A lot of articles that cover positive sides of gaming tend to focus on the question “what kind of skills can children learn by playing games”? The answers are usually things like cognitive skills, improved reaction time, coding and such.
But I believe a more important question would be: what are some concrete things that people have actually learned from gaming?
In this example, I’ll be referring mostly to Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord, since it’s a recent game I’ve played. But naturally there are many other games that simulate the same kinds of things.
From rags to riches in Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord
I’ve been playing Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord. You start as a somewhat penniless person with skills and background of your choice. Next, it’s time to recruit some daring commoners from nearby villages and form your very own ragtag adventuring group.
You have to pay each recruit a one-time recruiting fee and then a daily wage. The wage isn’t much for your starting band formed of nothing but tool-wielding commoners, but the wage goes up as your troops learn to fight and get fitted with better armaments.
This daily wage means now you’re losing money every day. You can offset those losses by many means: fighting bandits and selling their armaments, ransoming captured prisoners, doing favors for notables (important people in towns), buying cheap items from towns and selling them for high prices in other towns…
But those are still all manual operations that you have to actively locate and execute. If you sit still and wait, the only thing happening is you losing money, and then losing even more money as you recruit more troops and improve them.
Whether you want it or not, this sets a subconscious motive into the game:
By being, you lose money. You must constantly fight to keep yourself in the black.
Enter workshops and caravans
Once you have a sizable fortune of about 15 000 denars, you have the option to buy a workshop from one of the towns or send some of your companions to operate caravans. These workshops and caravans work automatically and send you earnings every day. Caravans are especially profitable, netting you even several thousand denars a day.
If you set up several caravans or workshops, you’re suddenly in a situation where just by sitting you’re actually making money. Maybe not lots of it, but it adds up to all the other manual work you’ll be doing every day.
So… After playing for about 600 in-game days, I finally decided to start my own kingdom by declaring a war on the Western Empire and capturing one of their castles.
At this point I had around 3 million denars and was receiving 6000 – 10000 more every day from caravans and workshops.
My mindset had now taken for granted that money was something that was constantly increasing.
Ruling a kingdom
Starting your kingdom and having a castle means a few things. You will be receiving taxes from the fiefs you own (towns, castles, villages).
That means even more money to your purse every day.
As a ruler you can now manage a much more sizable army. If you drive through a few laws and policies using your influence (in your own kingdom), the amount of troops you can ride with can suddenly increase from about a 100 to over 300.
And that’s not all. You can garrison hundreds of troops into your settlements (castles and towns).
As I started my kingdom and began training troops to prepare for further crusades, I suddenly found myself with over six times the amount of elite troops in my war party and garrisons combined.
Needless to say, things had changed. Again.
From riches to almost as many riches
The wages for fully trained troops are comparably higher than any lesser trained ones. With the amount of troops I now had, I was once again losing money every day.
Not much, about 200 – 1000 denars per day.
Surely someone with over 3 million in the bank wouldn’t mind losing just a few hundred denars a day! It’s going to be offset even more by all the fighting and trading.
Yet, it feels wrong. Both, that 3 million, and gaining more money automatically each day had become standards. Anything else felt like a loss.
I don’t know if I’m looking at the future or not, but that’s what it feels like. My brain tells me that if I lose a little bit of money every day, soon I’ll be poor again.
Not to mention there’s still so much to do. I’m only owning a castle and two towns at this point. There are many more wars to be fought and places to be conquered. My mind tells me that my 3 million could be gone in an instant.
That should sound like an excuse, and maybe it is. After all, I keep buying expensive items, as long as I know that they are beneficial. Regardless, this mindset is making sure I have the funds to deal with any future problems.
So, what does it feel like to be rich?
I find that the mindset you have after becoming rich isn’t that much different from when you were poor. Our brains are good adapting to situations in all the wrong ways. And so the money you’re spending is likely to be somewhat proportional to how much you’re making. In Bannerlord, I started buying more and more expensive items.
The same goes for real life. There are services and goods for people in every social class. When you have millions, you’re more likely to spend money on things that costs more than if you only had some thousands.
Also if you’re bad at saving or making money while poor, you’re likely to be that even when you’re rich, and vice versa. Despite buying more expensive items in Bannerlord, overall I keep making money. I’m not excellent at making money, but I’m at least OK at it. This reflects my abilities in real life.
Even if you’re bad with money, you should still do fine in games since they are often designed for progression and forgiveness. However, I’ve noticed that people who are especially bad with money actually tend to sway towards games where you have to spend actual real-life money (slot machines, games with micro transactions), and ignore other games more or less completely. I’ve heard some people even say that there is no point in playing a game if there is no real money involved.
It is said that there are people in the world who have enough money to end world hunger (honestly, I don’t know if the logistics of doing such a thing is possible, but I digress…), and still have most of their money left in the bank even after that. Yet those people aren’t willing to give up that fraction of their fortune.
I must stress that I’m not saying those people would be correct in their decision to withhold the riches they have, but games where you can be rich can definitely give you an insight to their minds: why it’s hard to give up even a fraction of what you own even if that would be the seemingly correct thing to do.