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Game Changer: How embracing the new in videogames can help us adapt to real-world changes by Ian Collen

We’re often told that change is a good thing, whether that’s in videogames or in real life.

New is fresh and exciting, and any kind of break from the same-old should be embraced with enthusiasm. However, change can also be intimidating and stressful, with many of us finding comfort or a sense of control in sticking to those old routines; happier with repetition and familiarity rather than having to adapt to something new and often beyond our control.

In gaming it’s why people will demand new and improved features for a sequel, but then complain when the new game isn’t quite the same as the original. Admittedly, shooting zombies or aliens or whatever your videogame of choice might be doesn’t necessarily compare directly with those issues happening in your everyday life, but there are many similarities that can echo the fact that while change can be difficult, a little patience and perseverance can go a long way.

In some ways, even booting up a new game for the first time is a rather daunting change. Having spent days, weeks or even months learning every last subtle nuance of one title, you’ll now find yourself sitting in a tutorial for a whole new experience. That reassurance of knowing all the right moves, all the tricks, having the best equipment and never really having to worry about doing the wrong thing through anything other than an honest mistake is gone – and in just about any walk of life, that can be a cause for some trepidation or anxiety.

Sure, many of the parameters might be familiar and you hardly need a reminder of where the jump or crouch buttons might be, but there’s still a wealth of information to figure out, such as how your special abilities work, how to combine those magic potions or one of a hundred other little things. Of course, you would have been in a similar position when you started that last game, and that turned out pretty well – so you can at least take comfort in the process and appreciate that the new will soon become the norm.

Of course, life doesn’t always give you a great deal of choice in the matter (or a handy tutorial for that matter) and enforcing change is also a trick videogame developers can employ to keep you on your toes. Many RPGs or action titles will use it early on, letting you start the game fully maxed out with a raft of awesome abilities, only to then strip them away completely and leave you faced with levelling up from scratch – but having caught a glimpse into what you’ll ultimately become over the next 10-20 hours. Conversely this can also happen mid-game, with the likes of The Last of Us delivering an unforgettable (and un-put-downable) twist by suddenly shifting gameplay from the tough gun-toting hero to the preyed upon girl he was protecting.

This could also apply to origins stories, such as the Tomb Raider reboot, where you know the super-heroine she’ll become, and so getting to oversee that transition from powerless to powerful can be rewarding because you have that awareness and anticipation of how things will end up. It’s not always that clear-cut in real life, of course, but focusing on the end game and accepting that there is a certain amount of ‘levelling up’ to be done to get there, one small upgrade at a time, can help.

Videogames also use change as an optional accessory to further broaden their appeal or, more often, their lifespan. Titles such as Borderlands and Destiny will offer multiple characters, each with different abilities and skill trees to explore that effectively require rebuilding from scratch – albeit in a very familiar environment from your previous playthroughs. Again, these changes come with a sense of anticipation because you’ve done it already with a previous character, even if there’s no way of knowing if this new character is going to better or worse than before. However, there is some comfort to be found in the repeatable format – and ideally plenty of fun to be had in seeing how the new hero or heroine compares. And if it doesn’t work out, you can always go back to your original character and appreciate their super-bad-ass prowess even more.

There are some games that could be seen as more direct ways of embracing and appreciating change. The excellent original season of Life is Strange not only deals with a young girl coming to terms with things that have changed in her home town as she returns after several years away, but the core gameplay mechanic also gives you the power to rewind time and make definitive decisions based on how you see events play out in differing ways. Gone Home is another great example that offers more of a ‘hands-off’ storyline as you simply explore your childhood home and piece together various events that have affected the lives of your parents and younger sister since you moved out.

It’s not necessarily that there are vital life lessons on display that we can all learn from, more of an appreciation that change can affect people in many different ways – and there’s not always a right or a wrong way to deal with it. It’s also worth bearing in mind how some of these situations can seem incredibly burdensome at the time but yet eventually become just another acceptable piece of the bigger picture. Some of those decisions in Life is Strange, for example, can be incredibly difficult to make, but ultimately their impact on the final narrative can be far more arbitrary than many of us had twisted ourselves into knots over.

In some ways it could be compared to moving house – one of life’s most demanding changes. Much like getting used to a certain character or style in a videogame, you get comfortable and feel confident in your old home because you know where everything is and how it works; where the fuse box is, how to fix the leaky sink, the best local takeaway and so on. Having to find a new home and learn all-new answers to those same questions can seem like a lot to take in, but eventually you will get there; you’ll track down the fuse box, acquaint yourself with the pipes under the sink and find a new and maybe even better local takeaway!

Change isn’t always a good thing in the same way that sequels aren’t always better than the original, but there will always be a demand for something ‘new and improved’ and sometimes we have to break out of our comfort zones to find out if that plan succeeds. Embracing change isn’t always easy, but being able to move forwards while accepting that there may be a few nervy steps as new skills are learned and old habits brushed aside, can go a long way. After all, every game you’ve ever played was new once, and we don’t doubt that you’ve gotten pretty good at more than a few over the years…


 

Ian Collen is a writer and editor with more than 20 years experience – with well over half of that spent working in videogames. He’s worked on the likes of XBM, 360 Gamer (later known as One Gamer), and the innovative digital publication, Gamer Interactive. He also learned more about drones than he thought possible as editor of the self-explanatory Drone Magazine and is currently working as a freelancer.

 

Skills utilised:
Covid 19, News

Hub World – Change

Hub World – Change (March)

Welcome back to Hub World!

This month, at Safe In Our World we have been thinking about change. Change can be a terrifying prospect – of course, nothing stays the same and in essence there are consistent, incremental changes as we progress through life. These are more ‘natural’ changes, that we are generally equipped to process over time. The tougher side of this is when you are directly staring down the barrel of change that’s either there by choice or, sometimes, forced upon us. These changes can also come in quick succession, often without adequate time to process each beat, and your current situation or societal pressures mean that maybe you won’t (or can’t) take the time to do so.

As someone who spent a decade ‘surviving’ and carrying immense burdens of responsibility, it has become overwhelmingly apparent how dangerous it is to not process change – positive, negative, and everything in-between. Without giving yourself the space, it all clogs up the brain-drain until it has no room left to function at its full potential.

As we head towards Easter, a time of new beginnings and new life, try and take some time for you – you don’t have to do anything special to fill that time, but remove external distractions and sit in the moment. If you feel sad, let it be so – let your mind and body process whatever it needs to.

Let’s take a look at how members of the Safe In Our World community feel about change and how they approach it in their daily lives!

Sarah Sorrell

I always used to fear change as it took me out of my comfort zone but I have learnt to stop worrying about it, try to be open to it and see it as a positive. Especially in a work related situation it may be an opportunity to learn a new skill or meet new people which can be very rewarding. I’ve found the more prepared and willing I am to just go with it, the less stressed I feel. And let’s face it, life would be pretty dull without any changes or new opportunities right?

Sarah Sorrell

Rosie Taylor

The most important thing I have learned to come to terms with when big changes come around, is that there’s no “right” way to react to it. Whilst there are healthier ways to cope than others, punishing yourself won’t change anything; it’ll just make you feel guilty. My best advice would be to make small changes each day to improve even just one thing, to see change in a positive light and go with the flow rather than fight against it. Celebrate the small victories, write them down, remember them and most importantly: share them with each other and celebrate each other. Lifting each other up even in the smallest of ways could not be more important right now.

Jake Smith 

I found that over the pandemic I was gaming socially with old friends again, life got so hectic that it was always hard to meet each other at times we were all home and able to play. I found myself connecting with old friends and making new ones along the way while managing to somehow break every game I get into, especially Red Dead Online, The Forest and Valheim. I believe that many wonderful memories have been created from these absolutely hilarious moments that I will never forget. Gaming has been a very good anchor over these very uncertain times and I feel I owe it a lot.

Amber Elphick

With running events for our gaming community, Switch Players Norwich, we had to change and adapt the way we entertain and communicate with our members. We had to go from doing regular, social, in person events to solely focusing on online. 

Thankfully our community has embraced the change, and even though we haven’t held an in person event in over a year, our online events are still thriving and our community has grown and flourished. We found that people were grateful that there was still a way to enjoy gaming together and that they didn’t feel isolated during the pandemic.

DJPaultjeD

In January 2020 I got word that the branch of the company I was working for, was shutting down. Bummer, I thought, but with the market as it was back then, I should have a new job in no time! The branch would close its doors on March 31st. The pandemic situation got real serious and close to home for everyone.
Where I thought it to be easy to find new work, companies issued a stop on hiring new people. I had no place to go. While looking for work, I started to teach myself how to code videogames, because that had always been a dream. I started off with some courses on freecodecamp and other tutorials to find a place to start. I found a Udemy course on game development with Unity. This was my first time ever working on an engine and learning C#.
I am nowhere near the level I want to be, but I took the first steps, and I feel damn proud about the changes I made.

Emma Withington is a freelance writer and PR account executive at Bastion who has worked on campaigns for a variety of titles, including Control and Final Fantasy XIV: Online.

She is currently spending time focusing on the wider community and how she can help others through her personal journey with mental health.

Twitter.

Skills utilised:
News

Change anything – by Charlotte Kenny

I’ve always found it excruciatingly difficult to talk openly about mental health and depression. Even typing those words made me tense. It’s not that I’m ashamed, but I was terrified of being judged – or worse – someone thought I was making it up for attention.

My university experience was not fun. Admittedly, you need to be somewhat academic, sociable and self-motivated to get through the whole 3-5 years. I barely have any of these skills, but university meant moving out of my parent’s house, and a chance to ‘find myself’. Well, I found myself hitting rock bottom in my second year.

I lived in a house with five other girls. Five other girls who were all slimmer, prettier and smarter than me. I was the fat, stupid friend. I have never been particularly confident, particularly with body image. Throw hormones and the impending doom of a degree into the equation, and you have a hot mess. Or rather, a fat, stupid mess. I wasn’t failing my course per say, but I was nowhere near doing as well as I should have been. I was just about scraping a pass for each assignment. I’d beat myself up each time I got my grade back, despite putting very little effort in, because my mind was preoccupied with nasty, negative thoughts, about anything and everything.

Not only did I appear to be stupid one in the house, but on my course too. In my eyes, I was never good enough. I was so inadequate at everything. My head got the best of me and I became my own worst enemy, to the point where I would rarely get out of bed. I skipped lectures, avoided socialising as much as humanly possible and only ate rubbish food. I put on more and more weight, making me hate myself even more. Every day I woke up, wishing I hadn’t, and would contemplate the ways I could end it all.

I still don’t know to this day how I got through that second year of university, and it’s something I still think about regularly. I think it must’ve been a mixture of things. Getting out of a mouldy (literally) student house. Getting closure from a previous on and off relationship and getting out of the academic institution for a year. Between my second and final year of university, I did a placement year of working in London for a PR company with a team that worked in the videogames industry, and I think that might have been what turned me around. I had to get myself into London every day. I had to socialise with people. I had a job I enjoyed. I had found a purpose.

If there is anything anyone takes away from this, all I want to encourage is change something. Anything. Anything you think could help you in any way, everything else will slowly have a domino effect on your life. I changed my environment and automatically felt different. Admittedly, out of my comfort zone, but a much needed shove out of it. The change of environment kicked me into changing my diet, my relationships, my own thoughts. Even if it’s something as minute as drinking more water, that is a change. Getting of the tube a stop early to get an extra 10 minutes of walking. That is a change. A change that will slowly, and gradually make life start to feel a little less crappy.

Skills utilised:
Stories

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