What I've Learned From a Lifetime of Playing Videogames

Things have been changing all around us this year, and it's been big changes for me. Today, I want to slow down and take stock about life, videogames, doing Game-Wisdom


It’s been a whirlwind of things happening to me this summer. From work growing to establishing myself more and more through my writings and videos. I just signed a two-book contract that will be keeping me busy until the end of the year. I often have a problem when it comes to slowing down and taking stock about my life, and today, I want to talk about something personal to me.

Videogames Saved My Life

I was unfortunately born with a birth defect in my right leg that required extensive surgeries at the ages of 10 and 11 to correct as much as possible. In the process, it’s left me with a weakened leg and chronic pain. I honestly don’t remember a time when I had a pain-free day.

The worse pain of my life came due to a complication with the first surgery and since then I’ve had spikes of pain depending on the weather and such. In my early 20’s, the pain got so severe that there were days I thought about killing myself.

I turned to videogames as a way of being able to concentrate on something other than the pain, and being able to take my mind off it managed to work. In a way, this began my study into game design, as every game wasn’t just about playing them, but focusing all my attention on their design. As a funny coincidence, therefore I don’t play story-heavy games, as I need something that I can focus on to distract from the pain.

Videogames Taught Me to Adapt

If there’s one stereotype I would love to see go away it would be the “games are children’s toys” that grew from the ’80s. I’m the only member of my family to really go all-in on playing videogames and never grew out of them. I play everything from light games designed to relax to, all the way to brutal titles where you are going to have to work for every win.

Playing so many videogames, in a strange way, prepared me for real life. There’s a reason why I like roguelikes and roguelike design—they require you to adapt and react on the fly to changes. I know too many people who cannot fathom any changes to their routine and completely fold when something goes wrong.

For me, I never lose my cool or go all-in on a singular idea. My strategy in life is to always find another way or have backup plans in place. This has been pivotal with growing Game-Wisdom. I have failed countless times at things, but it never stopped me from continuing to grow.

Without ever hearing about it before, I have apparently embraced the philosophy of Kaizen, which means “change for the better.” I don’t think about what I’m going to do 30 years in the future, I think about how I’m improving daily. As someone who has slowly grown from a YouTube channel of 5 to now over 6,000, it has been an especially useful philosophy. I think some of that change has come from playing deck builders—where it doesn’t matter if you win on turn 14 if you fail on turn 7.

Watching the world with the pandemic going on, I can see just how important it is to be able to have this mindset. There are so many people who can’t process living if it doesn’t fit to a set routine. Any changes are met with violence and rage instead of being able to adjust. I live in New Jersey, the state that was hit the hardest after New York, and while friends and family are going crazy, I’m doing just fine. While I miss being able to eat at my favorite restaurants and wearing a mask is uncomfortable, nothing is world-ending for me.

Videogames Made me Grow

There is one stereotype that has gone away when it comes to videogames—gamers are antisocial loners. In the past 8 years, I’ve had a chance to talk to people literally all around the world. My family still doesn’t understand that while I don’t leave my house, I am more connected with people than they are.

Even though I’m still an introvert, I am now able to talk to people and carry on conversations. Fifteen years ago, I would barely talk to anyone, let alone be in front of an audience. Today, I’m giving presentations, doing streams, and I can talk to people comfortably. I’ve gone from being nervous in front of a webcam to having nightly streams and giving regular interviews.

Having that focus on game design has afforded me the opportunity to be one of the first people to talk at this level about it, and gave me a sense of confidence I never had before. To put it bluntly, playing videogames made me a better person. The first time I noticed it was when I struck up a conversation with a stranger at a store that I had never done before. When I’m giving my talks and I see kids who are nervous or shy to come ask me a question, I just see myself when I was younger. Unfortunately, this happened after my first (and currently only) trip to GDC. One of these days I would like to go to another major convention and actually talk to people in-person.

The Future:

At the beginning of 2020 I made the New Year’s resolution that this was going to be my year. While the pandemic and recent events have sadly upended a lot of my plans (and I’m sure yours as well), it hasn’t stopped me from growing. My next focus is on academia with my thoughts and theories on game design. The second things begin to get back to normal, I’ll be reaching out to libraries and schools throughout the world for doing talks.

And there are my next two books I’m writing now. As with everything I’ve done, each time I do something, I get a little better at it. Whether that’s speaking, video editing, and of course, writing.

I want to say thank you to all my fans and supporters out there. I really do mean it when I say I’m grateful when I get someone giving me a compliment about my work. If you are someone working on a videogame and would like to talk design with someone who has spent their adult life studying it, please get in touch. Finally, if you would to talk to me about presenting at your school, company, or library, I’m also available.

Right now, I’m working on Game Design Deep Dive: Roguelikes and Horror. If you would like to get an acknowledgment in either book, donations through my patreon, YouTube super chat, and PayPal will work. The offer on roguelikes expires on August 30th, 2020.

If you enjoyed my post, consider joining the Game-Wisdom discord channel open to everyone.

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