5 Real Skills Video Games Have Secretly Been Teaching Us

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.

#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.

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Robert Brockway

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