Minerva Studio/Shutterstock
Source: Minerva Studio/Shutterstock

How we resolve situations in the games we play—whether on a computer, a phone, or a desk—reflects our mindset: Our needs, interests, goals, cognitive styles, and problem-solving approaches are all reflected in how we act during play. By exploring the ways in which we solve problems in games, we can gain valuable insight about ourselves. 

Do you like role-playing games, shooter games, or complex strategy games? Do you prefer worlds to build or to destroy? Are games a way for you to communicate with your circle of friends and an experience you want to share with them? Or perhaps you count on meeting someone new and wonderful on the in-game chat, someone who shares your hobby and lifestyle.

Video games are meant to satisfy players’ needs, which is why they first became so popular:

  1. Games enable us to do things we can't do in real life—drive dangerously fast, spy, shoot, and even kill. This speaks to our feelings of being too restricted by the law, regulations, or someone else’s rules: Do we have to listen to all of the rules around us, or can we discuss them and try to change them; for example, at work or at home?
  2. Games enable us to do things outside of the real world—colonize alien worlds, fly, or change into animals. This is tied to the restrictions of reality itself. Yet how many players who love flying in video games have actually tried bungee jumping, rogallo flying, kiteboarding lessons, or found a nearby flying club?
  3. Games give us the opportunity to try activities our means usually don’t match—piloting a plane, leading a country, or undergoing Special Forces training. With regard to our desire to be something we cannot, it may only be a question of good diagnostics and finding a discipline where we can put our skills and abilities to the best use.

World-building strategy games, in which you set up cities, farms, or military bases, collect taxes, produce food, or hire soldiers in many ways resemble businesses or firms. Your strategy in these games—your way of building and expanding your worlds, buying and selling commodities, organizing virtual lumberjacks, or training soldiers—mirrors your approach to management in real life: Do you start by building everything your level allows you to all at once, and then become surprised by your lack of money for the workers, soldiers, and other important pillars? Or do you love hoarding great resources and imagine using them at the right time, such as when an enemy's army is at your borders? Take a second to reflect on your strategy in the games and in real life, such as completing projects, managing your time, or organizing events. Maybe you’ll discover something new and useful about yourself.

Also, consider how you spend money in games: Some players spend a lot on tools they don’t need (but that golden sword looked so cool!) or on “live” resources they don’t use. Others constantly neglect their defense to such an extent that they’re robbed in virtually every game. Another common error is investing too much in just one commodity. These missteps often mirror those we make in real life: When was the last time you bought something you absolutely didn’t need? How often does it happen? When did you last make an ill-advised investment, fail to keep enough money for everyday expenses, or fell victim to a con? If you understand that you sometimes make these mistakes and start working on improving your financial habits, it may not keep happening.

Video games are frequently discussed in a negative context, but we forget about their numerous positive impacts. Video games offer us recreation, spark our imagination, help us meet new friends and share moments with them, let us learn new things, and even help us discover important things about ourselves.

About the Author

Petra Starkova, M.A.

Petra Starkova is a therapist and author who writes for children and adults.

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