Darren is a scientist and an educator by day, and a writer and reviewer by night. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strategy, and rhythm games, he takes particular interest in independent games. Additionally, he produces the Zero Cool Podcast, and he plays board games quite a bit.
Like most everybody else here on Destructoid, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about video games. However, a good amount of that time is spent thinking specifically about how games can be powerful tools for education. And yet, despite their pervasiveness, few educators are capitalizing on the attention-holding capability of video games.
But that's a discussion for another time. For now, it got me thinking about what video games have taught me personally. Certainly, I've learned a lot of complex systems, I've gained a sense of rhythm, and I've even taken in a bit of history. But right now I'm interested in things that I'm pretty sure I can do, that video games have supposedly taught me, but that in reality, I probably can't.
Fire a weapon I have never in my life shot anything more powerful than an airsoft pistol or a paintball gun. And yet, I am unreasonably confident that because of my experience with first person shooters (Modern Warfare, specifically), you could hand me a real firearm, and I would be able to load it, steady it, aim, and fire at a target with reasonable accuracy.
But when I think about it, there have got to be guns out there whose models I've never even seen, and even on the ones whose virtual representations I am intimately familiar, I don't even know where to find the safety, or anything else aside from the trigger.
Fly/land a plane Remember back in 2006, when Snakes on a Plane came out, and Kenan Thompson's character attempted to land the plane having experience only with some made up PSP flight simulator? Everybody laughed and laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation. But me? I was thinking, "That's not so far fetched."
Now, I have seen the dashboard of a small plane, and I know for a fact that I wouldn't be able to figure out what each and every dial, button, knob, and lever does. But a part of me (the part that played a ton of Crimson Skies, both Pilotwings games, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) wants to believe that if I were stuck in a life or death situation that had me navigating an aircraft through a canyon (or perhaps a series of gigantic inexplicably floating rings), I know enough about pitch, roll, and yaw to manage it.
Skydive This is a unique entry on the list so far in that it is something I have actually done. (Ask my girlfriend about the time she got a text message saying, "I'm about to jump out of a plane. I'll call you later.") But it was just the one time, and as it was my first jump, I was strapped to the chest of a man who (hopefully) had hundreds of hours of training to get where he was.
Still, much like flying an aircraft, I feel like my HALO jump experience from Pilotwings and the Ratchet & Clank games have taught me enough to be able to freely perform my own stunts during freefall, and to reliably control my parachute-aided descent and landing. Heck, I'm pretty sure I could land on a standard skydive target, given a few tries to do so.
Survive the zombie apocalypse Of all the entries on this list, this is probably the most unrealistic. Not because it's unrealistic that the zombie apocalypse will come in my lifetime (it's only a matter of time before they get out there), but because I've never been much of a dog-eat-dog survival-of-the-fittest kind of guy.
When push comes to shove though, I'd like to think that I possess the necessary knowledge to live through the apocalypse. Left 4 Dead has taught me not only about zombie physiology (dismemberment is key) and ammunition conservation (automatic weapons burn through rounds), but about teamwork, communication, and even leadership. It has even taught me enough about situational assessment and heroism to know when to risk it all to save a friend, and when to cut our losses and let him die for the good of everybody else. When the apocalypse comes, I'll be mentally prepared, I'm sure of it.
Sing Lastly, something I was never good at growing up. Even today, my singing is typically described as "entertaining" or "comical," but never specifically "good."
The blame lies entirely on Rock Band. I've known for years that I'm a terrible vocalist. But Rock Band makes it very clear when I'm too sharp or too flat, and it even provides concrete overall feedback with which to compare my progress. Recently, I played through the entire Endless Setlist 2 on Expert Vocals. Could it be that I have actually gotten better? That I can actually sing now? Or is it just another of the things I'm pretty sure I can do because video games taught me, but in reality I probably still can't?