Four Ways Video Games Are Good For Your Career
What image enters your mind at hearing the words ‘video gamer’? Melted brains? Bloodshot eyes? Mega-corporation-owning, multi-billionaire geniuses?
It’s long been said that it’s the nerds who’ll write our future. Computer games lie at not only the epicentre of the geek movement but the cutting edge of modern storytelling. And as VR looks set to take over the world, it’s no longer a topic solely for the boys, with women counting for half of the gaming community.
Read on to discover how games can teach you valuable skills, improve your productivity and help you feel better about yourself.
“It’ll rot your mind,” Mama Quirke said to eight-year-old me, confiscating my Banjo Kazooie cartridge for the fifth time. Clearly she hadn’t seen this recent study, indicating that children who play video games develop superior cognitive and social skills to their peers.
It’s not just the kids who benefit. A 2013 study found that playing Mario for 30 minutes a day literally expanded the subject’s hippocampus, the ‘memory centre’ of the brain. So marked was the volumetric increase that researchers think video game therapy could be useful for patients with disorders involving decreased brain size, such as schizophrenia or PTSD.
Game designer and performance academic Jane McGonigal agrees that games are an untapped resource for cognitive self-improvement. But it’s not sudokus or Nintendo Brain Training she suggests. Apparently, it’s mainstream works like Final Fantasy, Mass Effect and Call Of Duty that are worth your time.
“Traditional video games are more complex and harder to master,” says McGonigal, “and they require that the player learn a wider and more challenging range of skills and abilities.”
Seems Dr Kawashima was a quack after all.
What do the U.S. Army and Dyson have in common? Both depend on video game concepts to attract potential employees. From ‘Virtual Army Experience’ units to that Dyson recruitment puzzle to ‘Badgeville’ solutions, employers are using virtual rewards to incentivise their workforce and drive engagement.
Take ServiceSource. This year, the company instituted a Game Of Thrones-themed workplace competition that offers rewards to teams with the biggest sales. Results have included improved pacing of sales and a resultant reduction of stress in the month’s final quarter. The team set-up encourages colleague camaraderie. In short, by ‘gamifying’ its workplace, ServiceSource has recognised the value of gaming culture in everyday life.
Gamification in the workplace is a growing trend. From single-woman start-ups to multi-continental corporations, it is an easy way to bring some joy to the daily grind. Knowing how to use this valuable tool in the office could be the difference between employee disillusionment and satisfaction.
The daily grind
Gamers know their grinding – and no, we’re not talking club dance floors. ‘Grinding’ is a gamer term for the process of undergoing dull, repetitive tasks – usually fighting monsters for experience points – in order to level up and progress within the virtual world.
Sound familiar? The term actually evolved from ‘the daily grind’ – that is, your regular working day. If games function as a training ground for everyday life, grinding can teach us a valuable lesson in perseverance.
Life is not all fun and games. Weirdly, nor are most virtual worlds. RPGs from Pokemon to Final Fantasy require long periods of exploration and skill development in order to complete.
In an article discussing his job as a World of Warcraft avatar, Eric Ravenscraft talks about ‘mundane’ fantasy tasks as a temp might an Outlook spreadsheet.
“When I was doing work I couldn’t stand, I errantly believed that the tedium of a boring job was what was getting to me,” writes Ravenscraft. “I thought that if I got a job I found more fulfilling, suddenly the grind would magically be fun. It’s not. It doesn’t feel as soul-crushing because the high points are enjoyable, but there’s almost always five days of grunt work for every one evening of having a blast.”’
The right kind of games don’t just challenge you, but teach you patience. They show you how to self-improve slowly and surely. Crucially, they give you the confidence to bide your time, push through the pain and reach your goals.
Find yourself reaching for the bottle at the end of a working day? You might do better to grab your PS4 controller.
A 2014 UCL study showed that the number of hours spent weekly playing games correlated strongly with reduced work-related stress in both genders. And that’s not all. Research from 2009 suggests that playing games results in reduced physical and psychological stress, increased mood and improved outlook. The study recommends video games as a potential tool in treating stress-related medical disorders.
How does it work then? Cyber-psychologist Berni Good believes that video games are an effective tool in eudemonics, the practice of maintaining happiness. Research shows that games provide a means for humans to fulfil three fundamental psychological needs.
“The first,” says Good, “is the strong human need to feel competent – something the mastering of gameplay and progressing through levels helps with. Next we have the human need to relate to others in a meaningful way… [Third] is human need for autonomy, the idea that we need to be the masters of our own destiny. In gaming this need is obviously addressed very well, with choosing what paths or maps we take in the game, or with our characters.”
Make ours a Skyrim on the rocks.
Like any form of art – and probably more so – there’s an endless number of things we can learn from video games. They can foster leadership skills, improve creative thinking, help you lose weight or even make you a better parent. What’s more, games are replicable, scalable and cheap as a training tool – the perfect resource for any inventive employer.
So next time you call someone a nerd, shake their hand with it; they’re probably going to go a lot further than you, and quicker with it.