Like many of my generation, much of my formative years were spent playing video games such as the epic series Final Fantasy, the space odyssey of Star Ocean, the legendary Tales of series, and many, many more. Some of my peers and elders would say that my time with these beloved gaming treasures was time wasted, but I disagree. Plenty of time honored and useful life lessons and basic travel fundamentals have been passed on to a younger generation through the medium of video games. I present for you here 5 practical travel lessons I learned from video games.
1 Talk to Everyone, twice.
It is the most basic of all advice that can be given to gamers. Talk to everyone and then talk to them again. Believe it or not, people really are just waiting for you to come around and offer your friendship, conversation, or invite them to a card game, or your lend a hand with an endless variety of small tasks. Equally unbelievable, is that this interaction can benefit both of you. Strike up a conversation and just watch as your new friend picks up your bar tab as thanks for your company, or buys you dinner to repay you for your interest in their daily life, or welcomes you into their home for the evening if only to continue the conversation.
It’s strange, but true that most people are basically good. Approach people with kindness, decency, and a genuine interest in them and there’ll be no place you won’t be welcomed. As an example, while cycling down the Pacific Coast in North America, I’ve met up with other travelers like Marty, Peggy, Ann, and Tim for a pleasant lunch and a difficult ride over the 7 Devils just outside of Charleston Oregon and I have been welcomed into the homes of people that I’d met only an hour ago. Such was the case in Los Osos CA, when a charming English woman named Jill generously opened her home to me for 3 days.
2 Check everything.
Another cardinal rule of gaming. Everything you need is right in front of you, you just have to pay attention and explore. Very useful items, you’ll find just lying around, most likely forgotten by their original owner or left there on purpose. For instance, I found English muffins, a whole sleeve of them in great condition abandoned at a State Park in a cupboard thing, 20 bucks I saw lying on top of a Styrofoam container inside a trashcan with no lid; it was just lying there waiting for someone to claim it.
I’ve also found a carpenters belt which I attached to my hiking bag, and I found an IPOD cable hanging in a tree. And, if I’d have wanted it, I could have helped myself to some Dawn dish soap left next to a tree stump, tent stakes left under a table, and three different tarps lying on the ground. These things were not together, like they might have belonged to somebody else. They were strewn about over various cities and State Parks obviously left behind. Some of these items may have been left behind on purpose for other travelers to take.
I know that I myself have left behind a hoody, a fleece sleeping bag, a stash of bicycle repair stuff, and other things that I felt I needed to leave behind. And I left these things on purpose and in places where other world weary travelers might find them when they needed them. Most recently, I came across a man named Jim Thomas, who gave me a huge amount of dry fire wood and was glad that I happened by as he was preparing the firewood specifically to leave for a future traveler, which just so happened to be me. So, it really does happen that things are left, just so they can be found.
3 Always carry a deck of cards.
If Final Fantasy 8 has taught me anything it’s that games bring people together. There are just so many things you can do with a simple deck of cards. The most obvious of course is that you can play a game of non-profit Poker with those travelers you’re camping next to or a game of Spades with the charming elderly couple you’ve just met. Less obvious are the games of Go Fish you may play with children or the money that can be won (or lost) from for-profit Poker.
You can use the cards to practice your Blackjack playing skills, brush up on basic strategy and card counting, and then hit the Casinos if you’re feeling brave. On top of all this cards have even less obvious uses. Learn how to throw cards and you can hit items resting on a ledge or stuck in a tree. Don’t take my word for it, but I swear I have retrieved a new friends lost important document by throwing a card at it as it rested atop a high ledge in a building. The card flew underneath the paper; lifted it just enough and it slide off and floated down to her awaiting hands. I lost the card, but gained a friend and a cup of coffee.
Also, learning a bit of card magic can be a great way to break the ice with new people, entertain an interesting couple who’ve treated you to dinner, or as I did in Germany, get a job in a magic bar earning yourself food, booze, and tips. And as a bonus learning card magic will teach you how to perform various sleight of hand techniques (very useful in their own right) and a little psychology and Classic Misdirection. If you’re waiting in an airport; bored out of your mind, and you took the time to learn a little Extreme Card Manipulation (XCM) you can entertain yourself with some fun brain-hand-eye coordination teasers as well as garner the attention of nearby onlookers.
If you have a bit of a mystic streak in you, a simple deck of playing cards can be used as a Tarot deck minus the Major Arcana and one of the Court Cards, a tool which I consider to be like a Rorschach blot for your intuition. A great, but mostly misunderstood use of cards, it can be a great way kick start your intuitive faculties and help you to find a little guidance when things get hazy. And hell, if nothing else, you can at least play a game of Solitaire.
4 Save the game often.
It is a ritual ever gamer must complete at the end of a gaming session. Saving. This hallowed practice of recording your adventures, ensures that the game will not forget the time you’ve wasted I mean toiled in pursuit of that ever elusive goal, 100% completion. It’s happened to us all. You turn on your gaming system, select your favorite game, and then go to load up your last record, but something’s wrong… What!? I’m all the way BACK HERE!? You forgot to save! You’ll remember next time. And after you’d gotten the ultimate [insert weapon, armor, magic here] too.
So too, must we remember to keep a journal and record our progress, lest we forget what we’ve done later when we look back. Memory fades and given enough time you’ll forget some of the most important experiences of your life, but if you take a moment to write them down, a scribble on a napkin, a blog post, a Facebook update, something, anything. Then you’ll have a way of looking back and saying, “Yeah that’s right. I did do that.”
This will serve as a reminder of victories past and bolster your confidence now as you reread your own heroic tales. Your journal can also help you find your way when you’ve lost sight of your path, “Yes, now I remember, I did set that goal.” It can also give you serious bragging rights at dinner parties. “Oh your son’s a senior in prestigious college? Me? Oh I’ve only biked 1700 miles across 3 states on less than a fourth of his monthly rent. No big deal. See, it says so right here, peruse my wildly successful website.”
5 Never leave town without stocking up on essential items.
Another gamer rule to live or die by. Never, ever, leave town without stocking up on supplies. Who among us has not rushed off to the next area in a game, now accessible due to plot progression and in the first random encounter with a new enemy, with dwindling HP on both sides it’ll all come down to that final blow and we think, “Oh, I’ll toss a Hi Potion and attack next round.” When you look for one in your items menu, your heart drops to your guts as you realize that you forgot to buy some in the last town.
You mash the X button furiously as you watch the ATB (Active Time Battle) bar creep slowly towards being filled, praying that your get your turn before the enemy gets his and that your attack is strong enough to finish him off, because you know that his next attack will end you. The bar fills! The attack menu pops up! Mashing the X button selects the enemy and everything pauses for a split second… Then you watch in horror as the enemy attacks first and you pray your evasion stats are good enough. But they’re not and your character falls; the last time you saved was 3 hours and 2 plot points ago. You forgot the rules.
Likewise we must remember to stock up before leaving town. We don’t know what the road ahead is like, but if Final Fantasy X taught me anything its stock up on Antidotes in Besaid, because Kilika doesn’t have any, even though the enemies there can poison you. Trust me, the last thing you want is to make camp for the night and discover that you forgot to buy food and that the last town is 6 miles back and that the next one ahead isn’t for another 17.
So it is my fervent hope that all you soon to be traveling gamer nerds out there keep these things in mind and remember what a life time of playing video games has taught you.
What has your gaming experience taught you about travel or life in general?