Making Learning A New Skill Or Turning Your Life Around As Easy As Playing A Computer Game

The Author

E. Alana James

E. Alana James

Dr E Alana James is reinventing herself again! Coming full circle to the first love of her life - art - and bringing back to her images all the lessons of her life as author, researcher, academic and wife. Concerned mostly with the idea of images as vehicles for expression of the truth of our inner and outer life experience.

Learning is much like a computer game – how can that be applied to you or your child?

I have been musing today on the comparison points between myself, retooling or reinventing a portion of my life (in this case working out in the gym), and the similarities it has with learning a computer game. I noticed that my new HP laptop came packaged with a series of games, all tied together in a games console. With no particular time on my hands I nevertheless decided to investigate. A game called FATE caught my eye and I opened it up.


Immediately it became clear that there are two environments in which I will play: a town (safe and full of resources) and a dungeon (not safe and where I earn my keep). My ultimate quest (given to me right at the start) will be to roust bad guys on dungeon level 44. Still my simple page self (ranked level 1) didn’t have to worry about that at the beginning. I explored town a little, picked up what seems like a simple quest, took my dog companion (even though I had not idea what he was good for) and off I went. The first questions I needed to answer were what was my environment like? Where were the dangers and who could I count on? What was the goal of my learning?

I was equipped with a club and so I started by smashing everything I came across in the dungeon. This seemed to have positive effect because my bag of gold filled up (I was clueless as to why, but went on nonetheless). As I advanced I got pretty good at level one. I knew now to be on the look out for bad guys and I efficiently left them in puddles on the dungeon floor. I became relatively good at finding weapons and gold – and efficient at maximum storage. Lastly I knew how to watch my life force and to refuel as it gets low (although I don’t know how to keep my pet alive and worry when his life force gets low – fortunately it just as magically seems to refill). Finally, I foray out into the online forums about this game to see if I can pick up any hints. This is like a middle stage of learning, some things are still scarey and others feel familiar. Because we learn by adding on new skills to those we know we may stay overly long at bashing things with our first tools until we learn the refinement that comes later. It is helpful to find others who have more skill than we do so that we can ask questions.

Once, the first three levels of the dungeon were conquered and the game became a bit repetitive. I still didn’t know what I was supposed to do with extra weapons, or how I fed the fish to my dog in the heat of battle in order to transform him (a power hinted at but the specifics of which made no sense), nor how or why I would want to change weapons, let alone cast spells, etc. Still my skills increased daily and I had a list of what I wanted to learn next. This is similar to learning anything, for a long time it is a mix of those things we know and those things we don’t know. As long and what we don’t know is enough to keep us interested we move ahead.

That there was more to this game than met the eye becomes obvious when I visited its website. There were in-depth discussions of aspects I hadn’t even imagined. There was a tournament where a user known as Kabacz has a score of 1,410,112,558 – twice that of his or her nearest competitor (making my meagerly 3,000 points of which I was so proud seem beyond insignificant). It was enough to make me consider dumping this game and shutting down. I was less intimidated by the discussion boards, but didn’t stop then to read them. Learning a new skill can have sections where we are too tired or too intimidated to advance.

After about a week of playing this game I noticed that I had become adept at many things:

  • I could pack and unpack my stashed items (won during battle), I caught on to how to have my dog pick things up directly, saving me hours of moving things from one area to another. There were still certain tasks that took longer than seemed efficient, but the improvement was noticeable.

  • I learned how to protect myself, aggression seemed to work whenenver there was an opportunity, thus saving damage inflicted when the bad guys came after me.

  • I knew how to cast spells, sometimes they still went off by mistake, but my overall power has gone up to a level where I am less at risk from my own backfires.

  • Gold seemed to come to me easily. Some was obtained by sending my pet to town with a full sack of weapons to sell, but mostly I earned it by taking on harder quests. In every learning situation there will be some things we understand easily, how can those be translated across the topic? We should always look for places to trade in what comes easily for the help of others when we need it.

  • Finally I was much better at noticing my health level. Even in the height of a battle with a particularly big bad guy – or even a herd of bad guys I usually caught up my health levels before I died. This saved me thousands in gold. What are the ways that work best for us as far as taking care of ourselves in the height of stressful learning situations?

I think you get the picture, and likely if you have played a similar game you can relate to this simile comparing the ways in which a computer game is like learning something new. The trick is to look for the places that offer satisfaction, in celebrating the advances we make along the way, and to keep the risk turned high enough that we don’t get bored. I found that the danger of my character dying was a great motivator at first causing me to be on guard and that my focus was keen. Then after I learned what it took to come back to life the challenge had to switch to something else. What is there in the learning challenge that you or your son or daughter face that will motivate you as an early learner? How can you switch that motivation with time and experience?

Is there something that you want to learn but are intimidated by it and so “stay safe?” No one motivation works for everyone. As youth, and the “not so young anymore” around the globe will testify, computer games are motivating. This article asks how those lessons can be applied to the more mundane things – are there lessons here that will keep me at the gym, working to achieve my best self?

Motivator Number One – Avoid Death

I want to learn to enjoy working out at the gym. The motivator is that I want to look in the mirror and decide to linger a while because I look so good in my clothes (and out of them). For years I merely avoided mirrors (after all didn’t my mother discourage me looking in them?) but now I have translated them into whether I will stand the test of being fired upon down in the dungeon. When I work out three times a week I can feel how much stronger I am getting and I take a moment to stop and primp as equal to the rest I would take in the game after a successful volley with the bad guys.

Weapons to Earn Gold Nuggets

What are the weapons that will protect me in dangerous circumstances? What are the gold nuggets in working out? The trainer at the gym is the stand in for my protection. We need a teachers to help scaffold the learning in the way that the computer game does – I want to learn in a way that I keep entertained, constantly taking on new challenges yet can see that I am making progress. I make sure I see him once a month, tell him how I am doing and he, then quite naturally, tells me how to go to the next level. Feeling great after my workout is a weapon against my inner voice who says, “Oh, do you really need to do this? Wouldn’t it be nice just to stay home?” The gold nuggets are the increases I can make in the number of reps, the amount of weight on each machine. Just like the game though, some days are better than others so it is wise to hit the gym just like I went down in that dungeon – ready to take it on.

How to be less at risk from my own backfires?

Just like the game my work out in the gym does not always stay alive against my own backfires – those habits or circumstances that knock us off of our positive routine. My nephew told me once that it is not how well we exercise but how well we go back to exercise when we have stopped that counts. Here is where I have to keep the goal in mind. I feel better. I look better. I can look in the mirror and actually have to in order to keep up the motivation. I need to keep my motivation