5 Life Lessons I Learnt From XCOM: Enemy Within

Reading time: 6 mins
Hello People!
For me, XCOM:Enemy Within (EW) is the greatest strategy game of all time. Hands down.
XCOM:EW is a 3D turned based strategy game about a hostile, technologically advanced alien force that is trying to invade & conquer Earth. The game places you in the role of ‘The Commander’, a general and master tactician who has been recruited by ‘The Council’ (think the UN or NATO) to lead the campaign to end this menace.
Your main job will be guiding a platoon of 4-6 soldiers through various ground missions where you will have to combat the aliens.
          In between missions, you will have to run a top secret base that will serve as your mission control centre which also has barracks, research & engineering facilities that will help your campaign against the aliens.
But this all costs money and your main source of income will be from the 16 member countries of ‘The Council’ who all have their own competing demands & interests. If you ignore requests for assistance or fail too many missions, countries will leave ‘The Council’ & take their funding with them. If more than 8 countries leave then its game over dude/dudette.
This game is so incredibly and immersive that I have played it many times over. But after hours of gameplay, I realised there are several life lessons that can be applied to your ‘the campaign of your life!’
So I proudly present to you 5 life lessons that can help improve your life!
Good luck Commander.

1) Invest In Your Network

In XCOM:EW, the Mission Control Centre provides you valuable intelligence of alien activity from around the globe and guides the missions that shape your campaign.
At the beginning of the game, one of your first priorities is to set up a satellite network over all ‘The Council’ countries around the globe. Launching satellites are invaluable as they allow you to track UFO’s, helps you access mission critical missions and reduces the country’s panic level. But the aliens will soon cotton on that you are on to them and will often try to shoot down your satellites – thus you must invest in fighter craft to protect them.
Likewise in life, having a good social network, both real and virtual is absolutely critical to success and happiness. Research has shown that the chances of life success increase with the size of your personal network. Especially if you are considering changing career paths like I am, people who are in the industry can provide invaluable intel about the industry and set you on the right path. As well as the traditional real-life networks I have, virtual networks like Twitter has helped me immensely and created great opportunities. It’s easier than ever to create and maintain one – try it!

2) Pick Your Battles

XCOM is all about trade-offs. In the early stages when the aliens are rampaging around the Earth, many countries will all ask for your help at the same time and you can have up to 3 countries at the same asking you to save them, but you can only pick one. Now whatever 2 countries that you ignore, the panic level will go up and it it goes too far, the country will leave and withdraw their funding. Each country will give you an assessment of how difficult the mission is from ‘Easy’ all the way up to ‘Very Difficult’.
Also different countries will give different levels of funding. For example, the USA will give 3 times more funding than just say India or South Africa and protecting a group of countries that exist on the same continent i.e France, Germany and the UK form ‘Europe’ in the game will give you bonuses like additional funding or more efficient laboratories and workshops.
Also you must consider the state of your squad. If you veteran soldiers are all injured or dead, leaving you with a group of rookies, you could be sending them on a suicide mission and still lose the country. It’s not easy!
Likewise our lives are also about trade-offs but no where near as dramatic! When ever we are making any important decisions such as starting a new job, getting married or starting a family, there are many factors that we need to consider such as our careers, finances, health, family relationships and time. As we go through our daily lives, all these areas demand our attention but contrary to popular belief, we really can’t do it all and we must learn how to prioritise what are the most important things to us and be willing to delegate or let go of the rest.
The key to winning at XCOM:EW and at life is to try to take the long term view.
At one point in my life I made money and my career my main priority and I put it above everything. But a short time later, when I got sick and very unhappy, I had to realise that things like health, happiness and great relationships were vital in my life and I am now conscious to factor them into any major decisions. It’s OK not to be able to do everything. Pick the projects and goals that overtime will give you the most peace about the goal or path you have chosen.

3) Protect And Invest In Your Soldiers


Your soldiers are everything in XCOM and like real life when they die in the game, they are gone forever. When you start the game, you are given 10 rookie soldiers that you can take in a team of 4-6. These rookies are rubbish shots, run away and if panicked can shoot their teammates! But if you manage to keep them alive and well, with each mission, your soldiers gain experience and can start climbing the ranks eventually going all the way up to Colonel. After awhile, soldiers gain a specialism: i.e snipers, medics, assault and rocketeers and every time your soldier climbs a rank, they get new exciting abilities  which make them more effective on the battlefield.
As The Commander you must try to make sure that you have the right types of soldiers that will balance your squads. For example, snipers are great at shooting enemies over long distances but are virtually useless in close quarters combat. The key to a great platoon is trying to have one of each type of soldier to handle the ever changing battlefield.
In real-life, your ‘soldiers’ could be your skills, assets or personal brand. To be truly successful, you will need to be able to effectively ‘skill-stack’ so that you bring the right blend of skills to help you win the game of life. What I have learnt is that although it is important to get great technical skills like coding, practising medicine or law or marketing, do not neglect so called ‘soft-skills’ like communication, negotiation and influencing. If you are a great coder but you are an absolute douchebag to everyone around you will only get you so far. Nurture you technical skills but don’t neglect people skills – they are both important!


4) Tread Carefully In The Battlefield


Once you have done steps above, you are now ready to launch a ground mission in the Area of Operations (AO). So should we rush in all guns blazing like Rambo? Hold your horses, Arnie. Even the toughest soldiers in open space will usually be slaughtered in one or two turns and soldiers that rush into unfamiliar places will get ambushed and sent home in a bodybag.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. When you first land in the AO, the uncharted parts of the battlefield will be covered in a ‘fog’ until you send your soldiers move into that area where any enemy will also be revealed. The key to completing your missions with any casualties is to move very carefully in the AO and find good cover behind objects that will shield them from enemy fire, with no more than 2 soldiers going forward and the other soldiers providing covering fire. That way if any aliens are discovered, the back soldiers can eliminate them or be a good position to win a firefight. Placing the right soldiers in key positions make battles much easier and help you achieve your objectives. For example, placing a sniper in a high place like a hill or building with good cover, will help you pick off pesky or difficult enemies from a long distance without hassle.
Likewise in your life, whenever you want to make any major decisions, by all means experiment and explore but it would be wise to do it in careful logical way. The popular thinking is that when you have got a dream is to “take drastic, massive action” and give it 120 percent. Although this can work sometimes, unfortunately it can be disastrous for your life. But research has shown, the successful people amongst us don’t do that at all but take small, logical risks that can be easily reversed or corrected, only taking bigger ones when their hunches have been proved. If you have an idea or want to make a change, like your soldiers go forward but make sure that you have a couple of ways to protect yourself if things go wrong or you can correct it easily. For me, taking little steps have helped me greatly and they all add up.


5) Research, Research, Research

So far so good Commander. But doing the 4 things above will get you probably to the middle of the game and then you will still die miserably. As the game progresses you will meet increasingly more aggressive aliens with increased body armour and devastating
weapons. No matter how skilled your soldiers become if they still have low grade armour and starter rifles, they will be all six feet under.
This is where the Research Laboratory and the Foundry come into play. The Research Lab will allow you to study alien artefacts that you recover from the AO. Research Labs they complete their individual studies, create the blueprints for advanced weapons and armour like laser rifles and the ‘skeleton suit’.
As the game progresses even further you can splice the DNA of your troops with alien genes that will give them special abilities, like super-jumping, further vision and even invisibility which can help even the odds with tougher enemies.


Likewise, in real-life to achieve your dreams and goals, you will need to take a regimen of personal development to keep on improving in every area of your life. Where ‘protect your soldiers’ means about nurturing existing skills, research involves being creative and trying new things and innovating so that you can create something even better. An example of this I can use is from my own life: I started off as a music producer and through research discovered that I can teach those skills. After 2 years of study I become a music production teacher and one day, I had to teach a ‘digital marketing class’. From there I realised the power of the Internet and music and wanted to learn programming. I am currently learning to code and this lead me to writing the blog you are reading now.


Treat your life like a laboratory. Run experiments and do research about your industry, goal or interest. It also doesn’t have to be in massive chunks either: as I have mentioned in previous blogs, small but consistent steps can lead to massive results. Research allows you to reinvent yourself and like the soldiers gives you an ‘edge’ in this ever changing battlefield of life.
Thank you for reading and please let me know what you thought in the comments below or hit me up @karlwebdev!
Thank you for reading and see you next Thursday!

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