I’m going to give you a warning up front — this could get a little geeky.

But hey, we’re all money nerds anyway, so what’s a little geekiness to boot?

I’ve mentioned a few times how I like to play video games. I have a specific type of game I prefer: the ones where there’s a hero, an open world, and where both stealth and fighting are part of the success formula.

This means some of my past favorites have been the Batman Arkham series, Horizon Zero Dawn, and, more recently, Spider-man.

But by and far the series that I’ve enjoyed the most has been Assassin’s Creed.

It was while playing the latest game in the series, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, that I realized I was using several money principles to help me do well.

As I considered this, I thought the reverse is true as well — that by playing the game and seeking to do well, you develop skills and principles that help in money management. These are what I want to share with you today.

Assassin’s Creed Overview

Many of you have probably never heard of Assassin’s Creed (AC), so let’s start with a quick overview.

Here’s part of what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Assassin’s Creed is an action-adventure stealth video game franchise created by Patrice Désilets, Jade Raymond and Corey May, developed and published by Ubisoft using the game engine Anvil Next. It depicts in the centuries-old struggle, now and then, between the Assassins, who fight for peace with free will, and the Templars, who desire peace through control. The series features historical fiction, science fiction and characters, intertwined with real-world historical events and figures. For the majority of time players would control an Assassin in the past history, while they also play as Desmond Miles or an Assassin Initiate in the present day, who hunt down their Templar targets.

The video game series took inspiration from the novel Alamut by the Slovenian writer Vladimir Bartol while building upon concepts from the Prince of Persia series. It begins with the self-titled game in 2007 and has featured eleven main games. The most recently released game is 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

Main games of Assassin’s Creed are set in an open world and presented from the third-person perspective where the protagonists take down targets using their combat and stealth skills with the exploitation of the environment. Freedom of exploration is given to the player the historical settings to finish main and side quests.

That’s the more “official” overview.

Here’s my version of what the series is about:

  • You play a character who is generally good (no one is perfect) and is fighting evil of some sort.
  • To progress, you need to use a combination of stealth and fighting (including both long-range and melee weapons) to succeed. Many other games are simply all-out fights, but I like to, as my kids put it, “sneak around” and develop a strategy of how to take down ten guys more powerful than I am.
  • As you progress in the game, you acquire better skills and equipment (swords, bows, etc.) As such you begin the game barely able to do anything, progress to being “average” in mid-game, and by 3/4 of the way through you are generally so good that you’re ready to ride into a pack of 20 guys with no element of surprise.
  • There’s an open world. This means you can follow the prescribed storyline or you can simply roam around a vast world and complete missions (or whatever) to your liking. I’m a roamer. 😉

It’s fun for me because the game is a challenge, requires strategy, and you can see your progress over time. The graphics are generally excellent. It’s basically a movie where you are the star as well as write the storyline.

My History with Assassin’s Creed Games

While the series started in 2007, my experience with it began much later.

As you might imagine, AC can be a bit violent. Ok, it can be a lot violent. But when you’re fighting evil you have to do what you have to do, right?

Anyway, in 2007 we had a PlayStation (I think, perhaps we got it later) that was attached to our main TV. The main TV was in our living room where all could see what was going on.

This included my then 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. At this point, we didn’t want them to see blood and gore as such, our choice of video games was quite tame.

Besides, my wife dislikes violence in anything — video games, movies, TV shows, etc. — and a game with a name that included “assassin” was a no-go for her before we even knew what the game was about.

So I watched at a distance as others played. I read about the series now and then and always came to the same conclusion: “I think I’d like this game.”

Fast forward to 2014 when the earth, moon, and stars aligned into the following:

  • My wife was out of town. Translation: No objections to violence.
  • The kids were with her. By this time they were old enough to see the game anyway, but there was always my wife’s objections.
  • They were gone for a week. What would I do with all that free time?
  • There happened to be a big sale on AC at GameStop. I went there looking for a game to play during the week and found they were offering the first three AC games for something like $20. How could I pass this up?

Combine all these and the answer was clear: my time had come!

I bought the three-pack and proceeded to spend the rest of the week slashing my way to victory.

While my wife wasn’t thrilled when she got home, the adventure continued to the other games that had been released, and I hadn’t played.

I LOVED the series and played one after another.

Finally, I caught up to their release schedule and played them all. 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was the first in the series that I had the chance to pre-order.

Video Game Hero

Now what I am about to share will throw some of you for a loop. But bear in mind a few things:

  • One reason we retire (or retire early) is to do more of what we like to do. And I want to play video games.
  • The numbers below include BOTH my son (we share our PlayStation Plus account) and me. He plays much more than I do (usually for hours at night with his friends) and he plays a wider variety of games than I do. I might play three or four games a year. That said, when I play them, I spend a lot of time with them since…I like to roam. 😉
  • I’m not sure the numbers are accurate. It’s almost impossible to think the two of us racked up this many hours, so I’m wondering if other things are counted like when we use the PlayStation to watch movies.

With that said, I received an email from PlayStation detailing the use on our account.

The highlights included how many hours we played in 2018:

Assassin's Creed Games hours

Yes, I realize that’s just under four hours a day. This is why I think they are using more than only video game time. More on this in a minute.

Here’s a shot of the time spent on the top three games:

Assassin's Creed Games

As you can see, I held the #1 and #3 spots.

Adding in maybe 20 hours of FIFA, this would put me at 251 hours for the year. That means my son played 1,071 hours last year (1,322 less 251), which is just under three hours a day. I find that hard to believe, but I guess it could happen.

That said, because I am a tracker by nature, I record my hours playing each game (I like to know what sort of value I’m getting out of them). My records say I played 167 hours of AC Odyssey (I played once all the way through and then 3/4 of a second game) and 56 hours while playing through Spider-man 1.75 times. In other words, the PlayStation numbers are pretty close to what I had.

There was a good deal of free time for my son before he got his second job, so maybe these are only video game hours.

Finally, here are our hours by month:

Assassin's Creed Games

I can see how the hours ramped up based on release schedules.

Anyway, you can see that we like video games. And hopefully, the numbers show that I’m more than a beginner on AC.

How AC Can Make You Wealthy

With that lengthy preamble, let’s get to the heart of the post: what I (and everyone) can learn from AC that can make us wealthy.

As some of you might have guessed, I have it broken down into three simple steps:

1. You Need to Maximize Your Earnings.

In AC there are a couple of earning opportunities.

The first is money of some sort (called by different names in each game) that you can use to buy upgraded equipment (which makes you a better fighter).

The second is experience points (or some version of it) that you earn by completing activities successfully.

As you might imagine, there are various tasks, quests, side missions, and the like that allow you to earn different amounts of both money and experience.

If you’re looking to gain the most of each as fast as possible, you want to select projects that have the highest pay-to-time ratio.

For instance, you can check the experience point rewards quests before you agree to them. I would go to the message board in each area, look over the options, and pick the ones closest to me (I had to either run or ride my horse to them) that I knew I could complete quickly. I’d then select those, complete them, and rack up the points.

Of course, you might not be playing to maximize income, but for fun, but we’ll leave that aside for now.

How this relates to money…

Everyone has a fixed number of hours each day that they can use to grow their earnings. One relevant example is that instead of watching four hours of TV a night (or playing four hours of video games — ouch), you might want to:

  • Take action to grow your career, which in turn could help you earn millions more over your lifetime. If you focus on specific, high-value skills, you can make this time as profitable as possible.
  • Start and run a side hustle. This helps you in two ways: 1) it delivers more money now (helping you reach financial independence faster) and 2) because it’s something that you can take into retirement, it helps lower what you have to save for retirement, effectively helping you retire much quicker.

Of course, no one wants their nose to the grindstone every second, so if you have four hours of free time a day, take a couple of them for projects that help you earn more. Merely making a bit of progress every day will add up to something very significant over time.

2. You Need to Save Money.

During each AC game, there are times you can buy something, but you’re probably better off saving that money/experience for something later.

A couple of examples:

  • I often had more than enough money to buy a different weapon at my current level. But comparing it to what I had, there was only a slight difference in performance. I could see that if I saved just a bit more, I could get a substantially better weapon at the next level. Thus I almost always saved my money and waited until I got to the next level to buy the better weapon.
  • As you build experience in AC Odyssey, you level up. For each level increase, you get one ability point. You can then cash in ability points for special skills and abilities. Early in the game, I almost always spent my ability points immediately as I needed all the help I could get to survive. But later on I could see that there were skills I wanted, but that would cost more than one point, so I’d save them up to get something more valuable.

How this relates to money…

We’ve talked previously how saving is just as important as earning.

In fact, it might be more critical since you can become wealthy at different levels of incomes if you can save, but if you can’t save, no level of income will make you prosperous (look at all the athletes and actors who make millions and yet go broke).

In this way, saving is the lynchpin that makes anyone wealthy.

3. You Need to Invest Wisely.

The second time I played AC Odyssey (in this game you could play as a man or woman character, so I played the first game as the man and have gotten through 3/4 of the second as the woman) I knew that some skills were more valuable to me than others, even though they cost the same. So I would save my ability points and buy these skills versus “waste” them on others.

Said a different way, I would invest the money (or experience) I saved in a way that would help me earn more. Then I would do even better, make, even more, invest the new amount well, and the cycle would repeat. In this way, I had lots of fun progressing quickly through the game (for someone who roamed around a lot).

How this relates to money…

Just like I looked to invest my AC money/experience to get the most out of it, the same can be done in real life.

Of course, you need to balance risk and reward in reality (versus going for it all in a game), which is why stable investments like index funds, dividend investing, and real estate with a good dose of time thrown can help you earn more if done right.

These, in turn, churn off money and/or grow, so you have more to invest, which in turn earns more, and so on. It’s how people become wealthy.

Even More to Learn

Those are the main three learnings which fit nicely into the ESI philosophy.

But there are other lessons the game teaches that apply to money. Some examples:

  • There are enemies to avoid or conquer. In AC, these are guys trying to kill you. In money management, these are terrible money moves and listening to the “experts” who often don’t have your best interests in mind.
  • Bad things happen, but you live another day. In AC, you may die, but there’s always another life to live. 😉 With money, you need to follow the example of millionaires — they have made money mistakes but have also avoided death blows.
  • The right partner makes a huge difference. In AC it’s a horse, boat, eagle, or friends you run into along the way. In money, it’s a spouse or partner. Pick a good one and stay together as divorces are expensive.
  • Pick your style and master it. In AC, some like to fight by charging ahead regardless of the circumstances. I prefer to sneak around a bit, scope out the situation, develop a plan, and then take action. Turns out having a plan and putting it into action works for money too.

Those are my thoughts on how AC can help make anyone wealthy.

Any AC fans out there — or fans of video games in general? What do you learn from your games that can make you wealthy?

This post originally appeared on ESI Money. 

About the Author

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ESI Money is written by “ESI”, a 50-something retiree.  His site shares what has allowed him to become financially independent and how you can implement those successes in your life.

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