Four Lessons Role Playing Games Can Teach You About Fitness

Four Lessons Role Playing Games Can Teach You About Fitness

In most people’s minds, gamers are the furthest thing from the muscular, toned athletes they aspire to be…possibly because video games are often blamed for breeding a generation of couch potatoes. But In fact, there are many fit gamers out there, and many of them will cite parallels with the RPGs they know and love when talking about how they got fit.

Images by Illustratiostock, Daniel Ferenčak, Rolo Tomassi, Fabio Santana, Javier Domínguez Ferreiro, bobrocks79, Jeremy G.

At first glance, this topic read like “what cigarettes can teach you about good habits”, so let’s dispel some myths. Video games don’t make people fat. Sure, playing too much might take away from the amount of time you have to exercise, but it’s the overconsumption of calories — not the lack of exercise — that’s to blame for the current obesity crisis.

Everyone Starts At Level One

In the game Chrono Trigger, there is an Easter egg that allows you to fight the final boss (Lavos) battle in the first few minutes of the game. After Lavos lays the smackdown on your party, you have a good laugh for the stupidity of fighting him as a level one character, and keep playing anyway.

Unfortunately, many people don’t think about fitness this way. They will jump right straight into gruelling CrossFit workouts and painful early morning runs, then wonder why they couldn’t sustain their regimen.

Just like improving in a video game, fitness is a skill, and you start at level one. You level up by learning the basics of calories, how to create a meal plan, how to count your macros, and how to perform basic exercises. Then, and only then, can you move on to more difficult battles.

You Can Only Pick One Class

In RPG’s like Everquest, you typically pick one class for your character. For example, you can’t be a Warrior, Wizard, Monk, Magician and Necromancer all at once. Sure, there are hybrids — such as a Shadow Knight, which is a cross between a Necromancer and a Warrior — but you live with the trade-off of mastering neither class.

Beginners often want to get good at everything. They want to train for a marathon, lose weight, and get stronger all at once. Do you know why you never see a bodybuilder who also runs marathons? (I know of only one.) It’s because it’s really difficult, and it’s usually a recipe for failure.

Pick one fitness “class” that’s aligned with your current goals. If you want to lose weight, focus on weight loss (a mix of diet and strength training), if you want to eventually run a marathon, perhaps try a program like Couch to 5k. Don’t try to do them all. Once you’ve picked your “class”, do the minimum that you need to do until you get better. The good news is that unlike in many video games, you can always change your class later without losing progress.

Take Advantage Of Save Points

Save points are great, and they exist in real life. To demonstrate, I’ll give an example from a previous article that used Final Fantasy II:

Zeromus was like the Nintendo’s 1992 equivalent of a honey badger. As much as I tried, I couldn’t beat him. I literally tried hundreds, if not thousands, of times, but he just wouldn’t die.

Each time I fought him, the same order of events happened again and again.

I’d get my party ready for battle, use the same set of spells and attacks, and like clockwork, he’d execute the same moves and slaughter the good guys as predictably as the final episodes in a typical season of Game of Thrones.

Much like a less extreme version of the Chrono Trigger example, the problem was simple: my party wasn’t at the necessary level to survive the final boss battle.

Back to fitness. Perhaps you keep trying to lose the last few kilos, but repeatedly end up falling off the horse, binge eating, and finding yourself back at a previous weight.

But you don’t start from the beginning. You’ve still made progress. It’s tempting to throw in the towel and give up, but the reality is that you’re still starting at your last save point. When you face a setback, compare progress to your date with your starting point, and show yourself some self-gratitude. This is your real life “save point”.

Before trying the final boss battle again, level up a bit. In the losing the lost few kilos example, perhaps you need to take a diet break, add more additional muscle, or go on a caloric surplus for a period of time before you try again. The worst thing you can do is rage quit, which is what many people do instead.

You Don’t Judge Your Character

When you are given a main character at the start of the game, you play with the hand that you’re dealt. Sure, you might not like that the main character of Final Fantasy VII wields an oversized sword with hands that look like hoofs, but you play anyway.

Now, contrast this to real life. How many times have you been too paralysed to progress in fitness because you judged yourself — perhaps you hate your weight, despise your body shape, have a crummy metabolism? More often than not, these turn into rationalisations more than anything else.

Instead, think of yourself like the main character in a game. Don’t judge yourself. I’d normally say “forgive yourself” but in this case, there’s nothing to forgive, because you can’t control the attributes that you were given. You are, however, responsible for finishing the game.


  • The only thing I learned is to not level dex like a filthy casul.

  • Why not play a video game that will get you fit? I know lots of people have lost a lot of weight playing the game that was a spinoff project from google: an augmented reality game called “Ingress” (be sure to join the Enlightened) I’ve done over 2000km walking in 2 years thanks to this game, (as you cannot just play this at home, its all about capturing portals and controlling territory, portals are often things like churches, monuments, murals, parks ect.) its free on IOS and Android (it’s entirely free, no pay to win / freemium bs) check it out at ingress dot com or the app store or playstore

  • Just stealing articles from fitness blogs now eh? I wonder what NerdFitness would say…

  • I agree with Joemertix that Ingress is a great game to get out about in the real world.

    In the just over two years I have been playing Ingress I have lost 15kg and walked almost 4000km, met heaps of great people from many locations around the country that I now call my friends. I have seen so many great locations that I would not have seen without this game.

    So check it out and have fun playing Ingress, but join the Resistance

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