After Hours

Gamers make good employees

Gamers are often stereotyped as lazy, unmotivated slackers. However, a recent article suggests that gamers might actually be learning skills in their online worlds that make them great employees.

Scott F. Andrews suggested in his book The Guild Leader's Handbook (which I reviewed for TechRepublic's 2010 Geek Gift Guide) that lessons learned as an MMO guild leader or raid leader can improve performance in management roles in "real life." This concept seems to be substantiated by claims and evidence in a recent GigaOM article by Jessica Stillman entitled Do the Best Web Workers Think Like Gamers? Research in the article indicates that employees who play multiplayer online games, especially those who work remotely, will do better in the 21st century workplace than non-gamers because of the skills they learn by participating in the games.

Stillman discusses a famous 2007 speech by FedEx CIO Rob Carter and a 2009 Time interview with Carter in which he says World of Warcraft requires players to solve problems and collaborate, which are valuable skills in the workplace. She also references a 2008 article by University of Southern California scholar John Seely Brown and professor Douglas Thomas in which they outline gamers' attributes that make them attractive hires, such as interest in and comfort with diversity, change, learning, and innovation.

While all of this is great news for gamers, what does it mean for businesses? It might be a challenge for hiring managers to determine an interviewee's affinity for multiplayer online games. I like TechRepublic contributor Justin James's tongue-and-cheek suggested interview questions for making a geeky hire, but I think most Human Resource and recruiting managers would frown upon using them. Another option, though it's a tricky one, is to simply guess. TechRepublic contributor Nicole Bremer Nash suggested a method of Identify[ing] the geeks in a crowd by how they communicate, which I am itching to test out. Regardless of how you potentially search for gamers to fill the ranks at your company, the findings referenced in Stillman's article is at least worth considering the next time you have a position to fill.

What do you think about choosing gamers to fill technology or other roles at your company? Would you ever consider saying that you play World of Warcraft or some other game if asked during an interview about your hobbies? Let us know in the comments.

More gaming resources

(Thanks to TechRepublic's Mark Kaelin for the GigaOM article link.)

28 comments
Craig_B
Craig_B

The real question is what qualities and skills are best for certain types of jobs. Does it really matter where you have learned these skills? Be it a gamer, Little League coach, Boy/Girl Scout leader, volunteer, etc. We all pick up skills in a variety of methods and I have found many times seemingly unrelated skills do relate to other areas.

disasterboy.info
disasterboy.info

smokers and alcoholics are great social networkers breaking down organizational silos in their collaborative communities and helping businesses be cohesive. I have an hypothesis that the industrial revolution was made possible by wisely available caffeine... Just having an active life that you participate in some ways will make you better skilled for work. Pretty much whether its a sports club or online gaming or a book club or parenting...

ScarF
ScarF

Which leads you to the out of reality idea that a failure may be restarted and try again. Nope, the real life is completely different. Playing chess is enough to develop extraordinary skills on many levels and many categories. Especially for one who plays chess for a club, meeting real people in real rooms, in a real competitive environment, and dealing with real emotions and real words. Staying in front of a PC and playing games on or off-line can give one nothing more but a chronic tiredness. And, a lot of lost time which nobody, nobody, NOBODY, can give back to you. Even playing backgammon with unknown people in a park is a better gain than playing computer games - mainly what flooded the gaming market in the last 10 years.

lishchuk
lishchuk

Teamwork? - play soccer! Fight and never give up? - practice judo! Strategic thinking? play chess! What i see in video games is so far from real life, let alone is too simple. May be good to relax from complicated real life, though.

rfolden
rfolden

Prove it, pretzel-boy! Who makes this stuff up?

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

The gaming system, all lined up next to the interview table... to test if applicants really put in 80h of gaming a week, like they claim on their CV...

Swampdog4life
Swampdog4life

I just landed a new job and mentioned my gaming experience. Well, let me clarify. I was asked what material or tech magazines I subscribe to and I mentioned TechRepublic and IGN's gaming site. I joked about how staying abreast of the latest gaming equipment correlates to my desire for learning and staying on top of new hardware and ways to make things faster. Also, in doing my research on my interviewers, one of them used to be a gaming programer before they worked for the company. So, since I landed the job, I don't think it hurt me, but I wouldn't bank on that as to why I got the job.

JLChaconM
JLChaconM

I've found that there are lots benefits from playing MMOs besides the Carpal Tunnel, red eyes, wife agro (maybe last one will be hard to understand if you dont play and married LOL) and maybe some frustration; like team working, communication skills, leader ship, problem solving and planning. But if know that, would you add playing MMOs as item in your CV?

sdmayhew
sdmayhew

The author doesn't mention the large amount of slacker gamers who only give 20% of the time at work. The rest of the time they are planning gaming strategies at work and not working.

maj37
maj37

If the person manages to leave the gaming world behind then they could become a valuable employee or leader. If they stay stuck in that world then of course no. maj

landen99
landen99

I have seen much value to my own ability to work in and lead groups in a fun, relaxed way through my participation in an MMORPG. Given that the other players actually pay to play, the strategy of do it because I said so is not as effective as in the workplace, so you learn how to motivate people in positive ways instead, which in the end is so much more effective. The MMORPG has even helped me to clearly and effectively discover, understand, and change attributes about myself in social contexts which need improvement; where no manager or co-worker could enlighten me. The relaxed environment and lack of "job repercussions" allowed me to bring the defenses down enough to see room for improvement and to see how natural leaders help others to improve in positive ways.

cettech
cettech

While there are definitely some benefits to gaming, unfortunately some gamers become obsessed with it and then it affects their work. I have seen coworkers who have consistently come in late or have missed work for an entire day because they were up all night gaming. Like any good thing, it can be abused and it needs to be put into perspective.

dminder
dminder

There are a lot of aspects that the author hinted at but did not mention. Either as a GL/RL or simply a member you have time management, resource management, advanced preparedness, following instructions, knowledge retention, social & communication skills that employers pay good money to send people to seminars for. Maybe they should start to invest in gaming for employees, would be cheaper and hey who knows, maybe employees would become more loyal to the company!!!

mckinnej
mckinnej

This sounds like someone trying to justify themselves or using an undersized sample. Since they represent a cross section of the population, I think it would be safe to say gamers as a group have no more or no less leadership skills than the rest of the population. The leadership skills of guild leaders probably measure up nicely against the skills of bowling league presidents, kids sports coaches, or choir directors. In other words, good leaders are a subset of the population and we should expect an even distribution of these leaders across all recreational activities. Applying this from the other direction I would say it is unwise to assume an individual has no leadership skills just because he/she is a gamer. The gamer has the same probability of having leadership skills as someone who gardens for a hobby.

Dknopp
Dknopp

Who has time for games? Between work, my family and my house, I don't have time to invest in role-playing online games ( and it requires a lot of time, always has, even when the games were board games ) Any spare time that I have for on-line is for research and keeping up with the industry ( and downloading music, gotta have my music ).

phil
phil

There is a significant difference between the average gamer and a guild leader in an MMO. One can cause trouble, be selfish, steal off his colleagues and switch from guild to guild. The other has to deal with the first sort and maintain structure and cooperation between many diverse types of players. All gamers are not the same. The important aspect is the term "leader". Guild officers in MMO games are usually respected as well, but in my 14 years of online gaming I would probably only consider employing about 30% of the people I've met..

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I have been gaming since the early 1980s (yes, a long time) and I believe that gaming has greatly improved my value as an employee, While Wally is mainly talking about MMOs, I think the Infocom Text Adventure games had an impact on the way I approach problems. It is very difficult for me to accept that a problem does not have a solution - you just have to find the right approach. The ability to manage and collaborate with a diverse group, with varying skill levels is the way "knowledge workers" have to work to get things done. A MMO only reinforces that perspective.

slingshotz06
slingshotz06

I think this varies from person to person but I've been playing World of Warcraft since its release, and have lead an 80 person guild for a long time now. You'd be surprised at what I have to deal with in terms of organization, creating meetings, and dealing with "people" issues. Attendance, performance, and ethics all have to be maintained in the guild. Its really been a great learning experience and something that I can easily use at work. It gave me the opportunity to learn leadership skills that I may have never attained had I not started playing.

blunderx
blunderx

You can just print your WoW playtime-report and put in your CV. I actually use that even though it's really for parents to control their kids. I get reports about how much I play ones a week and I almost always think i have played much less than what the report says. It kind of opens your eyes to how easy it is too fool yourself.

blunderx
blunderx

Well, that's probably true about a lot of nocturnal gamers but regarding that's how most people seem to behave at work it isn't too bad. Actually, that make gamers more effective since they sleep less and eat worse but have the same 20% effective work time window ;-D

Fuzi0n
Fuzi0n

With comments like "I think" and "probably" dont really cut it when trying to make a claim yourself. While the main authors article is just a quick overview of an entire book it hardly digs deep into the type of specific data that was collected and analyzed (both quantitative or qualitative). Its nice to have an opinion, but dont bash someone elses claims unless you have read the information yourself.

blarman
blarman

Being a leader of an online guild is MUCH harder than it sounds. Try organizing a 40-player raid within your guild - you have to specify time, make sure you have the right mix of player types, assign group leaders, set communications guidelines, and act as traffic cop at the same time as you are involved in the raid. To top it off, everyone is only there for one purpose: to score loot. After those 3-4 hours is over, you lose all control over that individual. Leading a guild is a lot like leading a political rally - you are taking a wide cross-section of society and trying to focus them on a specific task for a few hours. If you run an iron fist at work and everyone is meek little soldiers to your every command, you can get away with a smaller management skillset and probably don't need someone who has captained a guild. And let's be clear: I'm not advocating that being a guild leader automatically qualifies one for management. But having played several different online games, I can testify that it is pretty easy to find good leaders and tacticians among the MMO crowd. I wouldn't count out anyone who had led a successful assault on Ragnaros or taken over a starbase in 0.0 in EVE Online. Those events take planning, coordination, delegation, and control. And don't knock gardeners either ;)

blarman
blarman

Being a leader of an online guild is MUCH harder than it sounds. Try organizing a 40-player raid within your guild - you have to specify time, make sure you have the right mix of player types, assign group leaders, set communications guidelines, and act as traffic cop at the same time as you are involved in the raid. To top it off, everyone is only there for one purpose: to score loot. After those 3-4 hours is over, you lose all control over that individual. Leading a guild is a lot like leading a political rally - you are taking a wide cross-section of society and trying to focus them on a specific task for a few hours. If you run an iron fist at work and everyone is meek little soldiers to your every command, you can get away with a smaller management skillset and probably don't need someone who has captained a guild. And let's be clear: I'm not advocating that being a guild leader automatically qualifies one for management. But having played several different online games, I can testify that it is pretty easy to find good leaders and tacticians among the MMO crowd. I wouldn't count out anyone who had led a successful assault on Ragnaros or taken over a starbase in 0.0 in EVE Online. Those events take planning, coordination, delegation, and control. And don't knock gardeners either ;)

blunderx
blunderx

"Only" 30% of the people in 14 years? Any person working with recruitment and HR would say thats a high number of possibly hires for a qualified job. I am a Project Manager myself and have been playing alot of MMOs on my spare time the last 10 years. I would and say that the one thing that i have learned to do better from gaming in MMOs is grinding, i.e. working hard for a long time with hardly no rewards towards a bigger goal, without giving up.

Sarge187
Sarge187

I totally agree. I am in an admin position of a very large gaming guild.(we just went from one game to a multi-gaming guild) We have over 450 active members from across the world in different games. I have learned what is proper etiquette when talking with people from other countries/cultures,conflict resolution skills,time managment, working under a deadline, deligation of authority,and more than a few SQL tricks/tweaks from other members of my guild. Along with dealing with attendance, administering discipline, and ethics issues I have also learned some diplomacy skills in dealing with troublemakers(usually kids and sometimes some adults) Also as a representive/ambassador for my guild when dealing with other guilds I have learned the art of selling my guild as I attempt to forge alliances.These skills come in handy in my everyday job. I have also learned the hard way to NOT allow my gaming to interfere with my normal job. Would I hire a gamer for a position in my company?...yes as long as they can show/tell me how gaming has also taught them these things too.

mckinnej
mckinnej

I'm not saying being a guild leader isn't hard. ALL leadership positions present challenges. That's a given. My point is that including or excluding individuals from any normal population based on their preferred recreational activity is a fundamentally flawed concept. It is not supported by simple statistics.

phil
phil

I meant that I would only even bother reading a CV from 30% of people. They would obviously have to be qualified as well. The point about grinding is true and the 30% would fit in that category, working hard for stuff that doesn't really exist (bit like profits in a downturn). The other 70% are quick fix, power game, non loyal exploiters, they often don't last long in guilds and I expect they probably don't last that long in jobs either.

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