Stoicism – How Philosophy can make you a better Gamer

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“I am not a ‘wise man,’ nor . . . shall I ever be. And so require not from me that I should be equal to the best, but that I should be better than the wicked. It is enough for me if every day I reduce the number of my vices, and blame my mistakes.” – Seneca

When you hear the word Philosophy, you probably think back to dry lectures or imagine some pretentious armchair philosopher spouting nonsensical words. Trust me, me too. Most philosophy is complex, practically useless, and time consuming to read or listen to. This is what makes Stoicism so unique.

Stoicism isn’t about suppressing feelings or beating yourself up. It’s a no-nonsense approach to living practically. Made for action, not endless discussion. A basic set of general advice to live richer more rewarding lives with less effort. In other words, Stoicism is a mental framework for transforming anything into a positive frame that enables action and peaceful thoughts. This is critical to anyone who has ever picked up a controller.

Are you familiar with the phrase “tilted”? It originated from poker, known as a mental or emotional state that leads to the player using a less than optimal strategy. We all dread being tilted. Let’s be honest, games are a lot more fun when you’re winning.

How many times were you on Xbox live where some random kid talked about how his disabled grandfather with one arm could play better than you? Or how about the post-game messages about how you cheated to win? Enough of these would make anyone frustrated, especially someone who hasn’t been initiated into Stoicism. But you’re about to be and we will start with training your perception. Epictetus, one of the fathers of Stoicism suggests we hold impressions (anything that moves from the internal/external world into your immediate consciousness) in our mind for a second and truly judge it for what it is and find the beauty in it. In this way, anything negative can be turned into a positive by framing it properly.

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An example would be trash talk during games. So someone thinks your mother is so large she has her own gravitational field and made a mistake in not aborting you? Alright, well, that’s just a sentence on it’s own. Your perception then has to interpret this sentence. In a gaming context, this would be during a competitive match and could easily tilt a normal player. But not a stoic. A stoic recognizes this is a cheap tactic of poorly strung together words to get you to play worse. So you hold the judgement, laugh it off, and remind yourself it’s helping you develop fortitude and resilience. Let someone’s trash talk act as mental training weights. Isn’t that a better way of interpreting the event and responding to it while simultaneously strengthening yourself? It’s not easy and you won’t always be able to do it but with time and practice, you’ll surprise yourself. We’re often far more capable than we give ourselves credit for.

Marcus Aurelius, formerly the most powerful emperor in Rome and a famous stoic, wrote this in his private journal: “Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.” With this line of thought, it’s not crazy to suggest we all can escape from negative emotions by re-framing them to ourselves in a positive light. In fact, this is the current golden standard in modern day therapy to help patients. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy was based on the origins of Stoicism and the ability to re-frame events in your mind. The Cognitive aspect of therapy often involves diffusing limiting beliefs or logical fallacies and behavioral therapy involves getting the patient to physically act in ways to progress towards his desired outcomes. Stoicism is basically a life hack to avoid therapy bills and maintain sanity in an ever-increasingly insane world.

Stoicism doesn’t stop at just re-training your perception, it’s full of interesting exercises such as practicing misfortune. We should regularly envision the worst things that can happen to us to not only mentally prepare us but to try and prevent the shock of misfortune when or if it occurs. Stoics are also taught to keep in mind that everything is fleeting and eventually returns it’s energy to the earth. Think about every great person from history you’ve ever read about and admired. They all end up in the ground like everyone else. We should often remind ourselves of this to calm our ego’s and realize that we all have a finite amount of time in the game of life. But entire books have been written on Stoicism and I’m afraid I won’t do it justice with a blog post. The best I can hope for is that my words spark your interest enough to study Stoicism and play better online. And congratulations! By making it this far, you are officially a Stoic. Now let’s go wreck some noobs!