Life is Like a Video Game — Play to Win

Bryan Collins

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, and start.

Many gamers know that sequence intimately. Known as the Konami Code, it’s perhaps the most famous video game hack. Creator Kazuhisa Hashimoto built this code into the 1986 title Gradius, as the game was too difficult to play during testing.

After inputting the code, players received all available power-ups. Since then, the Konami Code has helped players unlock easter eggs in dozens of video games over the years including Street Fight II Turbo, League of Legends, and Metal Gear Solid.

Gamers use the Konami Code when things are tough, and they want to get to the next level. It’s helped me get to the end of games I wasn’t good enough to finish without a little help.

I have a working theory that life is a little like playing a long and increasingly challenging video game. So, I tried applying the concept of a Konami Code on everyday problems.

I Was About to Break

Several years ago, I was spending 12 hours a day sitting at a desk without much of a break. I ended up with repetitive strain injury and pain that shot from my right hip to my big toe. All those hours spent slumped over my desk were terrible for my posture and my sciatic nerve, who knew?!

At first, I did the one thing you should never do: diagnose a health problem on the internet. Later on, I found a Konami Code with the help of a physio who told me to get up off the internet and start stretching, running, and exercising. I worked in a 30-minute walk or run most evenings after work. Exercise gave me space to think and my trapped nerves time to unwind.

Welcome to level two.

It’s one thing to start a healthy practice, it’s another to take it to excess. Back when I played video games, I stayed up until three or four am to reach the end.

This time around, I got into long-distance running and lost too much weight while training hard for Dublin City Marathon. I’ve always wanted to get to the last level. Instead, I struggled with a recurring ankle injury. And I found myself sitting at my desk, in pain, again. I felt like I was back at level one.

I found a new Konami Code though: CrossFit, I doubled down on exercises, like squats, deadlifts, power cleans, and bench presses. And although I couldn’t lift much weight, I built up enough strength to stave off injury. I’d made it to level three.

I’d The Attention of a Goldfish

I used to work in an open-plan office. The place had it all: bright lights, tall windows, and an expensive coffee machine. But, the daily grind, queues to get over-caffeinated and small talk about the weekend wore me down more than any role-playing game.

So, I was delighted when a new job came up with the chance to work remotely. With those extra responsibilities, came freedom. I was able to work from anywhere, but staying productive at home presented its own set of problems.

The new role involved spending hours on video and conference calls. I found it quite difficult to pay attention for more than an hour. I’d be sitting on my desk, listening to someone talk and my attention began to wander.


Before I knew it, I was looking up reviews on my favourite games websites.

“Bryan,” said the presenter. “We really need your feedback on slide two.”

“Er, slide two? Can you put that one on-screen again?”

I was failing miserably.

My new Konami Code involved investing in a set of earphones and getting up from the desk and taking these calls.

These days, I walk around the kitchen in my house or even by the canal near my home office, while on long work calls. This Easter egg, working away from my desk, helps me to focus on what other person is saying without getting distracted.

I Kept Hustling, Right Into the Night

I started an online business a few years ago. Expenses mounted up faster than I could count. Website hosting, an email service provider, WordPress plugins, and social media tools: I didn’t have money to pay for all these fancy digital power-ups. And I’d written and published a series of articles nobody was reading.

My Konami Code for an online business involved investing time and money taking courses around topics, like SEO and email marketing.

A year or two later, traffic went up and so did my business earnings. I’d made it to the next level. And that meant new problems.

Whereas years ago, I stayed up late grinding in World of Warcraft, now I found myself balancing running the business with a full-time job and three kids. I’d a stuffed inbox, 127 items on my to-do list, and more web traffic than I knew what to do with.

It was no wonder I couldn’t sleep at night.

So, I pressed up, up, down, down… one more time by investing in outsourcing.

I listed tasks I liked doing but which weren’t a good use of time. Examples included: managing technical issues in the backend of my site, design, and email admin. I joined outsourcing websites like UpWork and hired a virtual assistant. This Easter egg meant I could find more time to keep my physio happy, lift a little weight, and sleep in on Sunday.

These days I don’t play video games. I still read the reviews and watch the YouTubers though. And when I get stuck in personal life or at work, my fingers reach for up, up, down, down, left….

Sometimes, all we need is a little cheat.

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Bryan Collins is an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work

Ireland, IN

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