A creative lesson in “Urgent Optimism”
You know how some gamers just can’t seem to quit. Even when they keep loosing the same level over and over…and over again. Why do they waste so much time on a level they can’t seem to beat?
Well, it’s actually not a waste of time. They’re actually getting better, gaining skills and “leveling-up.”
The thing about video games is the difficulty rises in proportion to the gamer’s skill level. So, as the player progresses through the game, the next victory gets more difficult to attain. But, it’s still juuust within reach. In fact, gamers are so convinced that they can attain the next victory that they promise all it will take is “one more game.”
Although this cycle causes endless headaches for mothers, siblings, and significant others alike, it is also the perfect lesson in “Urgent Optimism.”
Imagine if we viewed our real life problems like this. If we actually believed, every time, that all it would take is “just one more try.” All the while learning and growing until our next victory? Well, turns out, we can.
“Urgent Optimism: the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, motivated by the belief that you have a reasonable hope of success.”
– Creative Confidence, by David M. Kelley and Tom Kelley
(Watch this TedTalk from Jane McGonigal about Gaming + Urgent Optimism.)
GAMING MINDSET FOR REAL WORLD PROBLEMS
As with many things in life, progressing through a game comes with almost guaranteed failure. Yet the passion to try over and over again in pursuit of a win is incredibly potent within the gaming community. They demonstrate a nearly unmatched perseverance considering an equally unmatched number of failures.
What does that mean for you?
Well, this lesson in grit and perseverance is vital for any creative endeavor, or truly, any path towards success. You must have an uncanny willingness to try, explore, fail and be confident that it will ultimately lead to victory.
But gamers are not just failing all willy nilly. No, rather, with each attempt, they see something new. They are learning the ins and outs of the game’s world, understanding how it works, and unlocking the small secrets and tricks to victory. With every attempt, gamers are gaining experience and insight that will inform their next round.
Each run of the game is equivalent to what design thinkers call an “innovation cycle.” The more you go through the innovation cycle, the more insight you gain and the less fazed you’ll get from each “failure.” And, with each one of those failures, you’ll feel yourself getting closer and closer to your goal. Your urgent optimism will kick in, and you’ll begin to experience that “one more game” syndrome. Eleven “games” in and you’ll find you’ve achieved your victory. And maybe even enjoyed the game along the way.
So next time you “fail,” think back on everything you’ve just learned and find ways to use it in your next attempt.
TIPS TO CHANNEL YOUR INNER GAMER
Play a game: If you are a total novice towards gaming, I suggest you give it a try. It’s not just Grand Theft Auto and shooting games. There are tons of games out there and I guarantee you’ll find some you like (There’s this little thing called Animal Crossing, I suggest you give it a go. A version is available on nearly any gaming system so you don’t have to pay premium for the newest version of it.) Whatever you find out there, the point is to immerse yourself in a (fake) world in which you are not afraid to try and fail.
Set mini-goals (i.e. create levels): Whether you’re trying to learn a new skill, working on a business plan, starting a business, or creating your next masterpiece, break it into little steps. Unlock that “urgent optimism” by setting little victories that actually feel within reach. No gamer goes in and just attempts to beat the final boss on the first try. They go through levels and “mini-challenges” that grow their skill and prepare them for the final victory.
Create “quick + dirty” style: If you are a content creator, try “playing a level over and over.” Lots of gamers might do this to level up their avatars or unlock new skills/accessories to the game. The same goes for content creation. Here’s how: Pick one subject. For example, let’s say I choose a banana. I’m a graphic designer, so I might draw/create 15 versions of a banana. I’ll use different styles + maybe even mediums, all the while learning, improving, and adjusting. Are you a musician? Write 5 songs about a banana. Photographer? Take 50 different photos of a banana. Writer? Write 3 short stories about bananas. Silly example, sure. But the point is to start getting past that basic “level-one” stuff and start unlocking those “bonus” skills that add umph to your art and will make getting that ultimate victory that much easier.