No Game No Life: Human Success and The Work of John Taylor Gatto


No one likes failures, and no one wants to be a failure. We all want to succeed in our personal and social lives, to be productive members of society. Do you feel like you’re in your element? Do you find your life fulfilling? Are you accomplishing your goals? Within the story of No Game No Life, we follow main characters who live the lives of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training).



No Game No Life, like Sword Art Online, was a huge inspiration for me at the time of watching it in 2014. After a stressful family dilemma as well as my expulsion from school for complicated reasons, it was these two series that kept my head up after the storm cleared. Of course for this post, I’ll be going into detail on what I got out of the show as well as the topics of success, education, and the work of an extraordinary man, John Taylor Gatto.



Mediocrity is something that usually creeps up in many of our lives today, especially in an age where we can access the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. Success has been the buzzword throughout many of our lives growing up, in the 30,000+ hours of compulsory schooling no less. Go to school, go to college, get a job, start a family, seems simple right? Well for a number of us that is either a path that we don’t agree with or we snap in line without question, only for the best years of our lives to go by.



Knowledge comes before wisdom, the former meaningless without putting it into practice. But even with this limitless knowledge that’s The Internet, why aren’t we successful? Why upon walking on that stage to claim my high school diploma did I feel a sense of not being ready for what’s out there? If you’ll have me I’d like to share my personal story.



At the time of watching No Game No Life, I’ve never seen anything like it. Sure I’ve watched no shortage of shows with overpowered protagonists such as DBZ, SAO, or Log Horizon. But what makes No Game No Life different from those shows is that its main characters are intellectually overpowered within the context of the real world. It’s titular characters Sora and Shiro are shut-ins by normal standards but reign as King & Queen within the world of gaming.



Despite their intellectual superiority, they didn’t agree with the rules of modern society which they described as “the most fail kind of game ever” in the light novel or “a crappy game”. Upon reading the light novel I found this observation to be interesting for the fact that they were talking about society and not Life itself. So that got me thinking,”why is society the most fail kind of game ever”? I’m sure all of us can agree that society makes no sense and that things can be better. But before we provide the answer to that we must learn how we got here in the first place, and the extraordinary man who has the answers is none other than John Taylor Gatto.



Born in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, John Taylor Gatto is a man who’s done a great service not only as a schoolteacher but as an advocate for school reform and truth-bringer on the history and purpose of modern schooling. He’s been a schoolteacher for over 30 years, being awarded New York State Teacher of the Year as well as New York City Teacher of the Year on three occasions. As described on his bio page, he quit teaching on the OP ED page of the Wall Street Journal in 1991 while still New York State Teacher of the Year, claiming that he was no longer willing to hurt children.



He’d soon go on to start an illustrious career in public speaking on the subject of school reform which garnered him international fame. He’d then go on to author several books such as Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, The Underground History of American Education, and Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, among others. Basically, if you want to learn why school sucks, check out the work of John Taylor Gatto. If you don’t like reading (which I’d like to make a post on in the future) then there’s no shortage of his talks on Youtube which I’ll provide one here.



I found out about this man shortly after completing my junior year of HS as I became very jaded with the schooling system after my expulsion, as well as being betrayed by my own faculty. After everything that happened in that time, after what my stepdad did which I will not go into further detail, my eyes were still set on my future. The lore on the history and purpose of public schooling is too exhaustive for one post so here’s a link to Tragedy and Hope’s The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto. It is highly recommended to watch this series in bits and not all at once, personally, I watched one video a day or you could spread out each video to one week.



Growing up I always found myself drawing pictures, receiving praise from many of my family members, friends, and fellow classmates. What seemed extraordinary to them was mediocre and normal at best to me, even today. As far back as I could remember I was always drawing, and it is of no surprise that what inspired me growing up was anime and video games. For a long time, I always wanted to be a game designer, dreaming up concepts, characters, and epic storylines. I still do that to this day with a hint of philosophy and observations of Life Online itself.



During my high school years when I had to start really thinking about my future, to pursue art was a no-brainer for me. But during those fragile years, social pressure crept in to try to convince me that art wasn’t a profitable path, that I had to get a “realistic job” and get a degree. Now I think that’s total bollocks and now I’m on the road to making a living off my art (thank you Emilie Wapnick and Jeff Goins).



But back to No Game No Life, Sora and Shiro felt like round pegs to square holes. Because of their deviance to modern society, they had no place in their world and gaming was their haven. But why should anyone feel that way? What baffled me the most about No Game No Life was that Sora and Shiro didn’t put their talents to use in the real world, they just crept up in their dens like the NEETs they were. And I totally got that, I lived as a NEET for a good year after moving to NYC, it doesn’t feel good at all. Not because you want to please others, but because you know you can do better things with your life than indulge in just video games and anime.



It’s not Life Online that doesn’t make any sense, its society that doesn’t make any sense, its what I call a ludocracy. As I’ve gone over before humans create systems and those systems don’t necessarily have to benefit us, in fact, they can undermine us. It’s a fact that to change a system that was designed from the get-go to undermine our power as volitional creatures is futile. The schooling system was made to produce obedient slaves, in the case of humans its to undermine critical thinking and self-governance. When there’s no critical thinking it becomes easier to sell us ideas and beliefs, even if they may be dangerous.



For Sora and Shiro what they lacked was support, an environment where their prodigal talents are embraced and nurtured. They had nowhere to belong, no one to believe in them, and so they retreated to the comforts of their darkly lit room. It took transporting them to an entirely different world with entirely different rules to flourish, but many of us don’t have that opportunity. What I think is that they didn’t need that, again it was support and guidance that they needed.



But nevertheless, the whole time I watched No Game No Life, I couldn’t help but imagine that I wanted to be like them, but I didn’t know where to begin.



What is success? What makes a successful human being? If I were to ask you what success means in Dark Souls or Super Mario Bros. you’d be quick to provide me an answer. We all know what success means for an Undead in Dark Souls, after playing so many video games being the amateur metaphysicians we are. But when it comes to human success, we’re at a loss and by no means is it our fault. School is supposed to educate us on what it means to be a successful human being and not just successful within the context of work and even then it fails in the latter regard.



On the most fundamental level, we must begin with the fact that humans have free will, that we don’t have an automatic consciousness like God so we have a learning process. Because we have free will we then have the capacity for autonomy or self-governance. From there we then have to understand ourselves which is having a theory of human nature, which is one of the 14 Principles of Elite Boarding Schools that John Taylor Gatto describes in this video.



Many of the greatest men and women throughout history were self-educated or never went to school such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Buckminster Fuller, Richard Branson, and many more. Some did go to college for a time like Buckie or Mark Zuckerberg but for the most part, it wasn’t schooling that made these individuals, it was their self-determination that made them who they are. This isn’t to say college is worthless, it’s just that it comes at a much greater expense in the long-run rather than just investing in better alternatives.



John Taylor Gatto uses the term Elite Private Education, but as a self-professed philotaku I have my own term, I call it “pro-human”. To be a pro-human is to know the art of living, for there is a grammar, logic, and rhetoric to human success. It is an education that we never received in school, it is an education that is given to the future leaders of the global economy hence “elite”. Funnily enough, Harvard gave advice on the 10 skills for success in the global economy that John Taylor Gatto provided, which I’ll link here.



All these things I’ve gone over I’m still learning myself, but the fact of the matter is that none of us are failures nor do we have to fail. What do you want to do with your life? What are your goals? Regardless of our situation we still have to earn a living, and it doesn’t have to be grueling either. If you need to work at McDonald’s or Domino’s for a time then do it, Chris Rock did it for a time and went on to fulfill his dream of becoming an internationally-known comedian.



If you are not “Educated, Employed, or in Training” (Ugh, that term leaves a nasty taste in my mouth), you don’t have to be. All is not lost if you dropped out of school or don’t have a diploma, financial success, in particular, is within reach. There are resources out there to help and guide us towards the things we want in life which I’ll provide some below.



I feel like I’ve gone on for too long but I hope that I communicated what I got out of No Game No Life and how it ties to success and education. Education itself is a lifelong process, something to always be exercised in our lives which isn’t the same as schooling.



For many of us gamers, video gaming gives us life, but its success in our personal and social lives that is the greatest reward. To leave this world better than it was before, that to me is the ultimate human success.



Resources: (A skill-building website with a focus on tech skills such as front-end development, visual design, and WordPress development. Blueprints are pricey but they provide free informational PDFs on freelancing and building skills) (A marketplace for courses on a wide variety of subjects such as coding, web design, the blockchain, drawing, business, logo design, etc. Courses are dirt-cheap usually around $11.99 with many of great quality)


Learn a trade (Cheaper than college, well-paying, and job security. What more could you ask for? Here’s a video that explains the benefits of learning a trade)


– Pursue art for a living (Artists are flexible in the amount of money they can rake in, but knowing the business of art-making is important, definitely check out Jeff Goins’ Real Artists Don’t Starve) (A website for those who have multiple interests like me but have trouble managing them, founder Emilie Wapnick even has a book called Renaissance Business you should check out)





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