games or whatever caught their interest at the time, so it’s obvious if you stop playing you stop improving. However, I have started to re-learn this lesson just recently. I’ve realized that if you are serious about getting good at something you have to do it consistently. Regularly. Grind.
Take my current game for example. I really want to reach a higher rank in Valorant, but in order to do so, I have to play consistently. I’m not going to reach rank diamond or even platinum in two weeks. Six months, maybe. But I’d have to play consistently for six months.
This applies to almost everything in life! Fitness, health, investing, controlling one’s spending, sports, self-improvement, or mowing the grass. You can’t have an immaculate lawn if you mow it once every five weeks. You’ll really struggle to reach a $2 million dollar ROTH IRA if you keep withdrawing money early on and killing the compound interest. You won’t be in or stay in great shape if your diet is garbage and you only exercise the first two weeks of every year. Consistency is the key to success in so many areas of life!
Recently I’ve been reading two books that have hit on the importance of consistency. One is Atomic Habits by James Clear, and the other is The Motivation Myth by Jeff Haden. Both books pointed out that successful people didn’t get to where they are by accident, but by their habits. In other words, what they did on a daily basis, compounded over years of hard work is a huge factor in their success. Becoming a millionaire may seem impossible, but by simply investing a few hundred dollars a month for several decades, you’ll absolutely reach that goal. Getting a black belt in martial arts might seem out of reach, but by committing to attending one to three classes per week for an hour at a time you’ll definitely reach that goal given enough time. I’ve come to realize that so much of success is about the consistency of what we do on a daily basis, not luck.
Consistency is key!
Lesson #3: Beliefs can sabotage success
Fortnite was probably one of the first “real” popular games I ever started playing, sometime around 2018. Compared to the average “gamer,” I probably devote a medium amount of time to games. During the entirety of my time playing Fortnite, I always remember self-sabotaging myself with the idea that I would never be able to be good at the game. All the people I played with were way ahead of me,** so I often only played to socialize. My thought was, “If I’m this bad at this game, I might as well not devote very much time to it all.” And I made a right and a wrong decision.
Had I genuinely enjoyed playing Fortnite for the sake of playing Fortnite and wanted to get better, I was never going to improve with a mindset like that. Even if my pitiful results confirmed the notions I had about my ability to play Fortnite, it’s never productive to have a losing mindset when approaching anything in life, as it will just add toxicity. This is the one thing I did wrong; I should have approached playing Fortnite with a positive “can-do” mindset (even if my goal wasn’t to be the best).
On the other hand, I do believe I made the right choice in critically analyzing Fortnite and asking myself how much time I wanted to devote to it and why I would play it. The conclusion I came to was that I would play to socialize with friends, but I didn’t want to devote extra time trying to be somebody I wasn’t. I didn’t love Fortnite, and that’s alright! I’m glad I didn’t beat myself up about it or tried to force myself to play a game I didn’t like just to impress other people.
**Recognize that key phrase there?
“All the people I played with were way ahead of me.”
Earlier in this post I said almost the same exact thing when my brother and I started playing Clash of Clans. But because Clash of Clans was a game we enjoyed, played consistently, and believed we could get better at, we progressed much more rapidly than our friends. Had I reflected on this while playing Fortnite I would have seen how I could improve in the game, but like I already mentioned, I wasn’t really that invested in Fornite to begin with. Just thought I would point out this interesting tip on how you can apply lessons learned from former successes to new ventures!
Lesson #4: Friendships
About a year or two ago I started realizing how much our generation relies on videos games as a socializing tool. A lot of the games we play, we play so that we can hang out with friends (whether in real life or never-met-before digital friends). Even today, there seems to be a lingering misconception that any time spent on any games is inherently anti-social, but I’m not sure I quite agree.
When my siblings and I’s best friends moved to Europe one of our favorite ways to keep in touch was through games. I didn’t play as much as my brother and sister, but my brother and I would hop on Fortnite with our two friends and chit-chat for an hour or two a day. My sister would play a horse-themed game called Star Stable with her friend as well! Gaming was a fun and easy to keep in touch and make it seem like our friends were still just around the corner.
Don’t misunderstand me though. I will be the first to say that I have witnessed many accounts of spending way too much time on games or an obsession that causes kids to ignore other people in the room (admittedly, even from myself at times!). I’m not encouraging you to use this point as a crutch for whenever your parents encourage you to spend less time on games; “but Mooom, I’m playing with friends! Friends are important!” Instead, I hope this helps you see another way of leveraging your time while playing some games. 🙂
When I picked up Valorant in December of 2020 it was the first FPS game I genuinely enjoyed playing. Keyword: first. That meant I had no previous experience in other FPS games to draw on and it was the first game of its kind I had ever played… so naturally I was (and still am, lol) garbage at the game. I still vividly remember my brother showing me a video of a professional Valorant player being analyzed and I was in awe of how much better they played the game than I did. It almost seemed impossible! Even so, I knew that pro players didn’t get there by accident, just like how the world’s richest people and most successful business owners didn’t get to their respective places by accident either. I knew that if I could identify what all the best players in the world had in common I could apply those same principles to myself and make progress much more rapidly.
So I leveraged my love of research and organization to dive into the weeds of what made the best Valorant players the best. I watched dozens of videos, saved the best, and took notes. Eventually, I also started keeping track of every match I played in a spreadsheet (I know, I know, it’s overkill). While I’m still nowhere near a pro-level (or even above average), I have noticed a handful of principles that most of the best Valorant players seem to have in common, and interestingly enough, they apply to real life as well! In fact, it was by reading Ray Dalio’s book “Life & Work Principles” that I was able to put a name to the principles I discovered and recognize the similarities in real life and Valorant.
Note: The reason I shared all of the above details was so that you could see my thought process behind approaching an endeavor I was brand new to. I highly recommend approaching other areas of life in a similar manner. For example, when learning how to invest your money properly start by studying the greatest investors in the world, what made them great, and how you can apply that to yourself! Take notes, research, compile information, and show a hunger for learning. Ask questions. Be humble. Stay consistent. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ll learn in a short period of time!
Lesson #5: Ray Dalio’s Feedback Loop
This is probably the most important point I’ll make in this post, and it’s probably also one of my favorite real-life lessons I’ve applied to a game. Many of the videos I watched about how to get better at Valorant stressed two points in particular, the first of which was honest, meaningful, reflection. Ray Dalio talks about a five-step process called a “Feedback Loop,” and if you can learn to complete all five steps properly with increasing speed, you’ll make a lot more progress in life (or even games, if applied there).
Ray Dalio described the process like this:
First, you have to pick what you are going after — your goals. Your choice of goals will determine your direction. As you move toward them, you will encounter problems. Some of those problems will bring you up against your own weaknesses. How you react to the pain that causes is up to you. If you want to reach your goals, you must be calm and analytical so that you can accurately diagnose your problems, design a plan that will get you around them, and do what’s necessary to push through to results. Then you will look at the new results you achieve and go through the process again.
To evolve quickly, you will have to do this fast and continuously, setting your goals successively higher.Ray Dalio (Principles, pg. 170)
If you interested in hearing Jacob and I discuss Ray Dalio’s five-step feedback loop further, check out this podcast episode!
Ok, so let’s put it in easier-to-understand terms. Say you’re playing Valorant, it’s round five, you’re on offense and everyone has full loadouts. Using Ray Dalio’s Feedback Loop, your goal (step one) for the round is to successfully plant the spike and play post-plant (playing defensively). The round starts, and you start pushing a site to plant the spike (aka a bomb) but don’t realize your teammates aren’t following you in. As you swing into the open you encounter an enemy, lose the fight, and die alone with no one to help you out.
Following the feedback loop process, we would move on to step two, recognizing our failure. Obviously, there is a problem because the round did not go according to plan, as you stepped out into the open and died alone. Moving on to step three, diagnosis, we calmly analyze the situation and see what went wrong. “I didn’t communicate with my teammates and I pushed in alone.” Now step four, design. How can we solve that problem? “Next round, I’ll ask my teammates to provide cover by smoking the site off and flashing the enemies holding the entrance, so I can safely push onto the site.” Great, now we’re on to the final step, “doing.” Next round, simply implement your plan!
This obviously a very specific example applied on a small scale to Valorant (hopefully it made a little sense for those who don’t play Valorant). My point is this: the feedback loop applies to all areas of life. By memorizing it and learning to recognize “failures” or problems as opportunities for improvement, you can make rapid progress in sports, school, video games, business, or whatever else you’re striving to get better at.
The video above was one of the first that helped me recognize how Ray Dalio’s feedback loop could be applied in a game. Obviously, Keeoh doesn’t call it the same thing, but the principle is essentially the same.
Lesson #6: Extreme Ownership
In short, Extreme Ownership is a book about taking full responsibility for what goes wrong as a leader, written by former Navy Seal Jocko Willink. In his book, Jocko talks about the importance of taking “extreme ownership” as a leader, as well as other important leadership principles, and the lessons have stuck with me even today.
Far too often I see people in the gaming world (Valorant in particular) blaming their teammates for a lost game or whatever goes wrong. So few people admit or even just recognize what they did wrong before talking about their teammates, and with that attitude, it will be incredibly hard for them to “rank up” or get better at the game. The same goes for life by the way.
After losing a game on Valorant I used to be far too quick to point out my teammate’s flaws. I’d say things like “Yeah, well, if only our Jett hadn’t been lurking on the opposite side of the map and dying alone, and instead helped the team, then we could have won.” Annoying teammates aside, I realized that there were far too many imperfections in my own gameplay for me to even begin criticizing others.
The reality is, Radiant Valorant players don’t get hardstuck in Bronze. Of course, they will have a few unlucky games, some losses, and garbage teammates. But given time, a true Radiant level player will be able to make it back to that rank even on a new account. My point is this: Stop complaining. Stop being toxic. Stop pointing your finger. The only results you can control are the ones you produce, so focus on yourself first and foremost. It’s a harsh reality, but a necessary one to face if you want to have any hope of improvement in any area of life.
Speaking of which, here’s a small clip from the video I shared earlier talking specifically about this topic.
Lesson #7: The Powerful Effect of a Positive Mindset
This point is a bit similar to the previous lesson and there is some overlap, but it is distinct enough to warrant its own section. Far too often I see players in games flipping out about unnecessary things. Specifically, in Valorant, the overall atmosphere of the communications in any given match has a massive influence on the outcome of that game. If there are one or two incredibly toxic teammates spewing hate, then no one is going to be in a good mood or will feel like working together to win. On the other hand, just one or two upbeat teammates who aren’t obsessing over little mistakes and bullying their teammates can easily boost team morale which is a huge winning factor in Valorant.
The same goes for in real life as well. The book How to Win Friends and Influence People is a great place to start to learn more about how to improve your interactions with strangers and other relationships. It’s incredible how often I’ve seen people try to share good ideas or helpful criticism and have it fall flat on its face simply because they weren’t aware of how they were communicating the information or because they simply did not know how to. People are an incredibly valuable asset, so learning how to effectively communicate will vastly improve your odds of success in life (and in games!).
Similarly, I want to quickly touch on raging. Though the term raging is usually reserved for the gaming world, there are plenty of examples of “raging” taking place in the real world too. I won’t beat this point over the head too much as I’m sure you’re putting two and two together and acknowledging that outbursts of emotion are hardly productive. A good book to read more about this is Ray Dalio’s book Life & Work Principles. I love the way Ray approaches everything he does so rationally and systematically.
Lesson #8: Resource Management
And last but not least, money! Of course, we need to talk about money on a finance site! 🙂
In all seriousness, finances certainly play a large role in most games as almost every single one has some type of currency system. And while there are some games that have larger “money” or saving concepts influencing them, I think you’ll learn a lot more by applying those lessons to your own finances. I still remember first starting to grasp the concept of “value” behind different transactions when I was playing Clash of Clans at a young age and evaluating the value a specific upgrade would have compared to a different upgrade. For example, I made upgrading my resource collectors, and since I knew that even though they would be out of commission for a while, it was worth the short-term sacrifice for the long-term benefit of a significantly improved resource collection speed. By upgrading them first, they would be efficiently working storing resources while I was trying to upgrade my other, much more expensive, buildings. Similarly, my resource storages was also one of my first upgrades as I would be able to take advantage of my gaming time more efficiently if I could store more loot, and therefore saving time and progressing quicker.
Even Valorant has a little economy. My mind was blown the first time a high-level player pointed out the importance of managing a team’s economy, as the types of guns you buy generally dictate the strategy for that round. Having low money and buying cheap guns means it’s a save round, and you usually want to play as a large group and move quickly, which will take your opponents off guard and allow you to pick up their better guns. Having lots of cash and full loadouts means you can play smarter (which sometimes means slower) and take long-range fights. If a team gets out of sync and half have lots of cash and half have no cash, then winning rounds will be very difficult as half you team will have to play one way and the other half of your team should play another way. It’s important that every round you’re evaluating how much money is available to you and your teammates and then deciding what kind of gun will be most valuable.
Obviously, if you’re wanting to learn how to budget or what compound interest is, you’re far better off learning from a specific finance book, website, or article. Games offer very limited financial lessons, as in-game economies are often quite simplistic and limited to basic concepts such as saving and spending. Still, one concept I encourage you to try to understand to the best of your abilities (and games can help here), is the value of money and how to maximize the efficiency of your money. Basically, how do you make your money work the hardest for you? What’s the most valuable play, strategy, or method? Each game has different techniques, and of course, your personal finances are even more complex. Who knows, maybe I’ll break the mold and make a super valuable personal finance-based video game sometime! 🙂
I’m well aware this post may have been a little odd. Video games and success don’t typically go hand in hand, though, with the rise of esports, Twitch, and YouTube, we’re getting a lot of people similar to Tyler “Ninja” Blevins making millions from gaming and quite literally being massive success stories.
This post wasn’t meant to worship gaming or to even encourage you to play more. If anything, I think many of us could stand to play less and to take more frequent breaks. However, I just recently started to discover ways of relating what I was learning in the books I was reading to not only my personal life, but to the games I was playing as well! The results surprised me. I found that not only did it help improve my gaming experience, but that by relating the principles and lessons I was learning about life to the games I was playing, I understood the principles themselves a lot better.
Now every time I hop on a game I’m gently reminded of why I’m striving to be positive in my communication, take ownership of my mistakes, and how to analyze “failures” using Ray Dalio’s feedback loop. So in a tiny way, gaming feels slightly more productive. 🙂
Oh, and I didn’t even begin to dive into how you can leverage gaming as a reward system for getting things done (maybe I’ll make that another post)! Best of luck on your success journey!
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