5 Things Video Games Taught Me About Money

My family wasn’t rich. They held ordinary jobs: my dad worked at a fan manufacturing plant while my mom was a nurse’s aid at a retirement home. Mom and Dad believed in leveraging their children towards the best path possible. They pushed my brother and I into a private school (which was pretty costly) and also controlled the family’s spending.

As such, we weren’t spoiled; we had to work for our wants by showing our grades. It was a very good motivator, but it didn’t teach me a thing about money. It taught me hard work led to better things in life, but I never understood that even that would fail me (at least now I know it works about 80% of the time!). Since my parents were in control of the family spending, we had to ask for what we wanted and depending on the request, they would grant it. Most of the time, I learned to be crafty and picked free, if not, cheap alternatives. It doesn’t seem like I was set up to be financially educated.

However, my parents thought it was a good idea to get us some video games! Granted, some video games weren’t meant to teach you stuff, but I would argue that you do learn skills that you can apply to real life later on. Scoff at me all you want, but there were some moments in a game that actually shaped who I became later on. What actually matters is applying what you learned now.

Here are 5 things that video games taught me about money!

1) Video games taught me how to save.

When I first got into MMORPGs, there were many items that I wanted to get. However, being new, I was just another broke n00b! Panhandling never really worked; as everyone else was in the same boat and they all gave you the evil eye if you tried to do any of that. So I started to run around and do menial tasks, like crafting, questing and punching monsters to earn enough gold to get some of the best weapons in game. It even got to the point where I became an extreme penny pincher where I abstained from upgrading my weapons and armor just to get to the desired weapon at the cost of my time, money and sanity! (A lesson on that later.)

The proudest moment of my saving career was Runescape (now Runescape Classic) where I saved enough for a Rune Battleaxe, one of the strongest weapons at the time. This also lead to next point…

2) There are scammers everywhere.

I was so proud of that Rune Battleaxe. What happened?

Someone came up to me and told me they wanted to check out the weapon. Dumb and young ten-year-old me accepted to do so. You had to actually carry through with the trade, as there was no way to cancel or close the window without accepting it. So I accidentally traded away that Battleaxe for no money and watched in tears as that person logged off immediately after. I never saw them again. I also promptly decided to quit the game right then and there.

That was a hard and painful lesson to bear and I became super suspicious of trading and dealing with other people in-game and it carried into real life. No wonder I became an anti-social prick. A few years later I found out about how people impersonated the government in order to scam innocent people out of their money. In fact, I was the target for one such phone call! That really hardened my resolve to guard myself from any incoming scams by raising awareness and keeping up with the times.

3) If you want to get far, don’t be afraid to spend it.

“In order to make money, you have to spend it.” That was a lesson learned when I first got into the auction house game.

Remember how I said I was an extreme penny pincher? It got to the point where I kept on dying all the time and I was losing time, experience AND money (because of repairs and potions) because I was not geared for my level. Once I upgraded my gear, leveling became 100% easier. By being able to survive and kill things faster, I was able to increase my cash flow from what it was considerably.

I actually ran into the this problem in MapleStory. Like most Korean MMOs, where you were leveling was very dependent on your gear. It didn’t mean anything that you managed to hit level 100; if you were beating on a monster and all you did was deal 200 damage after one skill, you were doing something very wrong. If you had armor appropriate for your level, it would’ve saved you from instant death. Instead, you would’ve left that encounter with just a sliver of health left! This was very useful when you traveled from one point to another, where death could mean losing months worth of progress! (ONE percent back in those days could take a month to acquire at 100+! I don’t know how FangBlade did it, he was the first person to reach 200 in the game.) Upgrading both weapons and armor meant that I could a) survive longer (and save money on repairs and potions) and b) kill more things and get more money and experience.

Hey, if I can come out of the zombie apocalypse with $1.7k, we should be all right.

What does this mean in real life? Save for completely apocalyptic scenarios (see above), people thought that the way to go was to make sure that money coming in was equivalent to money going out. If you had any basic understanding of retiring, people kept on saying that all you had to do was to reduce the amount of money going out and put that money into a bank account. (You’re more likely to work until you were forced to retire at that rate.) The smart ones were thinking like this: “If I had to spend something, make sure I get something in return!” This was why those people were rich, they bought something like stocks, or real estate (kind of a weapon for you RPG junkies) early on and they were getting cash on return and that value continuously grew. If it stopped being profitable, they would sell and buy something else that would grow, only to repeat the process again. Most smart people knew that they could maximize growth if they used it for as long as they could, and then sell it as soon as they realized the effort to hold/maintain was not worth it anymore. They did not buy into the hype of sell, sell, sell immediately. (Believe me, I ended up selling my old armor/weapons once I got my new set. They just took up valuable space. The money I got back went towards my next set.)

If you applied this concept from a video game to real life, this was essentially investing 101. People thought that video games were wasted time, but only if you decided not to place any value in it. And here was a lesson I wish I had applied sooner in life:

4) Time is Money

Time is ticking
Time is Ticking.

This lesson did not really resonate with me until I decided to learn about multiple income streams. In real life that could mean having investments, working at your job, or even having a side hustle! In a MMO, I would be utilizing my time to make stuff for other people, or punching monsters. Other people I knew used this time to sell their prowess in mechanics to help others clear content that they would not have the time for.

What I didn’t realize was that I was already doing that while playing MMORPGs, where I was playing the market, buying and selling materials (whether full processed goods, or materials for others). Guild Wars 2 introduced the concept to me as I initially thought the only way to make money was to grind out certain dungeons or other instances. The auction house (or player’s market) could be quite a lucrative source of income if played right. I had to figure out fast what my niche was and capitalize on it. If my market crashed, I also had to learn to adapt very quickly and move production elsewhere.

I soon learned that I could flip items by gathering materials and craft the finished product themselves. I later learned that there is some profit to be made by buying the work others have done for you (although at a cost) and doing the same, which ate into your profits. The most important lesson in this for me was that it saved me time! This gave me some valuable skills that can be applied later on, and I’m not just talking about the skills that you needed to create the items in the first place.

If you did spreadsheets to make your in-game income work, why not with real money? If you didn’t like doing a certain job, you could always outsource it to someone else for a cost. Your time was better spent doing a) things that you liked doing and b) created value, either in happiness or your worth to you.

Black Desert Online was possibly the best example of this concept. A lot of good players knew that the best money is grinding hours at a time at a money-making spot. The highest earning players knew that there were ways to supplement their income by outsourcing the work and used their idle time doing something the game allowed them to, like fishing or processing. When they logged in early in the day, they sent their produce to the auction house, where they earned much more selling to other players in need. They made their money during their offline time, but depending on how much time they spent in the game, they also earned grinding at certain locations. This process had a lot of time investment upfront; if someone invested hours into a life-skill, they were rewarded with a chance to receive higher tier processed goods, which meant more money. In my case, my time was spent grinding whenever I felt like it while I made my millions offline processing the trees my workers gathered for me. All of my Discord friends saw me do this every day (if I’m not playing another game, that is).

Anyway, whatever you decided to do with your time is important. This meant you now have more time to spend it with what is more important to you whether that is your family, gaming, traveling or making even more money! You can always get more money, but your time on this earth is limited. Spend it wisely.

5) You are allowed to fail.

This was the hardest lesson for me to learn. Mostly because it was much easier said than done. In real life, starting the moment you went to school, you were consistently punished for failing. You failed a test? Time-out for you. The teacher segregated all the students with a gold star and those who didn’t based on their performance. The treatment difference was real. I dreaded talking to my parents about my grades. To survive, I had to learn how to get good and meet those requirements that my teachers and my parents set for me, and sometimes they wouldn’t even tell me what was absolutely needed. There was also the other end of the spectrum where helicopter parents swooped to save their children in distress from the possibility of failure. It was a robbed experience. It wasn’t fair and as a result it made me more hesitant and even fearful of trying new things.

Then came the video games. I lost lives trying to learn the right timing to reach that next jump to save the Princess. Every time I watched Leon in Resident Evil 4 die a very gruesome death meant that I needed to get better at a reaction sequence or learn how to avoid the baddies altogether. The game simply told you what you were doing wrong and if you were successful, you were rewarded with more progress or in some cases, shiny treasure! No weird gimmicks (aside from mechanics), no weird sudden restarts and you definitely didn’t have to start all over each time (the only time you did that is when you lost all your lives). There were not a lot of things that gave you instant success when you first tried it (unless you used Gameshark, of course).

No matter how you fail, the game allowed you to keep playing as long you keep within the defined rules. Riskology, a blog for introverts, says that the most creative things happened when there were defined rules but still enough room to let your mind wander. This was where you get to explore and experiment to your heart’s content with no backlash. Except, for the fact that you messed up with some expected rules set right from the start. Finding out what worked and what doesn’t then becomes a fun and interesting venture.

I wish we were taught that and even allowed to fail from when we were kids. We needed to learn in our own way through experience what was best for us. It was the best way a person can become better. We were not prepared to embrace that, and now we, the current generation and our descendants are paying the price. That thought was terrifying and sometimes suffocating. I wish I was able to learn that much sooner, even though I was a blind practitioner from the beginning. I just never learned or applied it until now.

Not being able to try something new and creative means that I wouldn’t be able to discover what would work for me and that innovation for me can mean a better, richer life for myself. The easiest way of thinking like this is to think that Life is a Video Game.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Five very important lessons I learned just from playing video games. How I learned these and when I learned them was when I started to do self-reflection. Actually, now that I think about it, the military actually taught me an important lesson about life: If you treat everything like a game, then you can expect better results in it.

No matter how you treat this game, whether you casually relax and hang back, or unleash your predatory competitive side, you can see success no matter where you go. The cards are in your hand now, it’s just laying it out in the right order and in the right sequence based on your internal game plan.

What did you learn about money from video games? Definitely leave a comment below and post this question on your social media of choice with #GamersOnFIRE. 🙂

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