The Thing I Like About …

… the God of War video game: the way some things take forever to figure out.

I have not actually played God of War; I prefer to watch others play them. But my son has played God of War … and I often get to witness his playing, sometimes for a couple of hours at a stretch, working on just one or two challenges.

The challenges are sometimes battles that require certain strategies, and are sometimes puzzles that the player must solve before they can advance. The challenges often require dying a few times – or a few dozen times – before the player gets them right, and when you die, you go back to a saved point, which means you have to play the same piece of the puzzle over and over. And over. And over. The puzzles and strategies require memory skills, timing, problem-solving, and figuring out complex levels of the challenge (solving one piece to get to the next piece to get to the third piece, until finally the whole puzzle is solved). Some of the challenges took him fifteen minutes. Others took an hour, or two hours, or three hours. And he just kept dying and coming back and doing the level over, and getting frustrated, and buckling down, and coming back and doing the level over. He brought every shred of problem-solving acumen to bear. He brought a sense of experimentation, and patience, and persistence. And the longer the puzzle took to solve, of course the more pleased and proud he was of his eventual accomplishment.

Why do I like that about the game (and all the games with similar challenges)? Actually, that’s the opposite of what I like about the games, which is why I don’t play them myself. I would become frustrated and discouraged, or worse, motivated to spend countless hours “buckling down” … and I already live in the real world, where I already spend countless hours being frustrated and discouraged and working for goals that are harder to reach than they rightly should be.

But if my son – and the others who play these games – can bring that kind of patience, persistence, problem-solving and sense of adventure to a video game world, then maybe they can bring it to the real world too. Maybe when they go out into the real world, they’ll be able to piece together the puzzles of this crazy place, and be focused and resilient enough to keep trying even when it’s hard, and eventually create exactly the kind of world they were hoping to find. Maybe, while I sit there watching him play and wondering how he can stare at a screen for that long at a stretch without going crazy, he’s sitting there learning that the things you want take time, and effort, and thought. Maybe he’s learning that, if you keep your head on straight, and remember the lessons you’ve learned, and keep your wits about you, then you can build or do or be whatever you can imagine.

Maybe he’s learning that, if you’re willing to fail about a thousand times, then you’ll succeed. Maybe he’s realizing that failure is the only way to success. I’m pretty sure he’s learning that if he doesn’t blink for an hour, he gets a little cranky … but I think he’s learning all that other stuff too. And the real world could really use some of that.

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