A digital consultant living in Minneapolis

FRAGILE FUTURE - a blog on humanity, philosophy and design thinking

Gamers and Professional Workers

I’m going to out myself a little bit today so that we can have a conversation about Gamers. Just to level-set on what I mean by a “Gamer.” I feel like often the image that's conjured Is this sort of redneck doughboy sat in front of his Xbox, surrounded by pizza rolls, yelling racial slurs in a prepubescent voice at the other gamers. Actually... by real Gamers definition that is actually called-  a Llama and is not a real gamer at all.

This [Llama] is also the personality we encounter in gaming environments who takes a singular approach, and if you hold with me there's a business metaphor for all of this. It’s something that I have really been analyzing and thinking about for years.

Although I know that the pool of Gamers “et al” is wrought with bad behavior (the likes any public or anonymous internet platform allows for) these interactions are typically not coming from the group I want to speak on here. I would like to discuss the cross section of semi-casual to serious Gamers with Professional lives outside gaming.

As a gamer myself (at one time even a professional gamer with earnings to show for it)

I can tell you that,  what Gamers hold dear is the concept of fairness. Every system that a gamer is engaged on is constantly being brutally abused by its user base. Insisting on refinements related balance and mechanics of the game. Obviously we want it to be fun. But more importantly when you really get into the trenches with true Gamers our main concern is that we know that when we log on to the system and someone else logs onto the system.

The only thing between us should be is our reaction time, our math skills or whatever it is that we bring to the game. It shouldn’t matter if one person is sitting on a trust fund and the other person is mid-bankruptcy, in that moment, all things should be equal.

(games that blur this line through pay-to-play models tend to eventually lose their true “Gamer” base and are left with more or less dopamine grinder-types who fork over money for advancement when the game fails to give them enough [juice].)

Another thing that true Gamers hold dear and understand deeply is the concept of an archetype.

Many games look (on the surface) as though everyone is sort of just Alpha-Brute-Force Tanking their way through and trying to win, but when you look at most games more carefully (especially in a professional environment) you'll realize everything is very carefully calculated and obsessed over in terms of teamwork and cooperation. Two completely different types of entities can work together and get a profound sort of resonance and extra oomph by knowing how to work properly together and this is something you don't get from a Llama.

So Gamers really get into this concept of Archetype, and I think part of the reason is that in The Human Condition people are not created equal. It's a stupid idea to ever believe that every biological being on this planet will have an equal experience. It's this utopian thing. It's almost been promoted as a decent expectation, but instead turns into the ugliness of selling people nonstop personal Improvement, because when it comes down to it, we’re all aware of things not being equal or fair.

I am less intelligent, or I’m shorter, or I’m the wrong color of skin for the country I live in. Having grown up in Mexico I can relate to it not being a popular thing to be so white. Again, there's no fairness in it. Deep down inside ourselves we don't feel genuinely any lesser or more than anyone else, we really just want our shot at being this amazing thing that we hold inside of us. Out in the physical world, in the Darwin/capitalist structure, beholden to our biology, we don't get fairness. Sometimes you just get cancer or an alcoholic parent.  Maybe you don't get a humorous personality and you struggle to connect with people.

Now dive into this other world of Gaming where engineers and mechanics have been focused on creating an environment that supports everyone having a role, and that role (in a balanced way) being as important as the others. Suddenly support characters get their day. They can even be MVP. They can be so good at something seemingly passively done in the background, and actually get credit for it’s contribution to the goal. It builds empathy when you have no armor and your role is keeping knights alive. When you play both sides you walk in someone else's shoes.

So whether you're a little frumpy or whether you look like you walked off the sales floor. Whether everyone treats you with an immediate gleem of attention span or whether people mostly disregard you as you go through life, in the gamers world you get invited to the party, to contribute and a fair shot at a win.

When I'm out in the business world and I get to work with other Gamers, it's typically been a very harmonious experience. I've enjoyed some really great output from teams who have a genuine experience with the concept of archetypes and teamwork. They get to enjoy the profound extra amount of production (and even accuracy) that comes out of thoughtful collaboration and appreciation for other archetypes on their team. Helping each other flourish and shine, not forcing everyone to Alpha-Tank their way through their work day.

Gamers that I meet professionally typically seemed a bit detached from the power struggle that I see most others around them engaged in. Also seeming outside of the gossip mills. Comfortable in their own skin, and wow do they PRODUCE.

Another thing that Gamers really understand is that when you get online in this fashion,  you aren’t a body or a skin color. You may be a voice, but in many cases you're just a moniker (name) and the archetype that you chose to play. Some games allow you to type to each other and communicate, you can maybe get a sense for the country people are in but that’s about it.

One thing that I found really interesting during gaming sessions was how concepts like leadership work and how fluid and respectful their style can be by comparison to many leaders I have encountered. Occasionally a 75 year old grandfather would spontaneously start calling out really great plays for my team over the headset and lead us to victory like some old war vet reliving some glory days from his home computer. BUT… BUT…. I've also been in games where a character like that is trying to tell everyone what to do and a 13 year old girl has better ideas. What amazes me in these moments is how quickly the entire ecosystem is willing to adapt to a better idea including the old codger because first he's in there to game, and second he's bringing himself.

So, in a work environment, what I've always really enjoyed that about Gamers is that they're so very zen about their role. And so very productive. I think a lot of times they're also trying to help others gain a mentorship (If they don't have it) in this concept of archetypes and teamwork and really letting skin color, biases, genders and ages fall to the wayside and let people bring what they really can bring to the work.

I think this has even led me to want to start a pilot program (almost like a corporate training program) surrounding the concept of connecting people with a game that rewires their brain to think a certain way that they feel lacking in. Like I said, real time strategy games turn people into resource allocation “computers” If you've managed games like Command & Conquer, Starcraft, Age of Empires or anything in this (RTS) genre it’s likely you could run a supply chain.

Extreme multitasking sort of thing. You put that kind of hours into thinking that way and you really can apply it to just about anything you want. That also brings me to the whole reason you're even doing the resource allocation and management of this supply chain… feeding your other strategies in terms of offense and defense.

So it's micromanagement on drugs, and most Gamers I know are extremely strategic about their work. Because their brains have been doing real time strategy practice, they now own a muscle just for that act, in their brain.  Much like a computer or logic circuit. A groove of repeated thinking patterns. An accessible mental circuit for them to use in the moment, in their work. I would think it a subtle yet potentially significant advantage in terms of thinking power.

There are other studies being done talking about how people who play the 3D games have been doing scalar calculations for three-dimensional space at a speed and a frequency that most other people have not. This has lent itself to reveal environmental, three-dimensional engineering, spatial engineering graphic design, and 3d design aptitudes in Gamers, studies show.

So we're I approach this is that… gamers are compelled from something that is deeply HUMAN in their desire to contribute and win and engage in an environment (games) that ends up turning their brains into a host of various new “computers” that are applicable in professional work AND tend to be become pleasant people to work with because these hyper efficient game systems have beating their egos down into a collaborative personality by showing them OVER and OVER again that they are going to get farther together. Helping them let go of this sort of “Tanking through” your environment mentality.

And again, Alpha-Tanks aren’t just males. I I've been out Tanked by plenty of females in the workplace as well. Some people can make a whole career out of being a workplace Llama.  And although it's unfortunate, I think that times are changing and I see a lot of those {Llamas] people rolling out of organizations and this new gamer persona coming in.  I think a lot of companies will see that they're going to get a more of their best work done faster, which is good because they need it, everything outside of them is going faster each day.

Some related reading:

Google Spent 2 Years Studying 180 Teams. Most Successful Ones Shared These 5 Traits

Benefits of Play Revealed in Research on Video Gaming

Gamers More Likely To Be Social, Educated Than Non-Gamers

Study Finds Gamers Are Better Learners

Video games can change your brain

New studies illustrate how gamers get good