League and life lessons – a post-aram rant.

There’s a zen approach to most things in video games, though it often has to do with turning off the game and doing something of a more immediate and present nature – like sweeping your floors or tending to your garden (aka. dirty dish ecosystem).  There are some games that bring the player to a certain state of mind that is not unlike meditating.  Tetris or Cave Shooters are a great examples.  Then there are games we can play that are exercises in frustration.

When we try and live our lives in a Zen-like manner sometimes we can’t walk away or tune things out, we have to instead manage our own emotions and temper our individual spirit while interacting with others or with systems out of our control.    An example from my own experience is waiting in line at the bank, what used to be an extremely frustrating experience for me. Nowadays I feel mildly amused at how insignificant things like a slow teller or a long line used to become SO irritating to me.  I learned from the vipassana tradition, as taught by American Zen teacher Joko Beck in her book Nothing Special, where you observe your mind, identify it’s state, and in doing so gain control (even a teeny lil bit) over that mindstate.  After years of practicing this in line at the bank I no longer get frustrated at all by the experience.  A small victory but a very real one to me, a stepping stone to living a more calm and content life.

ARAM (all random, all mid) mode in League of Legends is an example of how a video game can help you cultivate these healthy habits.  You can practice life lessons while practicing last hitting skills, what could be better?  Well, we played a couple ARAM matches here at lunch and I was surprised by how heated some people got by our matches.  Maybe it’s because I have played a ton of ARAM over the years, but I enjoy the heck out of that game mode, win or lose.

A quick rundown on what ARAM is.  You play League of Legends with a series of limitations, you get a random champion, your team has a random line-up, you stick to one lane, you can’t go back to base to heal or buy new items.  You just get in midlane and try and do your best.  Sometimes you get a cosmic miracle where both teams are well balanced.  Those games are fun to play but there is more to learn from the other kinds of games, the ones where one team has a clear advantage over the other.

This is life.  You do your best thanks to or despite the cards you have been dealt.  You work with what you have, and you make the best of it.  In a game like League where winning is the goal 99% of the time, it is useful to put yourself in a situation where winning is likely impossible, or where it feels like the game was handed to you on a silver platter.  How do you find yourself behaving under either circumstance?  ARAM uses the familiar setting of a league match, and then flips it on it’s head.  Winning the game isn’t the real challenge most of the time, having fun is.  You have to chose to have fun, keep an eye on what might be limiting your fun, and try and grow from that experience.

I believe that games, and in this case League of Legends, are great tools for better understanding yourself and how you deal with problems and sometimes with other people.  There’s a lot to be learned from observing what kind of champion you like to play, and how you like to play the game.  Are you someone who wants to master one champion in one role, and in that case what role do you prefer?  Would you rather try all the roles and enjoy instead being a jack of all trades who can fill in where needed?  How well do you interact with your team, how well do you listen and observe them etc… All important questions in trying to better understand ourselves.  We are defined by how we see ourselves but also how we interact with others and how they see us.  It can get complicated.

ARAM carries with it a simpler lesson: how to deal with “rage” in the sense in which gamers use it.  By putting yourself in an unfair position you mimic deeper truths of living your life, you are almost always dealing with a disadvantage or an advantage that is entirely out of your control.  Learning to accept your fate and try and make the best of it is a lesson that will help you again and again in life, at least it has for me.

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