Three Important Skills Gamers Have but Don't Use

Ten years ago, I worked in a convenience store, barely scraping by.  I used the experience I had gained as a hereditary grocer to move up into management, but overall I was only modestly successful.  I was always profitable; but my ability to manage people was non-existent, despite military-level leadership training. It was because I wasn’t utilizing the skills I had learned as a gamer effectively!  Then, after a 33 hour shift (that’s a single, straight, with no breaks shift, as salaried managers don’t have to be given breaks in some states), I walked into the bank with two days worth of deposits.

Filthy, tired, and staying alert only due to coffee and energy shots, I stood there waiting while the teller processed my deposit.  The Service Manager, who was in charge of the tellers, saw me there and noticed my state. “Julien, are you feeling okay?”

“I have been at work since 6AM yesterday.  Other than that, yeah, I’m fine.”

“6AM yesterday?  Why?”

After explaining the reason for the abnormally long shift (callouts in the Convenience industry inevitably means the manager is working), she offered me an interview for a teller position.  Why? Because she recognized something in me that all gamers have, but few of us utilize. I even outline it below; if you want to skip ahead, it’s #1 in my list.

It’s incredible to me that gamers are a font of untapped potential that even we as a community don’t realize.  We grind, day in and day out, doing something that we love, and yet receiving nothing for it. Why do we continue to pour hours on hours, chasing after loot and in-game currency, while neglecting the opportunities we have to use those skills in our analog lives and make real money too?

The problem is, the majority of us don’t realize the skills we’re developing for the real world by being gamers.  Gamers, on average, have a fast reaction time, rivalling fencers and eastern martial artists in their ability to see and react to incoming information.  This is especially true of those that play first person shooters, although raiders in MMOs often face similar challenges, often having to balance their reaction to incoming information with the situational awareness to make sure they don’t drag incoming damage onto teammates.  Gamers of all walks often have to solve problems, both simple and complex, quickly and with an understanding of the potential consequences of those actions. This is as true to the gamer in D&D as it is a COD player. Calling in a drone or gunship may take out the enemy, but if you also flatten teammates, it was a bad call.

Thus one of the biggest untapped potentials of gamers overall is our ability to manage teams and solve problems.  By developing this skill in the game, we are able to cultivate something extremely useful in the workplace. Here are some other skills that translate well from being a gamer, to being someone valued by an employer:

1) Resiliency

Although all of us are subject to the occasional rage-quit, gamers are amazingly persistent when it comes to accomplishing a task.  This means that no matter how difficult a challenge is, we go out of our way to continue chipping away at it until we taste success.  This is especially true of those of us that have played any of the Dark Souls series to completion, or spent hours on the NES playing the original Ninja Gaiden

We will hammer ourselves against a boss for hours, screaming, cussing, snapping controllers and keyboards, only to replace them and go back and continue fighting.  It is a rare challenge that we face that we won’t eventually go back and hammer at again, and yet few of us take that skill and do the same thing in the real world!  Why? Why not take that skill, that resiliency, and use it to tank the problems in the workplace, figuring out why you can’t overcome the skills gap you need to get that promotion, or sell a product?  It will benefit you in the long run, and your boss will definitely see the pressure you put on the tasks he or she gives you!

This doesn’t mean let your temper get out of control either; only a fool lets their temper overcome them when the time and place don’t warrant it.  If you’re angry, let your boss know why, and what you think it’ll take to fix it. If you’re missing a tool, ask for it. If they can’t give it to you, improvise!  Determine the best course of action and take it! It’s no different than choosing the right weapons, armour and strategy to defeat a boss!

2) Work Well with Strangers

Despite the tendency for gamers to be introverted overall, we work remarkably well with people we have never met, on tasks we have never seen.  This is easily seen at any Con where a group attend a D&D table, or you go to a Smash Bros. tournament and get partnered with someone because you went alone.  This one I can personally speak to; I was partnered randomly with someone at Sogencon for a Smash Bros. tournament, and we fought to the semi-finals having never met each other before through team effort.

This ability to react, adapt, and work well with people you don’t know, and don’t know the capabilities of, is exceptionally useful in the workplace.  It means you can be flexible, cooperate with new people, and manage interpersonal relationships on the fly.

3) Grinding

Stop rolling your eyes, I’m being serious.  Out of all of these skills, grinding is the biggest strength that a gamer can bring to the table of any employer.  Why? Because we keep at a thing until it’s done. While this could be lumped in with “resiliency”, I separate it because while resiliency speaks primarily to completing a singular, difficult task, grinding speaks to doing simple, repetitious tasks, consistently over time, to accomplish a goal.  While IRL this usually translates to something mundane, such as manufacturing, it has other places where it’s useful too, and some of them are lucrative.

Don’t believe me?  Ask anyone in insurance sales how many calls they have to make in a day.  Ask the delivery person how many boxes or bottles they throw. Ask the IT HelpDesk specialist how many low-level problems they solve for their coworkers.  This simple act of grinding is perhaps the greatest strength of gamers that we don’t take advantage of. We can grind out anything we put our minds to–we just have to take the time to buckle down and do the work.

This applies especially to people who play MMOs.  If you can grind for hours and hours in Entropia Universe or World of Warcraft, you can surely grind for hours at a job that actually is going to do you some good.  And this isn’t to say you can’t make money off being a gamer; but the grind to be a professional gamer is even harder than it is to grind away at a regular job, put the money you don’t need right away into an investment, and learn to spend your gaming time knowing that you don’t have to worry about money, rather than using it to escape financial woes.

And what results will we get from doing this?  Your life will be more fulfilled, you’ll enjoy your time gaming far more (as your stress will inevitably be lower), and you’ll never have to worry if buying a new release means a larger credit card payment.  We have some of the most desirable skills on the market, and as a community we don’t use them effectively!

Call to Action

I want you to take ten minutes, since you’ve come this far, and write down three things you have learned by being a gamer, and how they might benefit you in the real world.  Or you can go on Twitter and Tweet me, @julienmcbain, what just one is, and how you plan to use it.  You are the Scions of the modern age, and it’s time we took our place at the top of the world!  I’m going there. Will you be joining me?

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