Photo Credit: chidsey, sxc.hu

I was an avid computer gamer before. Though we don’t have any game console in our home (my father is against any computer gaming, “What are your getting in pushing those buttons?”), our relatives are generous enough to let us play with them every weekend and every summer. I’m simply hooked. I can’t stop thinking about the wonders of electronic gaming: special abilities, cool stages, and the dopamine rush that always engulfs me whenever I’m winning. With just the PlayStation console, game CD, and large free time, I can be the next adventurous character with a noble mission only available in that digital world.

I’m a conscientious gamer - I like to find all the special items, make my character stronger, swifter, and more enduring he can possibly be. Whenever I’m nearing a boss fight, I would make sure that “I’m” stronger by at least 50% than my antagonist. With all the preparation all taken up, intense concentration, and an impassioned drive to finish the game - I would beat my archenemy and relish on my “success” for hours.

On my high school days, I occasionally borrowed a PlayStation console from my classmate. Then with that tempting thing in our home, it’s not uncommon for me to sleep early at 9:00 PM and wake up at 3:00 AM, boot up the console and play with all of my being until 7:30 AM. No distraction. No loud TV. Just me in my virtual world, enjoying the thrill. I was pretty addicted.

But an undreamed thing happened to me, I was sent to a Christian college with rules that I’ve never bothered to count, well, because they’re as numerous as the stars! I thought that majority of the rules are based on the book of Leviticus because they managed to prohibit almost all things that are enjoyable to a teenager: romantic relationship, getting out of the campus, and oh no – electronic devices. I never knew the deeper meaning of the word “prohibited” until I enter the campus, I was forced to swallow months of game sabbatical, close to unendurable because my hands are so itchy and lusty for a game controller.

Before, I was thinking that life turning points are only for the characters in fantasy games, I never thought that they also apply to a mere human life like mine. Because of the banning of game consoles, I was forced to find other activities that will chill my boredom. I’m no extrovert, so I prefer more solitary activities that are enjoyable by myself and few select friends. After experiencing some “they’re not bad after all” moments with books, I decided to develop the “weird” habit of reading.

I was a skeptic of books, I’m convinced that they’re so academic and ho-hum to the core that they will never fail in driving you to tears of boringness every single time! But after reading just one book by a Christian writer named John C. Maxwell, I knew that I was dead wrong. Since then, I committed myself to read non-fiction books for at least 2 hours a day. Someone might ask where I’m getting the time or if I’m “getting a life”. But honestly, I found out that a lot of time becomes available when you stop watching TV (with long and frightening hours of commercials in total, tell me – unless you’re an advertising or marketing professional, why are you spending so much time watching those ads? Mute the TV when in commercials and talk to your spouse instead) and withdraw from out-of-control-I-need-to-be-updated syndrome of checking on social media (Friends, let’s look up).

After hundreds of books on Christianity, philosophy, psychology, and business - and shifting my admiration from TV celebrities and game characters to individuals that played well in real history, I’m now totally convinced that we’re called to play a more serious game here on earth - a game undeniably more exciting and fulfilling than any electronic games ever released. And no exceptions, we’re all players, there are no benches where you can sit and just cheer up on other players and forget that you’re also supposed to be playing your role. Another reality is you only have one character to choose from – yourself, bundled with all the strengths, weaknesses, and resources that the Guide gave. So choose yourself. In the game where a lot of people are pushing you to be somebody else, one of the bravest act you can make is to be the “somebody” you’re designed to be.

Exciting? Not so for the distracted, but really is to those awakened.

Don’t read me wrong, I don’t have any negative whispers to those who are avid game players. I do still play computer games like Cashflow and Capitalism. But I believe that unreasonable hours spent on computer games can be detrimental in the most vital areas of our life. Yes, you’re superbly entertained but are you also superbly living? You’re so thrilled in crushing the candies, but I hope that you wouldn’t find your finances also crushing because you never spent an hour planning about them! I know that games enhances many cognitive skills and teach applicable life lessons like open-mindedness and resourcefulness. But those nurtured aptitudes are nothing if we don’t dive into real game of life and just channel them to virtual reality forever. (Also, I’ve never seen Solid Snake or Leon Kennedy attending a funeral, the ones who are crying are the people with flesh and blood – make sure you never miss time with them in the name of a computer game! “I deny time with you in the name of God of War 3.”)

Time will come when you can’t ignore the essential burdens of life anymore: the question of meaning, financial responsibility, family relationships, and contribution to the society. And it’s tragic that some people spent so much of themselves in games and other nonessentials that they forgot to reflect on the deeper meaning of our existence, never personally seek God and His ways.

I’m not an expert on life. I’m also a player with lots of failed attempts in the stages of my game. But I hope that this article would spark something in you, and make you more intentional on this game called life.

Here are some lessons in the game of life:

Know and Embrace Your Purpose

There’s a purpose in every game, the grand mission you have to accomplish. Ash aspires to be the best Pokémon trainer in the world. Mario would do everything - break bricks with a head bang, throw fireballs, transform into human raccoon, swim the ocean, and stomp giant turtles to save the princess. The point is, you’re not truly living if you’re not embracing the “why” of your life. What’s the thing that you can’t afford not to accomplish? What are the values, the aspects of life that you naturally gravitates to? Where can you impart your soul touch and make a difference? Is it to show the love of God and lead others to Him? Is it to create an organization that would produce the next technological advancement? You’ll know the answer as you intentionally take your life journey with heart and mind open.

Find Your Element

It’s a complete foolishness for Charmander, the fire Pokémon, to head on with a battle with a water Pokémon like Squirtle. It just won’t work because of the nature of their strengths and weaknesses. Even you’re an off-the-chart positive thinker, you can’t escape the fact that we’re born with certain strengths and weaknesses, with varying levels in different areas. Only God have the full package. Yes, you can improve on your weaknesses, but you can only be average at best with them. But if you focus on growing your strengths, then greatness is on the reach! Einstein is average on math (a shock? It is true, read his biography), and mediocre on human empathy but great on physics and imagination. Steve Jobs is great on vision casting, team building, design, and communication but not so good on operation and analytics, that’s why he hired Tim Cook, because guess what? Cook is Attila the Hun of Inventory.

Now, if you want a flourishing life, it’s a prerequisite that you find your talents and passions, better in early age so you can orient your life accordingly. The great educator, Sir Ken Robinson, said that the nexus of the two is your element – your unique core that makes you tick with life. Jane Austen’s element is writing. Pablo Picasso’s is painting. George Lucas’s is film making. What is yours?

Be Wise with Your Resources

In a game, you won’t last long if your grubs, potions, and other resources are depleted while you’re just starting or in the middle of your journey. In real life, money is one of the most crucial resource. Accumulating money is not the goal, think of a character in a RPG game loaded with items but with no mission to accomplish - it’s vain. But if you have one and wants to finish it, then you better have enough measure of resources. It’s sad to see lots of people that are buckled under the pressure of money and can’t think almost about anything else. It’s like they’re drowning in a sea and all of their minds are consumed by the thought of oxygen. The truth is, money is not mysterious. That’s why authors like Robert Kiyosaki and Dave Ramsey are ardent in advocating financial education and financial peace, and yes, we can be wiser in handling money! Proper perspective, adequate impulse control, and sane asset and liability management are necessary to have enough or more than enough so you wouldn’t spend life merely by “making of living” and never miss the joy of “living a life”.

Choose Your Partner Wisely

Don’t let your heart just fall in love, let your heart be guided by love. Boy, it’s a real tragedy when you marry someone with cute face but with destitute character. It’s like buying an expensive smartphone with nice hardware design (think of iPhone 5S, Xperia Z2 or HTC One M8) but with awful and can’t-look-at-it-let-alone-use-it operating system! Search on! And pray on! Make sure that you won’t choose just with emotional wave or sexual pull (“But she’s so hot, I think my brain is fried and half-dead when I’m with her.”). If you’re single, you’re not really “one” (unless the Guide gave you a certain gift called blessed singleness), you have to find the person that agree with your values and complement your weaknesses. If you marry the wrong one, you would forever live with handicap, your marriage life would feel like a constant subtraction. But if you prayed hard and choose wisely, then you would blaze with completeness as the two of you, living as one, finish the game of life. Your life with her would be a constant joy multiplication. Relationship problems can’t be avoided altogether, but both of you would thrive as you complete each other more and more.

Level Up!

A level 16 Cloud Strife is hopeless against a level 69 Sephiroth. In life, you can’t just depend on educational institutions and the nagging of your parents for your growth, you have to grow yourself intentionally! There’s a lot of people thinking that their education was finished when they received their college diploma, expecting that they would automatically grow in all areas of life as they go through life, But.That.Is.Nonsense. Experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is! Some adults in their forties are really 21 years-old youngsters! There are so many childish souls in adult bodies and few old souls in young bodies.

Read books written by enlightened individuals, really, how can many individuals ignore the wisdom in the pages? Attend seminars where you could meet with like-minded growth-oriented people. Spend time with people smarter than you, people that are happy to see you grow, not with people who chew on you whenever you’re trying to get out of your box because they’re so insecure in being left out. Always have time for reflection and a bias for action. 

Don’t Cheat

The value of a game loses when cheats are applied. The challenges and the excitement would be nearly or totally gone if you use them. In virtual game, there are no consequences that would lead you to tears. But in real life, cheating is a sure way to lose in the end and be showered with thousand regrets. Damaged integrity. Eroded trust. Wasted life. Cheating, in its truest nature, is actually a form of dying. If you want to live, then have nothing to do with those poisonous acts. And frankly, I believe cheaters are cowards.

Give

I’m surprised by many instances when someone I helped in early stage of a game came back to me in later stage and offered a pivotal help or gave an item in order to finish the journey or defeat the mighty archenemy. In real life, the multiplicative value of giving is greater and in many ways, more surprising. So never underestimate the value of helping people along your journey. Invest in human richness and you’d never find yourself alone. I know it sounds sleazy to nonreligious, but it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive. When you’re giving wholeheartedly, it’s the truest acknowledgement of your gratefulness for the grand gift called life with millions of gifts intrinsically interconnected to each other. And gratefulness is brother to happiness. As John Maxwell said, the highest form of living is giving. Leaders are givers. Lovers are givers.
 

Hold on to Hope

“It is easy to feel hopeful in a beautiful day like today, but there would be dark days ahead of us too. There would be days when you feel all alone, and that’s when hope is needed most. No matter how buried it gets or how loss you feel, you must promise me that you would hold on to hope. Keep it alive. We have to be greater than what we suffer. My wish for you is to become hope, people need that. And even if we fail, what better ways there to live?” I fallen into tears when I heard this speech by Gwen Stacy in the movie The Amazing Spiderman 2. Though I’m not Peter Parker, the words are simply so meaningful that it goes straight to my core, it’s so hard to miss it. Failing causes pain and losing hope eventually makes you numb, but is that it? Would you stop at the middle of your life journey and declare your defeat? Remember that life brighten its colors when the times get hard, so never close your eyes and stop believing, cry forward and start trying again – wiser and stronger.

Embrace Your Guide

I believe that if we read the mind of Sora in the Kingdom Hearts game, we would find that he’s thinking that he’s the one in control. But you, the player holding the controller have different, deeper and truer perspective - you’re actually guiding him. Also, think of Hamlet living in his world, maybe he doesn’t know anything about the man named Shakespeare, but Shakespeare means so much to him than he can possibly comprehend. And I believe that in our life, we’re in the position like of Sora and Hamlet, we’re all characters in the game created by God, a story written by God.

But is it possible to prove this? Or for us to personally know the Guide or the Author that I’m saying? Is there a possible way for Hamlet to personally know Shakespeare? There is - If Shakespeare becomes a character in his own play and meet Hamlet in person inside the story, it’s the grandest miracle than can happen. And that happened in our story. The Guide, the God of eternity and light infinite, incarnated and became one of us two thousand years ago. He came closer than we can imagine to give us the greatest love and offer us the truest meaning of our every breath. I hope you would personally meet Him, and know that this game that we are in, the story that we’re living, is just a preparation for the greater and eternal next with Him in His full presence.

P.S.

Finish strong, make your Papa proud and your neighbor loved. Game on!

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