Level Up Your Life By Playing It Like A Video Game

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’d know that as a kid I was a hardcore gaming addict. Video games are virtually nonexistent in my life today, but something I’ve taken from my gaming days is the ability to view life through the eyes of a gamer. I know, I know, almost as nerdy as the gamers themselves, but it’s a powerful lens to view the world.

The Point Of Playing A Video Game…

isn’t to beat it. You don’t play a video game to see how much gold you can acquire, or see how many trolls you can kill. Those may be a part of the process, but ultimately if you’re a gamer you play games because you enjoy them.

This isn’t a difficult concept to grasp, so let’s take it a step further and make a simple comparison. If we can agree that the point of playing games isn’t to beat them, why is it so difficult to come to the same conclusion about life?

The answer is that (generally speaking) you can’t shut off life. If you’re not enjoying life you can’t take a break from it, or insert a new disc like you can with video games. So instead, most people cling to the idea that, “beating life” will make them happier.

Ignoring the fact that it’s impossible to define what constitutes, “beating life” this behavior actually makes a lot of sense from the paradigm most people are in. If someone isn’t experiencing happiness now, then why wouldn’t they delude themselves into thinking more money, or a bigger house is going to make them happier? Doing so gives them hope.

Of course, more material possessions won’t make you a happier person, but most people would rather gravitate towards the instant gratification of that belief rather than experience temporary discomfort and take responsibility for their own emotions.

Easy Mode vs Impossible Mode

Now that we’ve established the purpose of playing a video game is to enjoy it let’s discuss the vehicle we can operate to attain that goal.

Many video games have different “modes” or difficulty settings. These often range from easy mode, to a medium mode, to an intense/impossible mode.

Easy mode is what you’d start on the first time you play a game, but within a few days of playing the game it typically becomes boring because it no longer challenges you.

Conversely, intense mode is too challenging and frustrates all but the most seasoned and well practiced gamers.

Looking at life, easy mode is what most people are thrown into as little kids. You may have to go to preschool or kindergarten a couple days a week, but other than that you’re given few responsibilities and generally have nothing to worry about.

This is great— as a kid. But most people never advance themselves to the next difficulty level. It’s a paradox because they’re conditioned to believe that happiness comes from material possessions, and security in playing not to lose.

Unfortunately, because they don’t challenge themselves they become disconnected from life, lose the fire in their eye, and become another among the majority that grow fatter, and stupider every year.

This only fuels the belief that more material possessions are what will make them happy, and by the time someone falls this far off the path they’re fucked. Once you reach this paradigm you have essentially no chance of escaping because of the skewed pain vs pleasure response in your distorted version of reality.

The Solution?

Just like a video game you’re going to get crushed if you start on intense mode. And just like a video game you’re going to become disconnected if you stay on easy mode your whole life.

Fortunately, just like in the video games you can “level up.” Through the process of goal setting and defeating, “monsters,” and overcoming challenges you get “experience points,” and when you acquire enough of them you can advance to the next level.

It’s “easy” to meet our needs (at least in first world countries), but you’re going to get bored it that’s all you do. Obviously playing in a literal impossible mode and fighting for your survival in the jungle would be intense, and if that’s your thing by all means have at it, but doing so isn’t necessary.

The best way to maintain interest and enjoyment in life is to continually challenge yourself by setting, “stretch goals,” and as you “level up” your goals and life will as well.


Special thanks to ExAequali and his post for giving me the idea to write this one.

Picture is of me being a goof before Homecoming Freshmen year. (October 2011)

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