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Life Is Just A Game Essay Examples

Life is a game. This is your strategy guide

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Real life is the game that – literally – everyone is playing. But it can be tough. This is your guide.


You might not realise, but real life is a game of strategy. There are some fun mini-games – like dancing, driving, running, and sex – but the key to winning is simply managing your resources.

Most importantly, successful players put their time into the right things. Later in the game money comes into play, but your top priority should always be mastering where your time goes.


Life begins when you’re assigned a random character and circumstances:

The first 15 years or so of life are just tutorial missions, which suck. There’s no way to skip these.

Young adult stage

As a young player, you’ll have lots of time and energy, but almost no experience. You’ll find most things – like the best jobs, possessions and partners – are locked until you get some.

This is the time to level up your skills quickly. You will never have so much time and energy again.

Now that you’re playing properly, your top priority is to assign your time as well as possible. Every single thing you do affects your state and your skills:

This may sound simple, but the problem is you won’t always know what tasks to choose, and your body won’t always obey your commands. Let’s break it down.

How to obey your own commands

Many players find that when they choose to do something – say “go to the gym” – their body ignores them completely.

This is not a bug. Everybody has a state, which you can’t see directly, but looks something like this:

If your state gets too low in one area, your body will disobey your own instructions until your needs are met. Try studying when you’re exhausted and hungry, and watch your concentration switch to Twitter.

Your willpower level is especially important. Willpower fades throughout the day, and is replenished slightly by eating, and completely by a good night’s sleep. When your willpower is low, you are only able to do things you really want to.

Every decision you have to make costs willpower, and decisions where you have to suppress an appealing option for a less appealing one (e.g. exercise instead of watch TV) require a lot of willpower.

There are various tricks to keep your behaviour in line:

  1. Keep your state high. If you’re hungry, exhausted, or utterly deprived of fun, your willpower will collapse. Ensure you take consistently good care of yourself.
  2. Don’t demand too much willpower from one day. Spread your most demanding tasks over multiple days, and mix them in with less demanding ones.
  3. Attempt the most important tasks first. This makes other tasks more difficult, but makes your top task more likely.
  4. Reduce the need to use willpower by reducing choices. If you’re trying to work on a computer that can access Facebook, you’ll need more willpower because you’re constantly choosing the hard task over the easy one. Eliminate such distractions.

A key part of playing the game is balancing your competing priorities with the state of your body. Just don’t leave yourself on autopilot, or you’ll never get anything done.

Choosing the right tasks

Choosing the right tasks at the right time is most of the game. Some tasks mostly affect your state, e.g.

Others mostly affect your skills:

You need to put time into things that ensure a healthy state – like food and sleep – to keep your willpower high. And then you need to develop your skills with what you have left.

Some skills are more valuable than others. Good ones can open up whole paths like a tech tree:

Others are dead ends:

Combinations of skills are the most effective. It’s very hard to max out one skill to be the best – in fact, that’s often impossible. But it’s much easier to get pretty decent at lots of related skills that amount to something bigger, e.g.

See how psychology just helped you become both rich and attractive? You should study that.

Where you live

Your environment has a constant impact on your stats, skills, and your chances of levelling up.

It’s possible to play the game well almost anywhere, but it’s a lot easier in certain places. If you’re female and in the wrong country, for example, you can’t unlock many achievements.

The odds of anyone being born in their optimal location are virtually zero, so research your options, and consider moving early. Location is a multiplier to all of your skills and states.

Finding a partner

Attraction is a complex mini-game in itself, but mostly a byproduct of how you’re already playing. If you have excellent state and high skills, you’re far more attractive already. A tired, irritable, unskilled player is not appealing, and probably shouldn’t be looking for a relationship.

Early in the game it can be common to reject and be rejected by other players. This is normal, but unfortunately it can drain your state, as most players don’t handle rejection or rejecting well. You’ll need to expend willpower to keep going, and willpower is replenished by sleep, so give it time.

80% of finding someone comes down to being your most attractive self, which – like so much in life – just means putting your time in the right places. If you’re exercising, socialising, well nourished and growing in your career, you will radiate attraction automatically. The remaining 20% is simply putting yourself in places where you can meet the right people.

Money money money

Later in the game you’ll have to manage a new resource called ‘money’. Most players will find money increases throughout the early game, but that this actually introduces more problems, not less.

The most important rule of money is never to borrow it, except for things that earn you more back. For example, education or a mortgage can be worthwhile (but are not necessarily so, depending on the education or the mortgage). Borrowing to buy new shoes is not.

Depending on your financial ambitions, here are a few strategies to bear in mind:

  1. Not fussed about money. The low-stress strategy: simply live within your means and save a little for a rainy day. Be sure to make the best of all the time you save though, or you’ll regret it.
  2. Well off. Choose a career and environment carefully, and be prepared to move often to move up. You’ll need to invest heavily in matching skills, which will cost you time, and be careful not to abuse your state or you’ll burn out.
  3. Mega rich. Start your own business. It’s almost impossible to get rich working for someone else. Riches do not come from work alone, they come from  owning things – assets – that pay back more than they cost, and your own company is a powerful asset you can create from scratch. Compound your winnings into more assets, and eventually they can remove your need to work at all.

Later life

Your options change as the game progresses. Marriage and children will reduce your time and energy, and introduce more random elements into the game (“Emergency diaper change!”). This makes it harder to develop yourself as quickly.

Older characters usually have more skills, resources and experience, unlocking quests that were previously impossible, like “owning a house”, or “writing a (good) novel”.

All players die after about 29,000 days, or 80 years. If your stats and skills are good, you might last a little longer. There is no cheat code to extend this.

At the start of the game, you had no control over who you were or your environment. By the end of the game that becomes true again. Your past decisions drastically shape where you end up, and if you’re happy, healthy, fulfilled – or not – in your final days there’s far less you can do about it.

That’s why your strategy is important. Because by the time most of us have figured life out, we’ve used up too much of the best parts.

Now you’d best get playing.

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As I kid I loved Snakes and Ladders. I don’t even know if you can find that board game anywhere anymore, but I enjoyed it. (Okay, I just found it on Ebay for $2).

It was pretty simple. Basically you roll the dice to see how many spaces you can move forward. The first person to the end wins. You hope to land on a ladder (which lets you skip a bunch of steps). And you want to avoid the snakes (which make you slide back, giving up a lot of your progress).

I realized today that I’ve been using Snakes and Ladders as a guiding allegory for my life. Since I was a kid I’ve been using this game to make tactical decisions about my life.

Life isn’t slow and steady

Think of ladders as things that can rapidly advance you ahead of the crowd. These are things that help you to “arrive” faster –to be financially secure, happy, successful, self-actualized earlier than you would otherwise.

You’re probably familiar with the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of our returns in life come from just 20% of our efforts. The 80/20 rule suggests that we should focus on the things that give us the most bang for our buck. The Snakes and Ladders idea is similar to this: avoid unproductive behavior and invest the time into building yourself an advantage of some kind.

Examples of Ladders:

Making property investments made when you’re young. There are several investment strategies you can use. Property is the one that’s always made the most sense to me. The key is starting early. (And I suppose the key to that is being disciplined about savings from a young age).

Getting a university degree. Aside from the increased feelings of personal effectiveness and being more interesting at parties, a college master’s degree is worth $1.3 million more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma (and about another million on top of that if you get a PhD). (You could debate this, on the grounds of correlation versus causation, but if you thought of that you probably already have a degree and therefore you don’t want to).

Having a trade. Very much like a degree, having an in-demand trade sets you up well to branch out on your own and really cash in. However, it also seems like those who really benefit from having a trade are those with some business acumen as well, so they can fully cash-in when the moment is right.

Being a well-known brand. Personal branding is one of the new next-big-things. I encourage people to take some actions to dominant their ‘name space’ online, to make it so that when someone types in their name in Google, they are the first one that comes up and that they’re happy with the information being shared. (If you type in Tim Woods in Google you’ll find that I still come behind a Tim Woods who was also known as “Mr Wrestling” and Tim Woods, an Australian composer). But I’m getting there.  And, even at #3 in my name space, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from my efforts online. (I got a job, was chosen to judge a national environmental competition and become an internationally recognized expert on slang… don’t ask).

Being happily married. Research shows being in a marriage that lasts correlates strongly with sustained career success and better health in old age. Also it’s nice to have someone to share clean-up duties. Long-term, stable friendships can have similar benifits.

Understanding risk.People have money personalities. Some people avoid debt (even good-debt) like the plague. And those poor people don’t leverage their money. So they miss-out on long-term benifits –such as being able to retire.

Learning a language. This one is actually more of an ‘alleged ladder’. I don’t actually know any bilingual people who credit their success to their bilingualism. However, I’ve always suspected that if I spoke another language I’d be unstoppable, so I’m keeping this one in the Ladder category.

Examples of Snakes:

Going bankrupt. Even with bankruptcy protection, there can be lingering effects from bankruptcy that will snake you back down a few steps.

Getting arrested. In these days of ubiquitous information, it’s hard to hide mistakes from your past.

Getting divorced. For some people divorce goes smoothly. But for others it can put an enormous emotional and financial strain on your life for a very long time.

Can you think of any more snakes or ladders? Please add them in the comments.

(Update: Just before posting this, I’ve learned the game Snakes and Ladders was originally called Moksha-Patamu. “Of Hindu origin, it taught the players that virtuous behavior would aid your progression to Nirvana, but evil would make the journey difficult.” I told you this game was deep, didn’t I?)

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