Thursday, November 08, 2018

How to Use Video Games to See Patterns

Over the past few weeks, I started playing Stardew Valley –a farming life simulator (or what I would fondly call, an errand runner – where I do the tasks I SHOULD be doing in real life).

Life simulators, like Stardew Valley and the SIMS, are agreat way to see patterns that you might miss while living life.

For example, as I played Stardew Valley – it became very clear to me that I am a workaholic and, when I feel I have a bunch of stuff to do, I will neglect social relationships to get things done. I suspected I had this pattern, but it was interesting to see it in my avatar.

I also noticed that, as in life, I got much further, faster
in the game by focusing on a couple of skills for a period. In my case, during the
early game, I focused on foraging and mining. 
I de-prioritized fishing, social interaction, and much of the farming
outside of chopping down trees and scything weeds.

When I first started, I had a go at everything. This helped
me evaluate what would be the most productive area of focus.   I tried fishing – and learned that trying to
do that on a touch-pad was next to impossible. 
I socialized with the community – and found that when I was in the early
game that I didn’t have anything anyone particularly wanted.  Farming outside of chopping down trees
required coin and resources I didn’t have. 
Once I learned that I needed to get resources quickly, I focused my
attention on that – and let go of the other activities … for now.

Later in the game, other activities become more useful.  That’s the adjustment part and something that
can get neglected. It’s easy to continue doing things that worked before long
past the point the point where it stops working. It’s also easy to write off
previously difficult activities as “too hard” forever. But, as in life, you get
more skills, practice and resources. And, almost magically, what was “too hard”
before suddenly becomes easy if you just try it. 

During this Stardew Valley play-through – I hit a point
where I needed to start mastering fishing. 
I picked up a new resource (in this case, a wireless trackball mouse), found
a wiki for the game that told me where the different fish were and when they
hit, used my prior knowledge of the game map to find decent fishing spots, and
focused my attention on getting good at fishing. 

It would have been easy to drop the game, or ignore fishing
altogether. The experience would have been partial. 

Same thing with any other endeavor in life – fitness,
building a business, learning a skill. We hit mastery milestones where the
early activities don’t provide nearly the impact they did before. Our challenge
is to make the adjustments, try activities that we may have previously written
off as “too hard,” and spend some focused time getting good at those
activities. That focused time builds our skill base and tool kit. 

It’s also not simply a matter of adding on or replacing. We
integrate our prior knowledge as we build our skills.  Sometimes, the old ways work. Sometimes, we
need to go all in on a new way. Sometime, a hybrid of the two ways provides the
best result. 

Video games provide a way to externalize patterns.  What’s your favorite game? What patterns do you see as you engage with that game?


Resources

Dan and Carrie Floyd at PlayFrame introduced me to this game.  Unlike many video game play-through YouTubers, the Floyds work in the industry and point out creative and design details that your average gamer ignores. 

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