BITMAPS 55: Games Shape Great Employees

Bitmaps

The barbs of youth

With the exception of those born in or before the 1960s, gamers have had to endure constant nagging due to their activity. That’s not to say that older gamers made it out unscathed; they still had to endure Rod Stewart. Regardless, the younger folks heard their mothers across the land echo the same refrain: “You’ll ruin your vision,” “Playing all those games will turn you into a zombie,” “You’ll never meet any girls.” Ok, well, maybe some of them were true.

Kid

You’ve got a long, lonely road ahead of you, kid.

For the most part, these fears turned out to be baseless. Far from becoming a crop of maladjusted stimulation junkies, the generation reared by the NES is now entering the workforce, working 8-5 pedestrian jobs just like everyone else. While videogames may not have helped our generation find our jobs more tolerable, they have helped in other ways that may not be immediately obvious. Here are five ways that videogames have helped me become a better employee, aside from being able to vividly imagine shooting annoying managers with a railgun.

Multitasking

Video games condition gamers’ minds to manage many more simultaneous streams of thought than the average person. Video games are so much more intellectually demanding than other passive forms of media like books or movies. As such, kids reared on entertainment that demands such a high level of mental activity have the capacity for more simultaneous mental tasks. Proof of that can be found in your average World of Warcraft player; while playing, they watch TV, talk on AIM and Ventrillo, listen to the radio, and read two books and a magazine while learning Italian.

These habits have tangible benefits in the workplace. Aside from obvious applications, such as pretending to listen to someone on the phone while playing Minesweeper, the ability to multitask prevents workers from becoming too stagnant on one project. I’ve had several co-workers who will dedicate themselves entirely to one project until it is completed, regardless of any roadblocks that may come up in the meantime. I prefer to take on several at once and jump to whichever is the most practical in any given situation. Not only can I work this way, but I prefer to. It keeps my mind fresh while increasing my throughput and experience base.

Unafraid of risks

In games, first encounters with bosses are always great unknowns. Without knowledge of movement patterns, attacks, or weaknesses, most bosses will unceremoniously rape a player during the first few tries. After a few terrible defeats, players eventually gain the skill and experience needed to overcome the challenge. In any game (excepting some newer casual experiences), losing is part of the package; an eventuality that, when dealt with properly, can turn out to be a positive in the long run. Every gamer eventually realizes that no matter how good the gamer, they will lose sooner or later.

Mike Tyson

This is a METAPHOR for work, is that deep or what?

The same is true of the employee. No matter how good a worker is at his or her job, mistakes will happen. I’ve known several co-workers who take on more passive roles for fear of making mistakes. Playing videogames for years has forced me to deal with failure in a calm and analytical manner. I know that I will make mistakes, but I also know it’s no big deal (as you may have guessed, I don’t work for NASA). Any problem can be re-worked and the product in the end can be the better for it. The ability to approach an unknown without fear is vital to any good employee.

Tendency to take action

When watching a movie, one need only kick it on and relax while the story unfolds. Games, on the other hand, require continuous input. With the exception of overbearingly long cut scenes (I’m looking at you, Kojima), nothing happens in a game unless a player makes it happen. Win or lose, the onus is on players to come up with a plan and put it into action.

This tendency to be active rather than passive helps video gamers become real problem solvers in the real world. This can also be stated as "proactive" for people who just have to wear a tie all the time. Far too often, employees will be willing to just sit on a problem and let it stagnate, rationalizing to themselves that the problem is in someone else’s hands. As a gamer, I feel compelled to take action – to throw myself at a problem, investigate, make calls, threaten some people with a stapler, and ultimately resolve the issue.

Analysis

After playing games for nearly two decades, my approach to new challenges and environments has become methodical. First I evaluate the challenge to make sure I understand the conditions for victory, then make sure I have the tools to work the problem, and finally work the challenge. Take any RTS game as an example: in this map, is the goal to demolish the enemy or just destroy a particular building? Once I understand that, I need to learn my tools. How do I order around units, what do the units do, and how I can best utilize those abilities? Once I have a grasp on all that, I can set to completing the map.

Starcraft

Tell your parents that this will get you a job someday.

This problem-solving process carries over perfectly into work. Habits instilled by years of gaming have saved me hours of frustration I’ve seen co-workers suffer from due to not adequately understanding the assignment or the means to complete it.

Taking responsibility

"The problem’s not on our end, it must’ve been someone in your department."

Anyone who’s been reliant on another group of people to complete any work knows the absolute hell it can be to get anyone to acknowledge a problem. More often than not, people need irrefutable proof that the problem is theirs before they will deign to help you with it. Playing games has forced me into thinking that the best way to deal with any problem is to skip the blame and work the problem directly.

Granted it wasn’t always that way. In the early days I blamed any difficult game for the problems I had with it (despite willingly playing it). Every death resulted in a stream of curses directed at the developers that would last precisely as long as it took me to hit continue and get back to playing. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I yelled at the controller, Mario, or Nintendo in general, I would keep dying until I forced myself to admit that I wasn’t playing correctly. Regardless of how much easier it might make your life, the game you play (like most people), won’t change. The fastest way to deal with any problem is to take action, personally, regardless of whose fault it is.

These are just some of the ways video games have been beneficial to me in my professional career. For all the gamers out there reading this when you should be working, I’ll give you another way to kill some of the work day. How has your work experience benefited from video gaming?

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