Grind Your Way Past It

Among the many life lessons I have learned from gaming, one came back to me recently in sharp detail. I have been trying this new free-to-play game out called “Path of Exile”. It’s basically a Diablo clone with a couple of wrinkles. One of those wrinkles is that every class of character has (theoretically) full access to the talent trees of all the other classes. This means that your Marauder may play more like a Duelist than could ever happen in games where the talent trees of the various characters are kept separate. What this also means is that it is very easy to “gimp your build”, a not very politically correct gaming phrase meaning that you have built out your character in a way that is far less than optimal. The game also allows (again theoretically) every class to use any piece of equipment that drops from the monsters you defeat in play.

The result of all this possible customization is that Path of Exile is very easy to “get wrong” and the learning curve is more like a cliff. Because of this it is very easy to hit a wall in progression where you can’t get past the foes presented in a new level of the game. This leads to the life lesson. You see, hitting a wall of foes you can’t defeat is not terribly uncommon in games that have characters that progress in power, and which can be customized. I first learned this lesson while playing World of Warcraft.

The lesson is this: If you find yourself stymied by the enemies of a level you have advanced to, retreat to a place in the game where you can continue beating foes and solving quests so that you can gain experience and power and then you can return to the level that you bounced off of, and prevail. I call this, “out leveling the content.” In other words, when the content of the game outmatches you, go find content that doesn’t. Gain more power in the game (levels, talents, gear, etc.) and take on the content you had a problem with once it’s easier.

In life we can hit walls in pursuing the goals we care about. Sometimes the way past those walls is getting better at what we are trying to do. In these cases there is no substitute for grinding out more practice at our craft. Automation, gear improvements, money spent on boosting our signal… none of those will suffice when we just need to be more adept at our skill. When lack of proficiency is what is holding us back, it’s time to out level the obstruction by devoting time and energy to getting better at what we want to do.

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