Sam Kim nods his head. "You can improve your Street Fighter game by playing StarCraft if you think enough about it," he tells me. "Turtling, rushdown, mind games, patience - it's surprising what you can take away from two seemingly completely different things." Sam is a Street Fighter player by trade - he's "OG3plus7" on Xbox Live if you want to try your luck.
This is new to me, mind you. I see video games showing up in daily life, whether it's about women or work. These guys are the other way around; they're seeing life in videogames. This doesn't mean that they spend all day playing World of Warcraft; they're using the thought process they learned from videogames to organize their individual goals, motivations and desires into an idea of the Good Life. After all, most gamers aren't satisfied with simply being a "good enough" gunslinger, army general or brick-stacker. They want to be all three - and more besides.
No one embodies this ethos more than my good friend Hyung "LB" Lee. A renaissance man by nature, he is just as likely to pick up mixed martial arts or magic tricks as he is Minesweeper or Magic: The Gathering. "My approach toward games and life is the same, if that makes sense," he tells me. "Many people approach hobbies because they are fun. They just do what they like, let the time flow, try to achieve happiness and so on. I want to experience things at a high level - the 'pro' level. The level that the majority of people have no idea even exists, and even the ones that do know about it don't know how to get there."
I pick Lee's brain for a moment on what constitutes personal improvement and discover he's thrown pretty much everything and the kitchen sink in there. On one hand, he's been advancing steadily in his career (marketing), working on running a six-minute mile and taking tennis lessons. Right next to those goals, however, are "finish the Spicy Ramen Challenge," "learn to drive a motorcycle" and "play the harmonica." Even his approach to his love life is similarly goal oriented: "Move off of dating and into a stable relationship" is on his to-do list.
"I try to appreciate life at a higher level," Lee says. "That's what I do in life. Appreciate it at different levels - and try to achieve greatness."
As a pastime, gaming is geeky at best and self-destructive at its extreme worst. Whether it's the creator of Mobile Suit Gundam or the President of the United States, everyone seems to have an angle on why videogames are responsible for the shift from the Greatest Generation to the Gamer Generation. It's nice to know that all the problem-solving we do in-game can help us out with our problems in reality.
Pat Miller has been doing this for way too long. Stop by his blog, Token Minorities, for more on race and videogames.