Wow, I almost can’t believe I am writing this — but it’s true. I have spent a LOT of time in my life playing Age of Empires. Specifically, Age of Empires: Rise of Rome and its cousin, Age of Mythology.
As a child, PC games were one of my favorite ways to spend time. While I was also a very active kid, the games were a great way for me to learn new concepts through play. Here are the ways that playing Age of Empires impacted my life goals for budgeting and strategy.
Age of Empires: Teaching Kids to Memorize Names of Ancient Civilizations
Young Emily was a bit of a geek. Well, let’s be honest — adult Emily is a bit of a geek. However, my love for Age of Empires was developed long before I had any idea what it meant to be a geek (other than maybe the stereotype about wearing glasses?).
Growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s there were a lot of PC games being developed and the world of video games was changing rapidly.
My dad was always interested in and excited about technology. I firmly believe that his interest was what spurred me to try my hand at a few of the popular games of the day. There were three specific series that stuck with me over the years: The Sims, the Tycoon games (mainly Zoo Tycoon and Roller Coaster Tycoon 2), and Age of Empires.
I have talked a bit about how I believe that playing The Sims has helped me to pay off my student loans. I also want to highlight some of the thought processes that I developed while playing Age of Empires.
It’s worth noting that I am a person who enjoys learning about history, and I found the whole ancient civilization aspect of Age of Empires to be interesting. Of course, as a kid I had no idea what it meant to be playing as the Sumerians, Persians, or Phoenicians — but I definitely knew those names by heart.
By the time I rolled into a world history class in high school, I felt like I had cheated just by having such a strange familiarity with many of the words associated with those civilizations.
Don’t even get me started on the know-it-all benefits of having memorized all the Norse gods from Age of Mythology by the time these Thor superhero movies started coming out. I digress.
3 Life Lessons from Playing Age of Empires
Here we go: these are the 3 ways that I believe playing Age of Empires has helped me to budget wisely and plan ahead when it comes to finances and life.
Considering Available Resources when Planning for the Future
If you’ve ever played this game or any of the iterations of the series, you know that budgeting resources and planning ahead is what makes you a winner. I never became a true master of the game, so my knowledge of the specific stats when it came to resources and what my opponents would be throwing at me was weak.
However, I knew that if I was careful not to waste any time, that I could build a strong economy and then wall myself in and win by outlasting whatever my opponents had.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
I know, we all hate that strategy, but it’s like the Age of Empires version of “slow and steady wins the race.” Anyone who knows me knows that I am all about that in real life. Winning in my book, as a kid playing Age of Empires against a computer, was planning ahead and using the available resources like time, gold, wood, and food to set myself up for success.
It was all about using what I had available and wasting as little of it as I possibly could.
This translates to the real world in how I make decisions in regards to future. When I make career decisions or around how to operate within my budget, I have found the most success from making steady and calculated moves.
Every decision comes with some level of risk, but if Age of Empires taught me anything, it’s that you can’t always see what your opponents have hiding just outside your view. Better to live in a way that gives you options in case of emergency.
Prioritizing Goals and Choosing the Best Strategy from the Start
The first few times you play Age of Empires, or any type of strategy game, you’re bound to be making a lot of random decisions early on and find out later that some of them weren’t the most beneficial for your survival.
You might have thought that stockpiling gold was a great idea because gold is shiny, but find out later that food was really where you needed the extra manpower.
You Can’t Start Over from a Save Point in Life
Of course, Age of Empires is a game and you can quit and start over and take the lessons you learned to improve your strategy in the next round. However, life isn’t a game and we can’t just start over.
Sure, we’re all going to make mistakes early on in the game (read: our teens, 20’s, and sometimes even later). Defining your personal priorities earlier in life can be incredibly beneficial.
It is scary to be a young person and know that you are making huge life-altering decisions, but that’s the way the world works. And for many of us, there aren’t safety nets to catch us if we make too many of the wrong ones in a row.
If Age of Empires taught me anything about prioritization, it’s that trying to change strategies gets tougher the later you are in the game. Because of that, I have always made a point of reinforcing my personal priorities and making decisions based on long-term strategy.
For me, this meant prioritizing my education in high school and college. I wanted to get as many college credits as I could in the least amount of time, saving myself money down the road.
I knew that if I prioritized my education and saving money that I’d have an easier time getting my life started and finding a job after graduation. The overall strategy for becoming a self-sufficient adult was a series of steps. The key was to set my priorities early and stick to them throughout the process.
The priorities outlined the steps, following the steps led to success, and success led to the creation of my next big goal.
Being Aware of Your Strengths and Weaknesses
In the real world, many of us are hesitant to explore and really understand our strengths and weaknesses. In a game, however, it’s natural to look closely at your team and your opponents and use known strengths and weaknesses to form a strategy and win.
Playing Age of Empires helped to lay the groundwork for how I understand strengths and weaknesses both in myself and in others. No civilization in the game is the best at everything.
Some are great for building a strong economy, but lack in certain military aspects. Others are slow to build an economy, but can save the day with some killer cavalry. And, undeniably, there were some civilizations that were pretty decent at most things. That’s where I found my lesson.
When you see a person who has found their calling, it’s amazing to witness what they can accomplish.
What I took away from understanding strengths and weaknesses in Age of Empires was that it’s okay for me to struggle and it’s also okay for me to succeed where others struggle. We are all good at different things and have our own goals and priorities.
While I may struggle to wake up early and get to the gym, I excel at maintaining a budget. While I am not very good at socializing in large groups, I am great at planning and executing events.
We all have strengths and weaknesses and playing Age of Empires helped me to understand that there are so many different ways to win — and that one strategy will not work for everyone.
Video Games for Kids: It’s Not All Bad
You might see kids today and think that they are spending too much time indoors and too many hours in front of a screen. While I don’t disagree with you, I can’t discredit time spent playing video games completely. I learned a lot of useless information when I played video games growing up, but I was also developing life skills along the way.
Would I be where I am today if I hadn’t learned to be shrewd with time and resources while playing The Sims and Age of Empires? Would I interact differently with others if I hadn’t spent time in multiplayer games trying to work as a team to meet a goal? Who knows! But I will say that I had fun practicing those skills and I will definitely be looking forward to sharing those types of experiences with my kids.
The best part is that now that I am the grown-up, I’ll get to be player 1 for once! (For anyone out there who was always Luigi, you know there was no convincing yourself that he was just as good as Mario. Even if green WAS your favorite color.)
Thinking About Setting Some Achievable Life Goals?
If you’re thinking that it’s time you got your priorities in order and you want to start making decisions that will help you in the long-run, be sure to read some of my favorite ways to refocus my goals. Finding contentment in the chaos and craziness that is life can be tough, but the right mindset definitely makes it easier.