Login or Register

Sign in with Facebook
We've all been there: bored on a Sunday night, minding your own business and playing some video games, when some ostensibly more productive member of society happens by and asks, "Why are you wasting your time with that? Do something useful instead; nobody's ever learned anything from a video game." First of all, it's kind of your fault for playing Xbox at the Senior Citizen's Home for Narratively Convenient Dickhead Bystanders. Second: Well, that's just not true. Video games have been teaching us all sorts of skills for years now, it's just that we don't always think to thank them for it.

5
Timing

In video games, as in comedy and premature ejaculation, timing is everything. And nowhere in gaming is that more evident than the guillotine obstacle -- usually a set of repeatedly closing blades, doors or blocks that only allow the player to slip through the jaws with a perfectly timed sprint. In Super Mario Bros., it's the Thwomps. In Ocarina of Time, they pop up in the Fucking Shadow Temple.

Important note: While it's technically just called The Shadow Temple, any dungeon that incorporates both invisible walls and Floormasters should always be referred to with the "Fucking" prefix.

Guillotine obstacles are most emblematic of the old-school Prince of Persia games. Most of your playtime was spent taking two sprinting strides to pass through one set of snapping blades, then hitting the back button as fast as you could to avoid stepping into the other. The whole series plays out like the video game adaptation of that one Paula Abdul video starring MC Skat Kat:

"Two steps forward, one step back, we come together becAAAA MY SPINE! I CAN SEE INSIDE OF MY OWN SPINE!"

So what does the guillotine obstacle actually teach us?

Ever walked your dogs on a summer day only to find that every asshole on the block has set his sprinkler to water the sidewalk? That's a guillotine obstacle. Likewise with traffic: In most cities, the lights along major thoroughfares are timed. The reds and greens sync up to keep you at a certain speed. Navigating stoplights isn't a gaming exclusive skill, of course; anybody can manage it -- floor it past one intersection, slam on the brakes and then wait for the next to turn. But if you're a gamer, you recognize the obstacle for what it is: A matter of timing. There's never any need to stop at all. As long as you pay attention to and catch the overall pattern, you can slip right through those lights like bullets in the Matrix. If the minutes shaved off your commute and decreased wear and tear on your car aren't benefits enough for you, just pay attention the next time you're driving beside some wanna-be Vin Diesel in a souped up Civic, zooming from light to light. The look on his face the fifth time you pass him in your Rondo doing a comfortable 17 miles an hour should brighten even the most dismal commute.

4
Organization

Organization is vital in your day to day life: Staying organized at work nets better job performance, while staying organized at home nets better hygiene (or at the very least, more efficient roach parades). And if you ever need to point to a skill that video games have taught you far better than any other medium, look no further than organization. Years of spatial-awareness based gaming like Dr. Mario have given gamers an exquisite sense of place and order matched only by Obsessive Compulsives and possibly the Third Reich. If worse ever comes to worse, a guy with a decade of Tetris under his belt can always get a job at a moving company or a grocery store.

Or as a doctor? This is how medicine works, right?

Even if you're not into puzzle games, you simply can't escape learning efficiency and space management. It's everywhere, in every genre. Take Resident Evil 4, for example: That's a game about fighting demons and the undead hordes, and still it stops and forces you to organize space -- in the form of your attache case -- just to bring the optimal loadout of weapons, healing items and ammunition.

That's the kind of incentivized training you just can't get from any other experience. No matter how many flat-packing workshops you take down at the local IKEA, you're always going to lose out to the guy who learned that a poorly packed suitcase meant that the undead would be feasting upon his glistening innards.

Continue Reading Below

3
Interior Design

Unless you're in charge of the barricade-building when terrorists inevitably take the Bravo building, your life is probably never going to hinge on interior design proficiency. But it is, nonetheless, a skill we all employ frequently, and one that gaming drills into us like Mr. Bubbles into an uppity Splicer. Sure, there are the obvious "design your home" games, like The Sims and Animal Crossing, where roughly half the playtime is spent rotating credenzas at 90 degree intervals, but you can actually encounter interior design training more frequently and insidiously ... in the block puzzle.

The block puzzle is the cornerstone of gaming, or at least it will be once you pull it out of the corridor, rotate it so the sun emblem is pointing up, drop the water level and hit the switch that activates the crane that moves the bus that allows you to push said stone into said corner.

... but you still have to arrange the mirrors so the beam touches the sun, and to do that you're going to need to grab the fourth block from the left and-

Block puzzles are prevalent in everything from Zelda to Tomb Raider, the latter being a game almost entirely based on busty, lusty bitches manhandling cubes like some sort of twisted geometry-based BDSM porn.

"You've got some really acute breasts. No, that's not a pun. They're triangles. Your tits are triangular."

Block puzzles won't teach you Feng Shui or color coordination, of course, but they will teach you how a room fits together. And you'll use that skillset every single time you move house, as you will invariably have to shove an eight foot couch through a three foot door into a six foot room. If you've played enough block puzzle games, that changes from an impossible feat to a simple matter of rotation: Lift the couch vertically, pivot it on the arm, put the credenza over here -- no, you've got to rotate that 90 degrees -- and voila! It fits against the wall here without an inch to spare.

Ladies, if you've ever wondered what an avid game player can bring to the table that an average man can't, just wait until moving day: The gamer will have you comfortably reclining on your pristine leather chaise in minutes, the coffee table and ottoman perfectly placed so as to optimize flow of movement, while the non-gamer will still be outside, cursing an uncaring God and firing up a chainsaw.

2
Resource Management

Resource management is as fundamental a skill-set in the job world as it is in most game genres. In First Person Shooters, you have to carefully ration out and preserve your various types of ammunition. In Real Time Strategy, they're actual resources that you manage: Building materials, fuel, elements, manpower, etc. In Role Playing Games, it's your inventory: Potions, revives, antidotes, and weapons. In any RPG, two thirds of the player's time is spent shopping or organizing menus, and if you have just the right kind of OCD, it's even more than that. Some gamers are way too busy figuring out who could make the best use of this hair-tie and how many fire gems they can carry without dropping potions to ever bother with stopping the bloodmarch of Drogos, the Lizard God.

"Listen: The Sundered Berserkers are going to have to stop their own pillaging, OK? I'm alphabetizing potions."

And in nearly every RPG, you'll encounter the same problem: Eventually, you'll wind up with an item just as overpowered as it is rare. It's almost too good to use. So what do you do with it?

The answer, as every gamer out there has just quietly realized, is "nothing." You save it. Forever.

Every game of Left 4 Dead ends with an untouched First Aid Kit, every Pokemaster is left still clutching the Master Ball as the credits roll, and after Necron falls, poor Zidane has to make a few calls and see if the local thrift stores accept Dark Matter. If you've ever ended a Square-Enix game without an Imperial Fuckton of Megalixirs cluttering up your inventory, then you were likely either drunk or suffering from severe head trauma to the part of your brain that manages impulse control.

And now you will never again be apart.

So how does that help you in real life? Simple: All you have to do, as a gamer, is apply this logic to your savings account. Every paycheck is a Megalixir, and somewhere out there is a boss so tough that you'll eventually need it, so you'd better hang on to it for now. And if you never end up using it, so what? You just proved you were too badass to ever require it in the first place. Congratulations: You just unlocked the Comfortable Retirement Achievement.

That's right: Every epic struggle for the fate of the Never-verse, every dire quest to save Edenia from the Shoggoths, every snowy trip into the Frozen Wastes -- they've all just been extended metaphors for your 401(k).

Continue Reading Below

1
Basic Morality

There are all manner of places to learn about morality aside from video games. Your parents, your pastor, your favorite teacher, books, movies -- every one of those things should have taught you the value of doing good way before you first picked up a controller. But do me a favor and load up any comments section on the Internet ...

Clearly, it's not working.

Once you remove the immediate threat of physical consequences, every third person turns into a raging, emphatically null psychopath. And sadly, as is evidenced by Xbox Live, many of them are also gamers. But why? My theory: They're either not playing the right games, or else not picking up the inherent lesson in them. Because every so-called "open-world" game on the market is there to teach you one thing: Never, ever choose evil.

"Sure, you can crucify those guys, but you won't have many friends." -The ridiculous misconception game designers operate under.

Mass effect, Oblivion, Fallout: Every single one of them presents the player with a "choice." You can be the hero, or you can be the villain. It's totally up to you. But it's always, always a trap. Good is the only right choice. The hero option in every one of those games will net you better companions, more interesting quests, and a more ultimately satisfying story. For example, here are the NPC companions from Fallout: New Vegas -- widely regarded as one of the better open-ended games in recent memory:

Good companions: Dr. Arcade Gannon, NCR Sniper Craig Boone, Caravan Trader Rose of Sharon Cassidy, Brotherhood Scribe Veronica Santangelo

Neutral Companions: Supermutant Lily Bowen, Ghoul Mechanic Raul Tejada, Prototype Eyebot ED-E, Cyberdog Rex

Evil Companions: Elite Corporal Jack Fucking Shit.

That's Jack up there in the upper right hand corner.

And even out of those "neutral" companions, all are actually pretty "good" personality-wise, and two are functionally useless besides: Lily is somebody's kindly old mutated grandmother, Raul is a hideous zombie ... who likes fixing toasters for people instead of devouring their children, and ED-E is a floating robot that somehow still sets off landmines. If you choose the good path, you keep all of them. If you choose the evil path, you'll eventually be forced to either lose or kill the laconic uber-sniper, the sassy lesbian who punches motherfuckers so hard they explode, and the rugged young doctor with the powered robot suit. Even when it's a choice, it's never a choice: Good will always be better.

And no matter how much we gamers might protest that - complaining about how bullshit it is that so-called open-ended games always neuter the villain's path when it could explore stories and concepts just as interesting as the hero's - even we have to admit that "be nice to people" is probably a fine lesson to learn.

Or wait, no, fuck that: Why do I have to risk my life to rescue every single box of lost kittens just to get a decent ending, you dirty, rotten, game-designing sons of bitches?!

You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Or you can school him in the comments section with your no-doubt encyclopedic knowledge of morality-based open-world gaming; that'll be sure to impress the ladies.

For more from Brockway, check out 5 Reasons GTA IV Is The Worst Great Game Ever Made and 5 Scientific Discoveries That Spell Doom for Your Penis.

And check out The All-New Cracked.com Zombie Page featuring our most popular zombie articles like 6 Signs You're About to be Attacked by Zombies and The Real World Fears Behind 8 Popular Movie Monsters.

To turn on reply notifications, click here

964 Comments

Load Comments