Nemanja Micović Machine Learning
Date: April 23, 2021 Tags: machine learning, nordeus, nordeus careers SUBSCRIBE
LIFE AT NORDEUS

TOP 11 THINGS I LEARNED FROM PLAYING VIDEO GAMES

Video games have been a major part of my life. I spent my childhood and school days playing them. Today I spend my professional life making them, and naturally, now it’s also a part of my job to play them (don’t forget to check out our Careers page, we are looking for a new team member).

They brought me many things. Happiness, beautiful stories, problems to solve, amazing characters, and incredible worlds. My parents didn’t really understand. To them, it seemed I’m just wasting time in front of my PC without gaining anything, except for poor eyesight. And they were right. About the eyesight, I mean. Those CRT monitors were hell.

I believe I learned a lot from video games, although not in a traditional way. Lessons weren’t obvious right away, and now looking back, I am able to realize what those learnings were.

1. IMAGINATION CAN GET YOU ANYWHERE!

Video games are very diverse and full of imagined concepts. They contain beautiful worlds, people, stories and creatures. There are different laws under which these worlds exist, and there is magic! And you can see all of this with beautiful 3D graphics. You can see every texture, angle and shape. And you can interact with these things. You can influence what they do and how they work. This is among the top reasons I still enjoy video games. They are a form of modern art.

Some games push these boundaries. Bioshock is one of those games. Rapture – an underwater city forged from one person with motivation to escape from political, social and religious anxieties of a post- WW2 world is something that first comes to mind.

Bioshock - Rapture
Bioshock – Rapture

When I read books today, my mind uses a massive library of concepts which are used to visualize what I’m reading. I’ve seen so many things from nature, wilderness, alchemy, wizardry and architecture that it’s a pure joy to combine them into objects described by the book.

This also helps me in my work. When I code, I feel like I’m creating a virtual world for someone else to enjoy. When I write, books and video games together provide a massive pool of ideas and concepts to draw from.

2. RE-THINK YOUR INVESTMENT

In many RPG games, you have an inventory (storage space) which is limited and can be used to store items. Often, the items you find, you also want to keep, but you don’t have enough space to put them away. This forces you to re-think your approach as naturally you want to maximize the money earned when selling. See? It directs you to think about why you are collecting these items, should you sell or keep an item. What if you can learn a skill which will create some of these items? What if you learned how to forge swords? Maybe it’s better for you to forge your own swords rather than search for good ones. But is investing in this kind of knowledge worth it?

Long story short, I learned to think outside the box, become more resourceful and approach problems more creatively and strategically.

3. FAIL, LEARN FROM IT AND TRY AGAIN!

Video games can be difficult. Very difficult. Multiplayer games also make you face other people, and naturally, make you taste the defeat. This teaches you that it’s okay to lose and that you must improve if you wish to win. It makes you analyze why you lost and what you can change to be better. Once you finally succeed in a difficult endeavor, the feeling and rewards are amazing.

I spent a lot of time playing Call Of Duty, PES and FIFA competitively. Throughout those years, my gaming ego was shredded to pieces as I was outclassed by other players. I learned to respect their skill, learn from those defeats and become a better player. When I started, I was just getting extremely nervous and felt like my opponents had superpowers! But game by game, day by day, I would improve a tiny bit and learn from them. There were also some amazing and dramatic moments in which I would turn the game around and win. It improved my skill of working under pressure and losing confidence when things don’t go my way.

4. RETURN WHEN YOU’RE STRONGER

Sadly, life is short, and time is limited. As a consequence, we should try to use our time efficiently. I learned that sometimes it is much better to retreat, improve and get stronger, and only then return to face my enemy again.

Games like Gothic and Dark Souls taught me this lesson. The number of times I simply had to admit that my opponent is much stronger and flee, is humiliating. A similar thing happens in real life- you get feedback, turn it into a learning and use it to improve next time around! At Nordeus, we often say – stretch yourself, which means go beyond your comfort zone, learn new skills and be ready to kick off again, but this time – stronger than ever.

5. IT’S NOT ONLY ABOUT WINNING. ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

If the process of learning and improving makes us feel bored and annoyed, we are missing the point. It’s all about the journey, not the destination itself. The process should also be fun and engaging. 

If you’re playing a competitive football match, it’s also important how you experience the moments during the game. Did you notice tactical changes from your opponent? Are you fascinated with the move the opponent tried to pull on you? How did you feel when you finally managed to execute that dream move you’ve learned from Pro players? If you’re walking through the streets of Valentine in Read Dead Redemption 2, stop and observe the view. Notice how the stagecoach is leaving the trail in the mud and listen to the sounds around you. Really visit that place in your mind! And pet that cute dog!

RDR2 dog
RDR2 dog

6. CHOOSE YOUR TEAM WISELY!

There are certain games in which you have the opportunity to lead or be a part of a team. You can also sometimes choose the characters, their skills, and personalities. This can greatly influence your play style and the outcome of the game. I’ve learned that a properly chosen team is an amazing thing as it creates an efficient and beautiful system that works like a well-oiled machine. This also rings true in my professional life. There are some goals that you simply can’t accomplish by yourself. (Shout-out to the ML/AI team at Nordeus!)

7. COMMUNICATION IS KEY!

One of my major learnings has to do with improving my communication skills. In multiplayer games where collaboration with other players is important, clear and effective communication is a must. Often these people didn’t speak my native language (Serbian) so I was forced to improve my English. This has been the biggest contribution to the speed at which I learnt English, because when I started playing games when I was younger on my PS1, I was frustrated when I couldn’t understand dialogues and game storylines. This skill helps a lot today when I need to collaborate with people from different backgrounds and profiles, like game and UX designers, product managers, system architects, data scientists and similar.

8. FACE YOUR DECISIONS!

There are certain games in which you as a player have an opportunity to make a decision, and this decision will have consequences in the game world. The scale varies, sometimes it’s a minor one, while sometimes this decision will influence how the game ends. This has been a major one for me while growing up. As a kid, I didn’t really think about consequences, but games had quickly shown me how my decision impacted the world around my character. As a result, my mind has learned to naturally try to imagine and simulate what could potentially happen if I made a certain decision in real life. This in turn made me not rush into things, and meant I could make more informed decisions based on thought through scenarios.

9. LIFE ISN’T FAIR!

Sometimes, games are viewed as not fair. There will be an enemy that doesn’t follow the rules of the game, and there will be items which you can’t get, and situations in which you will lose, even though it wasn’t your fault. Now, from the perspective of an AI engineer working in games, I can understand these frustrations, but I can also appreciate how challenging it is to create the experiences that are believable, beatable and tweakable at the same time. One of the fundamental parts of what makes games fun, is they challenge you. They challenge your mental capacity, your learning ability, and they challenge your skills. And that is the fine balance that game makers have to create, but that satisfaction when you master it… that’s priceless.

10. TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, A.K.A. CHEATING SUCKS!

When I was younger, I used cheats from time to time when I played games. My excuse was that it was for research purposes as I could see what fun things I can do inside the game.

giveusatank – If you know what this is and how it made you fly, you lived in a beautiful era.

GTA 3
GTA 3

 learned though that having cheats greatly diminished my motivation for actually enjoying the game experience. Sure, it was fun to mess around, but after some time, I would hit the limits imposed by the game and get bored.

It made me think about what actually made the game fun and how subtle changes to the rules and available actions to the player actually can greatly destroy the experience.There is an interesting meme now on the Internet about Sekiro and how one player was proud of cheating in the game. One player’s response went viral on Twitter:

Sekiro

11. BUILD GOOD HABITS AND BE PATIENT

In almost all RPG games, you start as a nobody with very few skills. Original Gothic games were famous for being very difficult and really giving you the feeling that you’re just one of the bunch inside of the game world. Even today, they are considered among the best RPG games ever.

Gothic Starting LookGothic Starting Look

You work your way up in the game world and get involved in the events in the game. By the end of the game, you’re probably one of the most important people in that game world.

You can now say Yeah, it’s a video game, but I dare you to go and experience it. You will go through the whole process of growing up, one little experience point at the time.

We grow bit by bit every day in our real lives, yet this is very difficult to perceive. We can only see it when we judge it over a number of weeks, months or even years. In video games, you can see how almost every action you take gets you experience points, and once you accumulate enough of them, you level up!

I would like to include a quote from Atomic Habits by James Clear:

Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable – sometimes it isn’t even noticeable – but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.

LET THE CREDITS ROLL…

It’s been quite a journey for me. Video games defined my whole life. I became a programmer because I wanted to create video games. I wanted to be able to produce these impressive pieces of art myself. I am privileged to have the opportunity to help make video games today and hopefully help someone else get as much from gaming as much as I did.

Thank you for your attention. And thanks to all of the amazing people who help create video games! If you would like to help us do the same, check out open positions here or learn more about machine learning here.

Disclaimer: These learnings have happened throughout the years I was growing up, so some of them may sound rather logical and like something I should probably know already. These are my personal learnings and beliefs, my motivation is just to share my experience, not to provoke or educate. And of course, it’s a great excuse to write about video games! 🙂

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