I play Candy Crush Saga™. I spend an hour or two playing most days. So out of my 15 hours of waking time, say, I spend roughly 14% playing a game. More than some, less than others, I would venture. That two hours is spread out over the course of the day – a couple of breaks at work, an hour or so after dinner most nights.
I don’t consider that to be wasted time for a couple of reasons, the most important being that I enjoy it! I have always liked video and computer games, card games, and board games. I was an only child, so growing up I gravitated toward games I could play by myself and when video and computer games came on the scene I was hooked!
The second reason is that I’m a graphic designer by trade, and Candy Crush (especially) appeals to my designer’s eye. The color revives me when I’m tired of looking at a screen all day, and if I’m having trouble coming up with an idea or working out a design problem, the colors moving around on the screen and the completely different thought process sometimes knocks a solution out of my weary brain. When I’m not at work, it’s nice just to relax and think about something that doesn’t really matter for a while.
Here’s something interesting I’ve noticed lately about Candy Crush specifically, but I’m sure it’s true of some other games, too: it translates to life.
Candy Crush is a “level” game, meaning that as you solve one puzzle, you move on to the next puzzle, which is a little harder. I’ve been playing for a while and I’m currently on level 1800-something, so they’re pretty tricky sometimes. But here’s the thing: I’ve learned skills on the way to level 1800-something that help me solve those puzzles. If I had started out at level 1800, I would have given up immediately, cuz it would just be too hard.
But on the way up over the last couple of years, I’ve solved so many puzzles in so many different ways that I feel confident that I’ll figure out the current one, too. Sometimes it takes what seems like a million tries, but sooner or later I solve even the toughest levels and I move on. I am confident that I can figure out how to overcome anything I encounter on any level because I have in the past.
What’s important about that is that in my life I’ve been a quitter, or a non-starter if something seemed too hard. “Persistent” is not a word you would have used to describe me when I was younger. Chronic depression caused me for most of my life to be overwhelmed fairly easily, and I typically melted into a deep pool of “I can’t” when faced with too much resistance.
Not with everything, fortunately. I have stayed employed with 2 companies for most of my career, and I managed to run a successful business for a few years, too. The things I gave up on too easily were mostly things I wanted, not so much things I needed. Relationships, a desire to live somewhere else (away from my family), my dreams and aspirations.
Candy Crush Saga didn’t teach me resilience or persistence. Life has taught me those things, though it took me a long time to catch on. Depression has taught me, too. I kept getting through it, over and over, hanging on when I thought I couldn’t, more times than I care to remember.
Over and over about a lot of things I think “I can’t,” but I do. My job keeps changing – new technology, new people, new ideas all the time. Everyday I’m challenged to do something I’ve never done before; something I’ve never even thought about before. I start to panic a little, and then I start a new game. I focus on the colors and the movement and I think, “no, wait, what if I tried…” and something in my brain opens up and there’s the answer to the new challenge. I’m reminded that I’ve faced challenges before – real and virtual – and I’ve overcome them.
When my home life challenges me, I sit down at the computer and I am reminded that sometimes it takes a million tries to get to the next level, but I will get there sooner or later if I just keep trying.
So a computer game didn’t teach me that, but it reinforces it everyday. It reassures me that I’ll get past this level and with the same determination, if I just keep trying, I’ll get past whatever challenge I’m facing in my job or my life, too. I have the skills and the knowledge I need, if I don’t let myself fall into that “I can’t” pool.
You can’t win if you don’t play the game, and you can’t have what you want in life if you don’t keep trying for it, over and over, until you get there. My intention now is to keep “leveling up” until I run out of time.
All this from a computer game? Yes. Life is all around us. The universe calls to us in everything we do, in everything we see. Come on and play! Every moment is precious and everything we encounter can teach us something of value. Don’t miss a bit of it. It’s there if you look, and if you keep trying to see your way to the next level.