From Mario to Street Fighter to Counter-Strike: Why video games are great for learning life skills

A man with a headset playing video games in a living room. (Photo: Getty Images)
Playing video games can help you keep your mind sharp and active. (Photo: Getty Images)

In the typical setting of an Asian household, we were always told since young that "playing video games is a waste of time".

As a grown adult however, I have to strongly disagree with this notion.

Growing up in an Asian household, I was always told that my academic results were everything.

But I must say that the lessons I've learnt from video games have benefited me equally as an adult.

Video games have taught me numerous life lessons, and have helped develop my critical thinking, while also sharpening my responses.

Sure, I have been involved in sports, physical activities and some co-curricular activities (CCA) growing up, but I still feel that my reactions and responses were primarily trained from video games.

With that said, I also feel that it is up to the individual to learn from the medium they choose to engage with.

Some may not learn as much from video games as I have. Some may feel that going outdoors and smelling the roses is a much better life experience than playing video games, and I will wholeheartedly agree with them, because each person learns differently.

Video games are only one of the ways to learn some life skills, but I have no doubt that they are great teaching tools for the young to learn from.

Here are some examples of how they've helped me in life.

Critical thinking

Growing up, I've spent numerous hours on strategy games like Command & Conquer and Age of Empires.

Strategy games have helped me in my decision making on how to approach and tackle a situation.

Sometimes, these strategy games throw you into a very disadvantaged predicament, and you will need to find a way out of it.

Some missions in those games start you off with just a single unit (as opposed to a fully functioning city or base), and you have to find a way to succeed.

A screenshot of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 Yuri's Revenge. (Screenshot: EA Games)
Command & Conquer games can teach you a lot about strategising and management. (Screenshot: EA Games)

Granted, they are all war games, but if you are looking for a similar games that don't revolve around sending nukes to bases, another great alternative can be SimCity.

Strategising on how to make your in-game city prosper teaches you a lot of things, such as resource management.

The objective of the game is to basically create a bustling city, while also trying your best to make sure that it doesn't crumble when facing random disadvantages that the game throws at you like a natural disaster.

The things that I have learnt from these games have helped me in real life to navigate my funds and how to allocate my resources.

It has also helped me find ways to recycle and repurpose things that I already have.

But perhaps the most profound lesson that I have learnt is how to manage a team and being in a manager role, which is a skill that you would barely learn as a student, unless you are a student leader in a CCA group.

Managing a team is particularly tough if you do not have the experience, especially when you need to cater to different groups of people and their needs.

Sharpening senses

Growing up, I sank a lot of my time into Street Fighter II and first-person shooter (FPS) games like Counter-Strike.

These are twitch-heavy games (twitch muscle reaction, not Twitch the streaming website) that require the player to think and react on the fly to win games.

Beyond needing to study your opponent and predict what their next moves could be in those games, you'll also need to react fast and come up with solutions, and be adaptable enough to deal with what your opponents are throwing at you.

A screenshot from Street Fighter II on Ken's stage. (Screenshot: Capcom)
Street Fighter and fighting games have sharpened my reactions and taught me to think in the moment. (Screenshot: Capcom)

Games like these have helped me to think on the fly and also improved my split-second decision making.

Be it in sports or simple things like driving on the road, these games have taught me to be alert at all times to avoid accidents and staying safe.

As a bonus, I believe they have also helped my body coordination. Trying to do a Shoryuken consistently is no easy feat, even for a an adult, after all.

Even in this day and age, I will not hesitate to jump into a fighting game or a FPS game to upkeep my senses and keep it fresh.

Perseverance and patience

One thing that games allow a person to do is to fail without any consequences. It's just a video game after all.

This has taught me the idea of being patient and to persevere with whatever life decides to throw at me.

One of the best genres to teach this are the platformers — games like Megaman, Mario and Sonic. These games are tough when you are a kid.

Or you could always play a Souls-like game like Elden Ring.

You will need the will to learn enemy patterns, coordinate your attacks and solve puzzles.

Screenshot of Super Mario World. (Screenshot: Nintendo)
Platformers like Super Mario has taught me a lot about perseverance and trying your best. (Screenshot: Nintendo)

While allowing the player to figure out ways to beat the game, it also teaches you that it is okay to fail. Even if you do, you can get back up and try again.

I believe this is what contributed to my 'never give up' attitude that I've brought into my adulthood.

If things do not go my way, or if I fail in my endeavours, I learn from my mistakes and move on.

I would say that this is the most profound lesson I have learnt from playing video games.

Sometimes, these games also teach you the value of patience.

When it comes to dealing with obstacles (like the dreaded Piranha Plant in Super Mario), all you have to do is wait it out and progress when the time is right.

Brute-forcing your way through these obstacles will only make things harder for the player, and sometimes, life does that to you as well.

Not everything can be solved by force and urgency. Sometimes, the right timing is everything.

Working in a team

This is perhaps the lesson that I've learnt while playing team games like Counter-Strike. Sometimes, no matter how skilled you are as a player, you are nothing without your team.

Coordinating with your team is paramount to winning team based games, and far too often, I've seen solo players take things into their own hands and decide to be the self-proclaimed hero, only to instantly lose if they are playing against a more coordinated team.

This applies to real life as well. When working in a company or a group, no matter how skilled you are, you are stronger as a team.

Attempting to solo-carry in your professional career will only put a lot of stress and burden on you, and sometimes, it will not do you any favours as well, especially when you are in a group that requires a team player.

Team-based games also teach you to know your role in a team.

If you are not someone that is capable of fragging and killing enemies, you can still support the teammates that do.

Sadly, games like these will also highlight the most negative traits of a player if they do not treat it as a learning tool.

Far too often, we have seen players that think that they are better than their team, and some just refuse to acknowledge that they need to play with their teammates, all while being toxic to them.

Much like in real life, you will need to know your skill level and work with your team to be successful.

Being toxic to your colleagues will not bring you very far, and I am thankful that I learnt this early on in my life, thanks to games.

Dealing with trolls and negative comments

Last but not least, when playing online games, there will always be the people that trash talk and say derogatory things to you if they feel enraged (sometimes not even at you).

Granted, I am glad that this didn't exist during my early years of gaming, but I've definitely had to deal with it since online gaming became a thing.

Sometimes, the random people you meet in games can just be generally toxic all around. Nothing you say or do can change their minds or their intention.

Some do it because they are just generally upset, some do it because they just want to watch the world burn.

While being more prevalent in games (because they have the safety of hiding behind an anonymous username and platform), you are also most likely to meet these kinds of people in real life, especially if you land yourself in a job (or any group, really) with people who are envious of you.

Dealing with trolls in games has taught me that, at the end of the day, these are just words that are coming from random people who do not know me.

Perhaps you could say that it has helped me guard my heart a little more, and to disregard the noise.

The only people who should matter to me are the people that are constructive, and also the communities that are beneficial to my mental well-being.

However, if you do face incessant trolling and harassment from the people you meet online, do not hesitate to call the authorities if you feel that you are in danger.

This last life lesson is definitely not for the faint of heart, and is sometimes the hardest one to deal with.

Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy getting bodied in games or watercooling anything he sees, he does some pro wrestling.

For more gaming news updates, visit Also follow us on Twitter, as well as our Gaming channel on YouTube, and check out Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia’s Facebook page!