Our Lives Are a Video Game avatar Posted by Dr. Mike Brooks
Jul 9, 2013
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Okay, well, our lives aren’t exactly like a video game, but there is a major similarity that is kinda fun and interesting to ponder. A client of mine once made an off-hand comment about his life being like a video game, and I’ve been using it as a metaphor to connect with clients, especially my teens and gamers, ever since. 

A Video Game Example
img_147782_halo_reachLet’s take a first-person shooting game like the Halo series. Now, I know that some folks might roll their eyes at this example…and might even find it abhorrent that I am making a connection between life and a first-person shooter, but please hear me out on this. Of course, as far as the shooting in the video game goes, I certainly hope our lives aren’t like that part at all! But first-person shooters, along with many other types of video games, give players some sort of “health meter.” So, as we play these types of games, we encounter various challenges and foes that can deplete our health meter. As our health meter dwindles, it becomes increasingly necessary to replenish it. In many games, we, as the player, can seek food, hearts, energy pods, or med kits that can then restore the health meter to full force so that we can then go back into the battle. In the Halo series, our Master Chief character typically just needs to break away from combat for a while so his powered assault armor can recharge. What happens if we don’t pay attention to our depleted health meter in these types of games? Well, we don’t usually last that long. Our character “dies” and then we have to respawn or restart the level from the last save or checkpoint. Typically, this is to be avoided!

How Life is Similar to a Video Game
So, like these types of video games, we (sort of) have a “health” or “energy” meter as we go about our day.  Throughout our day, we face various challenges and obstacles that can deplete our energy. These challenges can take on many forms. For example:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Hunger
  • A big presentation at work
  • A crying baby
  • Traffic
  • Dealing with a difficult relative or co-worker
  • Deadlines
  • Losing our wallet
  • A tough loss in a baseball game
  • An argument with your teen about curfew, Facebook, video games (!)

Like in a video game, it is critical that we keep our eye on our health meter – to do an internal check-in with ourselves. When we find our health meter depleted (we might experience this as fatigue, irritability, sadness, anxiety), we need to find ways to, metaphorically, get a “med kit” to recharge it. Let’s say you just had a difficult encounter with a co-worker and now you have to make a big presentation at work. What do you need at that moment to recharge your health meter? Maybe a talk with a friend? A walk? Some deep breathing?

What you need to recharge your health meter might be different than some one else, and it can even vary from day-to-day. The main point though is that you must FIRST do that self-check to notice that it is depleted and THEN identify what you need to replenish it. Because if you just jump right in to the challenge without first recharging, you might just get overwhelmed and take an emotional beating. Like losing a life in a video game, we want to avoid this outcome!

So, be mindful of what charges your health (or happiness) meter as you go about your day. Perhaps you need a good night’s sleep or exercise. But you might probably will not know what it is that you need until you first check that meter. So, what does yours say right now? Now, if it’s down, what can you do to recharge it? If you make this a daily practice, you will become an expert in the game of life.


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Dr. Brooks is a Licensed Psychologist and the Director of the Austin Psychology & Assessment Center (ApaCenter). He provides therapy, consultation, and coaching services to adolescents and adults. His areas of specialization and professional interests include mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy,solution-oriented therapy, feedback informed treatment (FIT), positive psychology, positive computing, empirically-supported treatment, and existential issues.

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