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Videogames are just like life

It’s not uncommon to feel like life is a never-ending set of twists and turns, often unexpected, always somewhat challenging.

Over the years I used the analogy of videogames to address this concept and many of its derivatives.

I don’t know if life is like videogames or videogames are like life, but I found this analogy to be highly relatable to many different situations and for many people.

Videogames remind us that life challenges are:

  • Never-ending…unless you die

  • Increasingly more difficult

  • …and yet just right

  • Cumulatively nurturing in nature


Many of my clients often complain about the never-ending stream of challenges they have to tackle. “It was only yesterday that I finally got respite from the serious issues I just resolved, and Bam! here is a fresh set to deal with! Will this ever end?”

Life is organic and its only guarantees are that it constantly evolves and one day it will come to an end.

If you play a good videogame long enough, you realise that one of its exciting features is the sense of anticipation it stimulates about the challenges that lie ahead.

Video games are structured in levels, each a contained story within the overall narrative, and each designed to slowly train the player to deal with the upcoming challenges.

Even when you finally kill that very-difficult-to-kill monster at the end of level one, you know that a whole new set and greater challenges awaits you at the next level…but only if you choose to continue playing.

The process is endless because there are many levels to master, but you won’t be able to progress unless you complete the current level.

Not all players experience the game the same way, and today you can pave your way to subsequent levels, but for the most part, we all eventually meet a nemesis we can’t seem to defeat.

Life is exactly the same.

We work hard to meet life’s challenges: our first big school exam, our first kiss, our first job, our first relationship, our first child, our first bereavement, our first illness…and when we think we can finally rest, the next challenge awaits around the corner.

Surely enough some of the levels can be tough to navigate, but with each there is also the satisfaction that comes from a sense of growth, of progression, of competence and proficiency.

Life is more fun when it’s filled with adventure and each adventure nurtures us to be stronger, better beings.


Videogame levels are usually designed to take a player from a basic set of skills and experiences to more and more advanced levels.

Each layer of the game builds on the knowledge and skills of the previous one, its difficulty level increasing proportionally to the experiences acquired.

Life is exactly the same.

As an adult reading this, think of your first day in school all those years ago; or perhaps of your first kiss; the first time you sat in the driving sit of a car; or any other of those experiences that you look back to, and with hindsight realise weren’t so bad after all.

For the child or the person who had to go through some of those challenges, the challenge level was likely a 8 or 9 out of 10. For you as an adult they probably feel like a 2 or a 3 out of 10.

When we finally overcome these challenges, we are left enriched, strengthened and more confident than ever before.


Our level of preparation and readiness for each videogame challenge is commensurate to the game played so far, and always feels more difficult than the previous. And yet, if the level was designed suddenly too difficult, very few if any would move past this level, and the game would not be so popular.

Were the level to be too easy to navigate, players would not feel the satisfaction that comes from playing within that sweet spot that feels concurrently challenging and deeply satisfying.

The level at which we play is exactly the level at which we must play.

Life is exactly the same.

We would not give most 8 year olds the responsibility to design the structure of a new building. We would not give a first-time manager the position of CEO at an established multi-billion dollar enterprise.

The gap between their levels of readiness to tackle those challenges is too large and they would likely crumble under the pressure.

Equally, an 8 year old would likely get bored to tears if we left them to play with toys designed for 1 year olds. They’d be too easy and quickly mastered, not providing the sufficient level of challenge that we intrinsically enjoy.

And the first-time manager would likely not enjoy going back to completing the tasks they engaged in when they first started working.

We want the challenge, and when we open to the idea we realise that no matter how difficult the current one feels, we are right where we need to be. Even though the overall game design is only known to its creators, as long as we continue to play, we get the chance to discover what comes next.


In his super popular commencement address at Stamford 2005 ( – I highly recommend watching it in full – Steve Jobs recounts the story about his calligraphy course and the impact it had on the creation of the Mac computer.

The same is with videogames. Some of the tools, knowledge and skills you acquire along the way, may only come useful in a later stage of the game. And in any case, each of them make us a better, stronger, more impactful player.

Life is exactly the same.

When we go through deeply challenging life experiences, we often wonder, “What is the point?” We cannot see how such experiences fit in the overall design of life, and sometimes we even feel like giving up altogether. But in each and every experience there is a learning to be derived, each expanding us, stretching our boundaries and nurturing our being.

For those who continue to play at the game of life, many adventurous discoveries await, and with enough courage and support, we can play this game fully, with curiosity and joy, knowing that there is something exciting to discover at each subsequent level.


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