We’ve all been there; after an evening of playing Rust with friends, your mind turns to how you’d fare in a real-life survival situation, followed by a realization of how quickly you’d succumb to the elements. Survival skills may seem far removed from our regular day-to-day lives, but they can be incredibly useful to learn and video games could be more of a primer than you might think.
When we talk about survival skills, the first thing that often comes to mind is the sweat-drenched explorer, hacking through the underbrush in a dense tropical environment, on the hunt for running water, or a safe place to start a fire.
Survival skills, of course, have much wider applications than this and have practical utilities in situations beyond those shown in survival films. Something as unassuming as a car breakdown in a rural area could turn into an overnight stay in the wild before a breakdown service can reach you, and knowing basic bushcraft could be the difference between a cold night and a comfortable one.
In terms of learning these practical skills, there are different ways you can learn, perhaps the most popular of which are tutored bushcraft camps which take you and a group of others on a wild camping trip with professional instructors. The program will vary from camp to camp, but whichever you choose, you can stand to learn key survival skills from fire-making to effective shelter-building, and reading the land to find drinking water.
Helpful skills you’ll be taught along the way, that you can practice daily at home, include knot-tying and whittling. Physical skill is just one side of effective survival, though and one of the ways you can cultivate the other side may be surprising.
Besides having the physical skills to create a robust shelter, the sharpening of mental skills is crucial to any survival situation. Here, video games can actually help, in the form of survival games such as Stormfall: Saga of Survival, a survival RPG with resource and character management at its core, and which rewards collaboration and co-operation with other groups or ‘clans’.
Naturally, survival games won’t necessarily help you cultivate your practical skills: the building of fires and shelter might follow some survival conventions, but will not divulge any useful information to translate into the real world. However, playing them can sharpen your mental faculties in other ways.
To that end, Valheim is another popular survival title that, despite its fantastical subject matter, could offer measurable improvements with regard to real-life survival scenarios; solid teamwork and communication are required to find resources and complete structures, as well as to monitor threats.
The fortunate truth is that not many of us will ever find ourselves in a situation that necessitates having survival skills and knowledge. Tales of desert strandings and forest survival are outliers, told by a significant, unlucky minority. But does this mean we shouldn’t bother to learn how to start a fire, tie a rope, or build a shelter from our surroundings? Not at all; these skills are evergreen, and crucially, transferrable.
Learning how to survive in the wilderness is a case-specific way to learn about adaptability, and how to improvise effectively – an extremely useful skill to have in both personal and professional environments. Cultivating teamwork and organization through survival simulation games and co-op RPGs make you a more effective team player, and can even improve leadership skills.
In essence, survival skills do not exist in a vacuum. While they could well save your life at one point or another, their benefits extend beyond their initial purpose – making you a more effective, and more well-rounded person.