The following post is an extension to this article: https://markmanson.net/four-stages-of-life. Read it first before proceeding.
RPGs are the shit.
Also known as role-playing games, they’re usually in video game form (e.g. TES V: Skyrim), but they can also be spoken-word too (e.g. Dungeons and Dragons).
What distinguishes them from other games is their ability to suck you in. They have the power to transport you from your boring ketchup-stained couch potato life into into an alternate universe of adventure and badassery.
But even if you may be casting spells and riding dragons, the RPG format closely resembles the journey we take through life. After reading Manson’s article, I realized that the life stages he describes can be understood easily in RPG format. Gear up, noobs.
Stage One: Mimicry.
This is the RPG’s tutorial. You learn the rules and how to navigate the world. You have no idea what role you want to play yet. The primary way you learn is through mimicking the tutorial masters. Stage One ends when you’re done with the tutorial missions.
Stage Two: Self-discovery.
This is the exploration stage where you’re thrusted into the world, and you have to stumble around to discover what role you want to play. You may try one skill and abandon it completely for another. Failure is inevitable as you hone your specializations.
Stage Two ends when you realize that you have limited time and resources, and honing a few particular skills is more worthwhile than trying to be a jack of all trades.
Stage Three: Commitment.
This is the stage where you get really good at some things and suck at others. But the things you suck at are unimportant to you.
For instance, mages are really good at casting spells, but they suck with the sword. Warriors can hack and slash, but they can’t cast spells. Smooth talkers can barter well, but they lack combat skills.
Stage Three stage ends when you master your skill set and there’s nothing left to do.
Stage Four: Legacy.
This stage is not commonly addressed in most RPGs, but it’s the stage when you become the tutorial master. Before you quit playing, you feel the urge to pass on your expertise to others in Stage One.
What’s the Point?
In an RPG, the progression of stages refines your priorities and allows you to get the most out of the game.
Summarized in one sentence: pick something and get better at it.
If you’re at an earlier stage than other players, the higher-stage players will call you a noob. You just have to get used to it. We judge players based on the stage we’re in.
The Value of Trauma
What usually catapults you into the next stage is a traumatic event. The story arc changes dramatically. The tutorial character dies. The enemies become much harder. The game becomes painfully boring.
Trauma can be beneficial for transcending stages. Don’t try to avoid it. Embrace the challenge.
What Gets Us Stuck
We get stuck at Stage One when we suck at tutorials. We get stuck at Stage Two when we try to be a jack of all trades. We get stuck at Stage Three when we feel like we haven’t done enough with our skill set.
And Stage Four… it’s hard to get stuck on this stage. It’s too much fun to call people noobs.