It's Just A Video Game

Published on: April 02, 2014

So many things in life are way more difficult than they should be. Writing code ranks up there most days. It's a grind at times, and most of it has lost it's appeal. It's just not as much fun as it once was. Let me relate this to something we all might get...

The game is Skyrim. I start with a charachter in street clothes, level 0, no weapons - in the middle of a dragon attack.

It. Was. Awesome.

My heart is pounding a bit, running around trying not to die, looking for literally anything to protect myself with, ending up with some cheap leather armor, a small wooden shield, and a small iron sword that was probably last sharpened three months ago. Suddenly, I feel empowered. I survive the fire fight (literally) and begin my new life as "insert name here".

Eventually I am in a small village, slowly uncovering a story that has been laid out for you about Dragons, and ancient legends, working at a blacksmith, a lumber mill and a mine, slowly earning some money to get that new steel sword. Performing small quests for the Jarl that lead into other quests.

Then it happens - that magical moment when my entire world opens up to a new horizon - I level up. Suddenly becoming slightly better. I now have points to add to my character things easier and more productive. It's glorious! Now, I have a goal - I want to level up, again, and again!

I find myself in no short amount of time with Dragon Scale armor, weapons made of ebony, shooting arrows in slow motion, and taking out dragons while they sleep. How is this possible, when I started out as a prisoner with rags on?

The answer is simple - I wanted to.

I didn't settle for a crappy sword. I learned how to improve it at the blacksmith. I had a goal, and I went after it. Level 10, 20, 30, it just kept happening, and I stayed with it.

Then it hit. I haven't leveled up in quite some time. Every level is a chore, slowly working on something to perfection. It got... boring. I had a choice - keep doing what I am doing, or start over and do it all again.

Virtually every video game, with some exceptions, follows this same model. You start out with next to nothing, and work your way up.

In the initial levels, everything is a threat. One wrong step, and you better hope you saved your game in the last 20 minutes, or you have to do that dungeon over again. It's scary, and hard, and, and, exciting! It drives you into obtaining the next thing.

You see, I realized almost everything we do is a grind - you get up, you get your day going, and then you do the same thing you did yesterday. It can cause us to look on things with less passion. Trust me I get it - I feel the grind.

The grind isn't a bad thing though - it actually means something different than I believe most of us percieve it as. It means we are actually quite good at what we do. You didn't start coding over night.

Think back to the time when an object was new and mysterious, and every function could lead to success or dismal failure. It was exciting and fun, and a learning process. Every little thing you did early on had some impact on where you are today. You are a developer - level 37. You've spent your perk points on Javascript libraries and Ruby syntax errors.

The great news is this - we don't have to reinvent ourselves, or pick up a new career. We can just, start learning something else. And currently, there is a lot to pick up and run with. My latest passion has been understanding static site generators, and Less. My workflow was tired, and I made improvements. It all feels new again.

I realize now, more than ever, that I have reached a point not where I need to be bored, but instead where I need to be seeking new challenges. Sure I can keep killing Frostbite Spiders, or I can start killing Giants and Frost Trolls. It's really up to me what level I want to stop at. As long as I keep looking for the fight, I'll find plenty of motivation.

Kelly J Andrews - © 2020