Every gamer knows those tense moments in video games where you need to try to be careful. Sometimes that means getting up to the very edge of a tricky platform. Other times it means stocking your items and conserving your spells. Other times still, it could be taking aim with great precision. All of these situations become even more nerve-wracking when time becomes a component. Having to be careful and quick really teach us a lot about crisis management when we succeed – and patience when we fail.
I admit that when it comes to these tasks, I have not always been the most patient person. As a kid, I would run away from random encounters in RPGs and try to kill bosses with the strongest attacks I had before they killed me. I also had a terrible habit of just throwing myself through platforming levels when I hit a mechanic I couldn’t grasp. For some reason, gliding on my cape in Super Mario World was something child me just couldn’t manage.
While some of my bad habits did build in me a tenacity that has seen me through many difficult gaming moments, it wasn’t until much later that I developed the patience needed to be more careful. This change is most evident when I’m playing Pokemon. As a kid, like many, I let my starter become super-powered, and had maybe one other Pokemon (Kadabra) 20 levels higher than anyone else. Now, though, I obsessively level them evenly, making sure I have a fairly balanced party, even being sure to try those I’ve never raised before.
When a game adds time to the mix, however, even with patience, being careful can be hard. Consider the stairs in Castlevania, in my case especially Castlevania III. They’re already a pain to navigate, what with only one button allowing you to go up, and several, more intuitive buttons leading to your imminent demise. You have to consider pitfalls like this while avoiding aggravating enemies and making sure you’re going fast enough to avoid exhausting the timer. Then there are screens that will move upwards automatically, causing you to die if you are at the bottom when it makes the jump. Even if you managed to be careful through the rest of the game, it’s next to impossible to keep that cool head and execute the precise jumps and movements when every second counts.
Our patience is often tested in video games, and though our carefulness is often rewarded with success, there are many occasions where the controls and physics of a game are so bad that the only feeling overcoming an obstacle provides is continued frustration. If your jumps are so floaty that you can’t adequately guide your character to safety, your set-up so reliant on one specific line of action that only one specific precision movement can assure success, then no amount of patience is going to make a game fun, or make you care about beating it.
Bad games aside, though, the patience and methodical problem-solving one learns from being careful in video games are truly assets that contribute to success. For every inventory screen one has organized, the easier workplace inventories and databases become to interact with. Each arduous task builds a patience that can be translated to conflict resolution in day-to-day life. Learning to be careful in a video game is a skill like any other, honed through practice, trial-and-error, and games that are unrepentant in their difficulty. Although, sometimes it takes more to make a person take care, and the results for such a person may be less resolve and more broken possessions.