Jimi Smoot Entrepreneur / Software Engineer

Courage is what makes the game worth playing

Back in the day I played an online game called Ultima Online. “Ultima” was one of the first, if not the first massively multiplayer online games. Which means that the game was a separate living and breathing world. In the game you used money to buy things, stored your money in a bank, and worked to make money from other players. The purpose was to have fun doing interesting things with other people (hence the multiplayer) part.

It was awesome.

In the game there were “Non Player Characters” or “NPCs” which is a fancy term for characters in the game that were controlled by the computer and not another human.

Within the game NPCs were really just infrastructure. They did boring jobs that the game needed to function, like guard the city, or sell you things, etc.

The job isn’t as important as the fact that the character added no value to the game world outside of their narrow scope. Players on the other hand are what made the world special. With a player you could have a conversation, be robbed, go on an adventure, or build a relationship with other players. It’s the unbounded possibilities that players add to the game that made it interesting and is why so many people loved to play Ultima.

I bring this up because I’ve met NPC characters in real life. I’m sure you have met them also. These are people that don’t try to add value to the world. They just execute instructions that other people have given them. They try to look and act like players but they are missing a key ingredient that we can’t quite put our finger on.

I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve come to the conclusion that the missing ingredient is courage.

In a way we all have NPC tendencies - I know I do at least. But what makes a player is someone who has the courage to think for themselves. To take risks that nobody else has taken, to interact with other players, to sometimes win, or to sometimes lose.

Courage is critical.

When you look back at your life it’s the moments that you acted courageously that you will think about fondly. Usually these acts of courage involve other people: telling someone how you feel about them, asking for that job promotion, or stepping up when nobody else will are just a few examples.

Courage…It’s what makes the game worth playing.

So the next time you find yourself slipping into being an NPC its probably time to be courageous. Get out there and make it happen.

Tags: note to self