I played a lot of video games growing up; not as much as those weird neck-bearded kids who play WoW, but enough to learn just how much time one can waste playing them. After I got home from school I’d grab a snack and sit my ass on the couch and start playing until dinner. I’d go to friends houses on weekends and play games and when a new game came out I’d play it tirelessly until I beat it. Fifteen hours a week isn’t all that much when you’re a teenager; school is easy and you have no reason to be doing anything else, but the older I get the more I realize how much of a time-sink it was. However, there are a few important lessons I learned from playing all those hours.
1. There are complainers…
Most guys who play CoD either talk shit about how they fucked your mother or they just keep silent. The rest are those who bitch and moan about every little detail. They’re the guys who complain you’re ‘hacking,’ playing unfairly, or using a loadout that gives you an advantage. They’re the sore losers and you encounter them in the real world all the time. In the real world those same guys whine about following the rules because they are scared of stepping out of line, they are the people who believe everyone needs to be brought to the same level lest one be left out. The best way I’ve found to deal with them is just ignore them. Ignore those who complain about perceived problems the same way you would ignore some 13 year old kid whining how using RPGs aren’t fair.
2. …and then there are those who find patterns.
On the more extreme end of things there are those who learn patterns and exploit them. They’re the guys who learn spawning patterns, optimized loadouts, good sniping positions and so on. They put in serious time to get good at the game, they also know they have to do more than learn the game to get good at the game. In the time it takes them to master the theoretical or detail oriented parts of the game their motor skills have increased as well. These guys are like us. We improve our social skills, appearance, and confidence as well as exploiting the current system in order to get better at the game of life.
3. The importance of competition
Competition is at the core of our masculinity, without it we are just participating in existence. Call of Duty is the most immediate form of competition I have come across and I never realized its importance until the first powerlifting meet I competed in. At the meet adrenaline coursed through my veins between attempts and although I cheered others on I felt a burning desire to lift as much as I damn could to prove myself better than the rest. While you may only be competing against half-literate, drugged out teenagers playing Call of Duty, you still get that same rush when trying to annihilate the other team. Even while relaxing with friends, having a few beers and playing CoD you want to beat their score. You want to be the best.
4. The average man sucks
The last CoD game I played regularly was the first Black Ops game. There was an option to look at another player’s scorecard. This scorecard showed their kill/death ratio, win/loss ratio, and every other imaginable metric of success. In this data was hours played. Between matches I’d always look at the opposition’s scorecard and 9 times out of 10 the dude had fucking terrible stats. I would regularly see players who played hundreds of hours yet still died more than they killed. Even though most guys play CoD to relax they’re still fucking terrible and aren’t any better than when they started. Same goes in the real world. Most men you meet will be extremely average, and as we all know average never got anyone anywhere. You reconnect with a friend 5 years down the line and his accomplishments include: having a mortgage, being in debt, becoming overweight, and maybe driving a new car.
5. People will do anything if given the right rewards
Video game developers are crafty sons of bitches, like social media mavens they sell instant gratification. When you think about it a game like Call of Duty is extremely boring and repetitive. Each game is 10-15 minutes long and you do the exact same thing each time, something has to keep you coming back. While much of the draw can be attributed to the thrill of competition and success there is another factor: the instant gratification of rewards. The first few hours you play Call of Duty you’re assaulted with various medals, ribbons, unlocks and upgrades. You get a medal for 5 kills, then 50, then 500. You get sucked in from the start and desire the hardest to get rewards. As in the real world people will perform the same mindless action day in, day out given enough monetary or emotional compensation.
I still play from time to time. Its nice to do nothing but move your thumbs for an hour, but no man should spend the majority of his precious free time doing something so unproductive as playing video games. One of my biggest regrets from being a teenager was spending much of my time alone playing games when I could have been out doing something interesting, or in the very least reading books. However I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. I know now to ignore those who complain and instead of complaining myself I seek out ways to overcome obstacles and get better. I know now how easily average people can be manipulated into doing mindless things if they are sufficiently compensated. Most importantly I know the importance of competition in masculine development.
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