I cannot help but continue to think about video games, the skills one gains while playing them and whether these skills have real life application. I am considering this because I have been playing games, I have been finishing games and I do feel while playing that I am learning something, gaining a new skills and able to reflect on my place in the world, but when I stop I often find myself confused by how all of this knowledge relates to the rest of my life.

In this post, I want to focus specifically on role playing games (RPGs) because I have the thought that the process one goes through in selecting a character, gaining strength and skill and deciding which of one's abilities to build on actually does mirror the way one goes through life and that if games were able to more directly connect to real life circumstances, instead of often having fantasy/hero/good vs. evil themes they would be a great tool in building strong active citizens and healthy communities.

I am no expert on games. I have completed maybe 10 video games in my lifetime, but because of my work with young people who spend much of their time playing, I find myself often thinking about how games can be used as tools for growth and learning.

I see a connection here between RPGs and a recent training I went to on the Virtues Project (www.virtuesproject.org). Maybe this is going to seem like a stretch, but I do think that there are ways games like Fable, Dragon Age and others connect to the idea that we all have virtues inherent in us and that sometimes some of these are just stronger than others. I will try to write this comparison as simply as possible. Playing through a game like Fable, one has the ability to select what one's character looks like, wears, the weapons they use and where to put additional points to make skills and abilities stronger. This seems to me very much like the way we move through life, except in life the decisions are much wider in variety.

We do decide what we will look like to a certain extent. We cannot choose a race or skin tone like one often can in current games, but we do get to choose what we wear, how we style our hair, whether we get tattoos, etc. The way I am now going to try to tie this to the virtues project is that we also choose which of our virtues we cultivate. Do we develop our assertiveness, confidence, compassion or mercy? Is our modesty, wisdom or resilience strong? Sometimes we are not aware of which of our strengths are being built on. The effects the world is having on us at any given time, are what is giving us abilities and points to put into different things.

Maybe in writing this I have figured out one of the things I have gained by playing video games. It is a new way to look at my experiences. Granted I don't really want to think about all my life in terms of experience points, this seems too much to have a competitive meaning, but I do want to think about what valuable things I am gaining by the things that I live through. If I can acknowledge what any given experience has made stronger in me, I can develop that strength and use it to my advantage.

I think that games often are limited in their focus on fighting and strength, the goal then becomes about winning. How really does one win in life though, except by realizing one's best potential. The way games are structured this potential is often by becoming strongest, having the best armor and weapons and defeating the biggest boss. What if instead however, it was about realizing and gaining skills that support a creative, wise and honorable individual who proceeds through the world with grace, empathy and purposefulness? Would I be able to more easily connect the skills I gain from playing a game like this to my place in the world? I think I would.