What I’ve Learned from Roguelikes

Life Lessons from Living Rogue-like

Nethack, probably the most famous roguelike

If you’re unaware, rogue-likes are a genre of game that feature permanent death, in-depth simulation, and unpredictable worlds. Each death sends you back to the beginning, with no equipment, no skills, and no map. Of all genres of games, save for maybe IRL gladiator-ship, rogue-likes are the most hardcore. They are punishing and unpredictable, and they reward skill and prudent play – just like “real” life.

I’ve played rogue-likes for years, and they have changed me from the inside out. I live my life as a rogue-like, and I want to share that philosophy with you. Here is some of what I’ve learned from living rogue-like:

Failure is Guaranteed, and Victory is Temporary

It sounds dismal, but it isn’t – on a long enough timeline, the survival rate always drops to zero. Living a life without risks, without going big, and without mindfulness (e.g. a “normal” life) doesn’t improve the odds of success. At all.

Knowing that the end will be same for all of us frees us. I am able to live my life as I please, and claim full responsibility for my decisions. There is literally nothing to be afraid of, because the worst case scenario (death) is unavoidable. Bask in failure. Love it. Look forward to it – it’s our constant, and a source of peace in an unpredictable, changing world.

Here’s the secret you may not hear elsewhere – whether you win or lose the game, you still reroll and go again. So, don’t play to win – play for the story.

It is Never Too Late to Start Over

Failure comes in different flavors and intensities – sometimes failure is losing your wallet, and sometimes failure is inadvertently burning your entire kingdom down around you. Either way, waking up the next day means it’s time to start over with our new knowledge. Learn from the failure (it’s inevitable, see above), and improve your strategy for the next run.

Some examples of failure and solutions:

  • Pulled the pin on a grenade and didn’t throw it quick enough? Don’t do that this time.
  • Got involved with a trainwreck of a relationship? Change your target audience.
  • Got robbed in a scam? You learned some sleight of hand.

No matter what, don’t stop – failure is assured, but the rule of averages says that victory can still come to those who are willing to keep rolling the dice.

Calculate Risks, and Weigh Options

hand tossing diceTake risks, but play smart. Learn to count the cards, but don’t be afraid to gamble. Sometimes, when a failure is on the horizon, it’ worth taking an impossible bet. After all, you’re going to stand up, brush yourself off, and start building again once the kingdom falls apart. There are always more options. Always. How creative are you willing to get?

Don’t play it safe – the clock is ticking.

Use Your Resources

You can’t take them with you, and hoarding is pathological. You can only carry so much, anyway. Use resources as they arise, and have faith that more will turn up. Throwing a grenade now is better than losing and having to start over anyway. There is no point in waiting for a “perfect time” to use your resources, whether it’s health potions, relationships, ammunition, or information – don’t sit on them!

Using resources keeps you alive long enough to find more.

Living Rogue-like Means Freedom

What we advocate is a fearless, realistic life. There are always excuses to play safe, to hold back, and settle for less. The awakened few don’t accept excuses – they lead a full, satisfying life, or they die trying. We invite you to join us, one permanent decision at a time.

2 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned from Roguelikes

  1. “There is no point in waiting for a “perfect time” to use your resources.”
    Most valuable lessons from playing roguelikes for me.
    I now use what I have and furthermore enjoy my life.

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