It may sound strange, it may seem like a stretch, but I honestly believe that, while it was not my initial goal, gaming in online MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) worlds truly helped to prepare me for the Actuarial exam process. At the very least, there are a few humorous similarities between online gaming and preparing for Actuarial exams, which I would like to discuss.
The first, and possibly most humorous (depending on how twisted your mind has become due to the torture of going through exams), of these similarities is what is referred to in the gaming world as “grinding.” “Grinding” is an activity that is absolutely inescapable in the world of the MMORPG gamer, and is defined by Wikipedia as the “process of engaging in repetitive tasks during video games.” They go further on to explain that “grinding is a controversial subject among players. Many do not enjoy it…” – If you are an Actuarial student and you have not immediately made the connection here, I’d like to welcome you to your first Actuarial exam.
This concept of “grinding” is, in my opinion, the biggest and most helpful lesson that I learned from online gaming, which has aided me in my “quest” (more on this later) to conquer these Actuarial exams. In an MMORPG, grinding is used to fill in the gaps between levels for your character, and it helps to amass a treasure while also helping to unlock greater skills and stats for your character. In very much the same way, “grinding” out practice problems will help to build your Actuarial skills and enable you to have a higher chance of success on your exams. Indeed, “grinding” is the only way you can even get past some, if not all, of the Actuarial exams.
Second, we have the concept of “questing” which I liken to putting in the work to achieve your Actuarial Designations. You see, in an MMORPG you will have to engage in numerous quests with different objectives, which will often complement one another, in order to make it to the end and attain the grand reward which awaits you. This is quite similar to conquering each of the “quests” (Actuarial exams) in order to obtain the right to have those letters (ASA, FSA, ACAS, FCAS, etc.) next to your name on a business card, or in an email signature. These “quests” take you down the path of becoming a better-rounded Actuary and prepare you for the potential responsibilities that come along with the designations you hope to attain.
The last similarity which I will discuss is the gaming concept of Guilds/Clans/etc. In MMORPGs, there are often very large “levels” you can attempt to conquer which will yield the greatest items to those who are strong enough to overcome the challenge, but it is often impossible to do this alone. In order to get through these incredibly difficult challenges and receive the coveted item at the end, you will usually have to conquer it as a group. The Actuarial community, through forums, blogs, online tools, and even study groups, is always working together to give each other support and aid one another in their “quest.” Much like in an MMORPG, people are supportive and helpful and encouraging, even while they are in constant competition with one another – and when one player hits it big and the others do not, even though they are jealous, they will congratulate and celebrate together!
Mastering all of these practices will enable you to achieve great success whether it be slaying dragons and freeing a planet from tyranny, or just passing one of these Actuarial exams (although, I would not suggest playing an MMORPG while attempting to conquer one of these Actuarial exams), I believe that the similarities are impeccable. So thank you to all of the hours spent grinding, questing, and battling in the wonderful world of fantasy – without you I would have been woefully unprepared for Actuarial Exam process!