Video Games and the Business World

I read this article a couple weeks ago about video games and business skills. It’s not a bad article, but starting off with a quote like:

Video-game players often display exceptional business skills.

will make a rather tough sell. Overall the article points to some “proof” of this but I have a couple issues with the conclusions they make. The skill of multi-tasking has often been attributed to video game players:

“The people who play games are into technology, can handle more information, can synthesize more complex data, solve operational design problems, lead change and bring organizations through change,” said Luman, 38.

I agree with this, video gamers can synthesize data pretty efficiently. I’d also say younger kids (teens) are extremely adept at this. The article does a great job of trumpeting cases where video games are being used a useful, positive manner (i.e. kids playing Game Boys before surgery to calm them) and it side-steps the knee-jerk reaction of accusing video games of being guns and violence. But there is one conlcusion I have to disagree with. The article says:

Among the findings: Gamers are better risk-takers, show particular confidence in their abilities, place a high value on relationships and employee input and think in terms of “winning” when pursuing objectives.

That doesn’t really describe only gamers. That describes the male psyche. While males may not “place a high value on relationships” (some of us do) I would say men are risk-takers and almost all men I know think in terms of “winning”. I’m not saying gamers don’t exhibit those characteristics, I’m just saying that males in general exhibit competitiveness and self-assurance.

Other than that beef, it was a great article. What really caught my eye, though, was:

Beck said the findings are proving helpful to baby boomer-generation managers who lead teams of younger, gamer employees.

“They learn that they have to develop the teams, structure the tasks and build rewards in very different ways than they might have naturally,” Beck said.

This one has some serious implications. What if a manager knew he was over a handful of gamers and started tailoring his reward system like those of video games? I’m a sucker for unlockables. What if my boss started peppering my assignments with “unlockables”?

“You finished this report in two days! You’ve unlocked three hours of vacation!”

“Your time to completion on this project was less than your previous attempt! You’ve unlocked ‘Position: Senior Analyst’, you can now work your way to the next rung on the corporate ladder!”

They could go the way of EA, with the EA Sports Gamer: “You’ve been employed for 14,398 hours, you’re now a level 12 employee!”

Or what if they took a nod from RPGs and used Experience Points and other accompanying rewards?

“Document control has received your manuscript. You earned 2,000 XP and your standing with the Document faction has increased by 10.”

“Presentation was well-received by Management and you won the contract! You have earned 36,000 XP. Ding! You’ve gained a level. You are now Engineer III. You have also earned two skill points.”

I could go on, the mind boggles at the possibilities. What I’m really saying is that one thing video games have done is found a way to not only reward gamers but also “hook” them into playing more. Obviously, a game that didn’t hook you at all wouldn’t really do well, sales-wise. They need a hook (unlockables, experience levels, promise of future enhancements) to keep you playing. And that is so very suited to the business world.

Profit sharing, performance bonuses, and the like have their place, but those are big, one-time “power ups”. Managers that are able to reward employers (and it doesn’t have to always be monetary rewards) like a video game are bound to find success in motivating people in day-to-day operations. Maybe I’m just a statistics junky, but I’d like to know how many data points I’ve entered into the database for a given day, how that stacks up to the competition (or fellow workers, however you want to say it), and be rewarded for doing an exceptional job.

I may be way off-base here. This may not appeal to everyone, but I know this sort of thing would float my boat. And when I unlocked “Senior Management Position” and I earned the requisite 10M XP I would be one kick-butt manager!

Comments

  1. That’s brilliant, simply brilliant.

  2. Bobster says:

    “That doesn’t really describe only gamers. That describes the male psyche. While males may not “place a high value on relationships” (some of us do) I would say men are risk-takers and almost all men I know think in terms of “winning”. I’m not saying gamers don’t exhibit those characteristics, I’m just saying that males in general exhibit competitiveness and self-assurance.”

    Is it any wonder that all gamers are male? Yes I said all. Women who play only do so because they want to make sure their guy is not having too much fun. The sad thing is, too few men will choose the game over the dame!

  3. Bobster says:

    Also I agree,

    That’s brilliant, simply brilliant.

  4. Bobster: Huh? I’m a female and I don’t play because I want to “make sure my guy is not having too much fun”. I play because I enjoy games. Wait. Were you being ironic?

    Anyway, to reply to the post… I would so go in for the application of the incremental rewards systems to the business world. I sure as heck wouldn’t be sitting here replying to blog posts in the middle of the morning if there was a structure in place for me to earn XP, level up, or unlock holiday time bonuses. 😛

Leave a Reply