A Gamer's Approach to Lifelong Learning




What does it mean to learn like a gamer? Putting that into English is difficult. "Learning by choice because the information is interesting" is the best I can do.

It would be more accurately described as the feeling you get in a tutorial in a game you are excited to play. You've just hurriedly plugged in your controller and you're desperate to know how to play this game so that you can have fun. You're through the tutorial before you know it. Suddenly, you're an expert at the game.

Tutorial village

Naiive child: 'Sounds great!' - Source: A Tutorial on Tutorials

We were ready to lose hours of time to learn obscure and useless game knowledge. How does anyone reasonably expect a child to retain all of this information? And yet we all know how it went down.

This is the kind of learning that I want to talk about. In this article, I'll discuss:

Why Games are so Effective

Before video games came into the picture, TV shows dominated the screen. Sesame Street was a pioneer in the field of children's television. The show was designed to be entertaining and educational. Its success was wholly due to its research. Game developers could use information from research like Sesame Street's to make their games more addictive to children.

Game developers found increasingly effective ways to keep players engaged during tutorials. As games get more complex, more information needs to be passed to the player before they can leave the tutorial area. The player believes the information is crucial to their ability to play and have fun. Disguising learning as a game is super effective.

Pikachu vs Pidgey - Pokemon Super Effective

Why Games are No Longer "Fun" for Me

Nearly all of my friends are gamers. Getting good at video games was actually a necessity to keep up with some of my friend groups. They were simply too good. Lore, skill sets, move lists, settings, etc., all became nuggets of information that could help me keep up or advance. We would dominate the ladder in some games. This went on for years.

In 2016, I encountered the last game I would seriously play. Black Desert Online taxed my abilities in nearly every way. The game had it all, but high-level gameplay required 8-16 hour days, and the competition was fierce. No amount of success in the game could justify the effort expended.

I thought about my progress up until that point. I had learned many things, but not all of it had been useful. In fact, I argued with gamer friends that most of it was useless. I had to admit that I would erase that knowledge and put something more useful in its place if possible. I quit games for a while so that more useless info wouldn't be absorbed. This is where I truly began to learn how to learn.

Putting an End to Pointless Learning

Portal 2 say apple
Why are you forcing me to learn this again?

For whatever reason, game knowledge flowed into me like water flowing out of a faucet and into a drain. Barely a drop was missed, and all of it went to waste. It was evident that I could learn at epic speeds, but forcing myself to learn anything had very mixed results. I hated feeling as if I wasn't able to retain information from studying, but I noticed that never happened with games.

Here's a useless nugget of info. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King had 10 classes and 10 races. Spellcasters also had different ranks for each spell. Not knowing something could mean a loss when you're going for Gladiator.

Why was I able to retain all of that, but some things eluded me? It boiled down to interest. It turns out that you have to physically drag people away from the things that they find interesting. They have no issue with absorbing massive amounts of information on a topic when it was truly their first choice. It does not matter how useful (or useless) the topic is. This doesn't go away when you become an adult.

We need to be more responsible with the information that we absorb.

Learning Should be Fun

It's possible to learn anything, but there's a direct connection between the attitude of the student and the amount of information learned. Your environment and what you are doing in it when you are trying to learn will play a big role.

Disney's Lion Cage

Short of dying, I think that all methods of learning are effective. I'm not a fan of pain or loss of privileges as a learning tool. I would rather go to Disney than lock myself in a cage with a lion. Both of them would be memorable experiences that you could learn from, but you might resent how you learn from the latter.

If you had to learn a new language, would you rather read a textbook about it, or would you prefer immersing yourself in the language by watching films, listening to music, or even traveling to a country where the language is spoken? This is the kind of active learning that can take a task from mundane to exciting.

Gamify Your Learning

If you're like me and you enjoy video games, gamifying your learning can be a fun and effective way to learn new material. Just as with video games, you can set up levels, rewards, and challenges to keep yourself engaged. Here are some ways you could gamify your learning:

  • Game jargon: Use jargon to describe your learning. For instance, you could call your learning sessions "quests", "missions", or "farming sessions".
  • MinMax: Minimize boredom and maximize fun. Figure out what makes you excited and exploit that.
  • Create challenges: Just like a boss fight in a video game, set up tough challenges that test your understanding of the topic. Do a project or create a presentation to show what you've learned.
  • Reward yourself: Don't forget that we're all motivated by rewards. Set up rewards for yourself when you complete a challenge or reach a new level.

Habitica is a great app for gamifying your everyday tasks. You can set up missions, assign rewards, and track your progress. Quantifying your efforts can also help you see how much you've learned and how far you've come. I no longer use the app, but I had a blast with it when I did.

Closing Thoughts

Learning is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It's crucial to find the methods that work best for you and keep you engaged and interested. It's okay if these methods are unconventional or don't fit into the traditional schooling framework. What's important is that you are growing, learning, and enjoying the process.

Always remember, learning is a journey, not a destination. The goal isn't to know everything but to continually grow and improve. If you're always learning, you're always growing.

Happy learning!