One People, Under Games: The Unsung Hero of Confidence

Gaming: The Unsung Hero of Confidence.

What was once an incredibly niche interest has now exploded into the forefront of contemporary culture.

Games–and by extension gamers–are now seen as “cool”. Or perhaps, ultimately, gaming has become normalized over the years.

We have copious signs that point to this truth.

Ready Player One finally got a movie release, for starters. Fortnite has now come into its own as a verifiable family game-night staple–if parents are okay with games, the times surely have changed quite a bit. ESPN has an entire section of their online magazine dedicated solely to eSports. And to top it all off, PewDiePie is still one of the most subscribed Youtube stars of all time (despite his seemingly epic fall from grace).

Clearly, gaming is having a “moment” right now.

But there’s really only one moment that I’m focused on–as a writer, gamer, teacher, and tech-nerd. This particular moment is a much smaller, much more personal moment, however.

The moment that I’m invested in is the moment when someone’s eyes light up when they realize they’ve figured out a personal truth. A personal truth that they can capitalize on, strengthen, build confidence in, and use.

I call this the “lightbulb moment”.

As a teacher, this is what I live for. I haven’t been in the classroom for what feels like centuries, but I still remember how incredibly proud I felt when I saw my students finally grasp how to use Photoshop to make art, for example. Even when they felt they didn’t have a creative bone in their body, they still managed to reach an island of competency and play to their strengths.

This “lightbulb moment” doesn’t just come from academia either. In fact, it’s often born from interests and hobbies. Many of which teachers don’t have an active role in facilitating. And those moments, built upon each other, create competency. Which in turn fosters immeasurable confidence.

For me, the catalyst for my stint as a lifelong learner was gaming. I credit it, to this day, as the unsung hero of confidence, competency, skill-building, and critical thinking skills that have lead me to my current path in life.

I know many gamers who would agree with that statement.

I know many programmers who started on their journey because they wanted to learn how to make video games. I know plenty of artists who became illustrators so they could become concept artists.

I know many people from all walks of life who credit gaming with helping them find their footing in their careers.

But that’s still something we can’t bring to the professional forefront.

Gaming gave us the chops to succeed, and the confidence to keep succeeding.

I’m not sure how many high school students have penned an essay on how they ran, modded, and facilitated their own MMORPG private servers as kids, and that was why they should be allowed a shot at a coveted, competitive CS degree.

I’m betting it’s close to zero. Though it would’ve been at least one, had I thought it was a possible route for even just me to take.

I’m also not sure how many people have ever written on their resume that they coordinated mass efforts of players to take down a castle or plan raids, or even run an entire guild and manage fellow members.

Even when the level of strategic planning, cooperative work, and raw human resource skills to do that would make even the most seasoned HR professionals flush redder than FFVII’s omnipotent Ruby Weapon.

What I’m getting at here is that these “lightbulb moments” help shape our lives, grow confidence, and nurture competency. These moments also don’t simply exist in a vacuum, and for some, our skills grew out of a now normalized vocation.

Gaming can be, has been, and will always be a way for people to build personal competency and confidence.

For those that perhaps were never great at sports, but still wanted to compete–they had video games. For those who couldn’t actually compete because they were differently abled–they had video games.

For those who struggled in school but excelled in gaming, they had something they could point to and say, “I beat this, all on my own.” That’s a powerful, powerful thing.

For myself and many like me, we can’t exactly outline on our resumes how gaming helped us have these “light bulb” moments.

We can’t exactly pen into our cover letters just how much we’ve learned about copywriting, narrative elements or persuasive storytelling from playing JRPGs for the past 15 years. I would’ve loved to have done just that, fresh out of college and ready for work.

But these are things we can’t specifically talk about. We can’t credit gaming as the hero it is–and that’s why it will remain unsung.

For those of us who grew confident in PVP, grew competent in Python thanks to Ren’Py, and grew leaps and bounds beyond our peers because of an often still misunderstood vocation–I see you.

I see you, I know you, I get you.

I know the moment the lights turned on in our minds and our eyes lit up with purpose and determination.

I know that our hobby can offer people so much more than just a fun thing to kill time.

I know it can lift people up, teach invaluable skills, help grow confidence, and put people on the path to success.

Even if the world isn’t ready to treat our “lightbulb moments” seriously, know this:

The unsung hero of your confidence, the unsung locus of your life, matters.

It’s finally time to start singing about it. Who’s with me?