While growing up, I spent a large chunk of my free time playing video games. Some of these games were popular hits that are still played and others have faded into obscurity.
While many still debate whether online gaming can be classified as a legitimate pastime, playing these games taught me countless skills. Skills I’ve been able to apply to my professional life and in my own entrepreneurial career.
So how do playing video games make you better at business?
For me, gaming is an entertainment outlet, but it’s also taught me valuable communication skills and provided me with a tool to test my critical thinking abilities in a competitive environment
In no particular order, these are the games that made a substantial difference in my life. The games on this list have taught me a lot about management, thinking critically, and dealing with people.
“I’ve been playing Civilization since middle school. It’s my favorite strategy game and one of the reasons I got into engineering.” — Mark Zuckerberg
What is it?
Sid Meier’s Civilization is a turn-based strategy game that challenges players to create history by controlling a civilization from the stone ages until the present date. The series started in 1991 with Sid Meier’s Civilization, and has since grown to include over nine versions, included the latest release of Civilization VI.
Imagine Risk (the board game) but on steroids. Players are required to manage resources, citizens, political relations, and a variety of other factors in order to advance beyond other competitors.
I got into the Civilization franchise a few years ago through my older brother, and It’s what I’ve been playing the most throughout the pandemic.
Why is it relevant?
Civilization is an extremely nuanced game with several factors that players have to account for. From diplomacy to climate change, history, religion, and geography, there is a myriad of options that players can take when they control a civilization.
It even has its own in-game ‘Civilopedia’ for players to do their own research and understand the complexities of each of their moves. With so many opportunities for success, it can be daunting as a new player.
When I was reading the Civilopedia and trying to understand the mechanics of the game, I was reminded of other types of research and critical reading I have needed to perform throughout my life — If only doing my taxes could be as fun as playing Civilization.
The game is also turn-based, so each player takes turns making moves and has a limited time to assess each decision. Unlike other games where you can play with only one objective on your mind, Civ games force players to make quick decisions while keeping their eyes on how each move will impact their spanning empire.
The complexity of the game at first glance may cause you to think the game is overwhelming, but it’s not. Like many things in life and work, if you want to play well in CIV you need to be focused and well informed on how your decisions can influence certain outcomes, especially in multiplayer environments. Competing against other players in a Civilization game is the ultimate test of strategy and analytical skills.
World of Warcraft
I played WoW from 2004–2006 when it first came out. In hindsight, I do regret spending so much time playing WoW, but I also learned some valuable skills in leadership.
What is it?
The popular MMO World of Warcraft was released in 2004 as a follow-up to their previous Warcraft series. It became an instant hit with gamers and by 2008 it had around 10 million players. One reason for this was because of the RTS aspect of the game, where you built your army through raids on different bosses, which were mini-bosses scattered throughout the world.
Why is it relevant?
Growing up, most of my real-life friends were around my age, but my time on WoW allowed me to socialize with people much older than my teenage self while giving me an opportunity to practice leadership.
The biggest life lessons I gained from WoW were from running raids — which are essentially 40-person missions that would have to be coordinated and planned. Each raid boss had its own perks and weaknesses.
Back then you couldn’t just hop on and look up how to beat a raid boss on YouTube, you had to figure out the strategy through trial and error with your team. In order to make it through a raid alive, you had to collaborate with other players and work together to find solutions for each boss fight.
I frequently led raids, which was something I really enjoyed and took pride in. I was also pretty social in the game-chat, so a lot of players trusted me to not bail on them or ninja loot (steal treasure and log off).
When you’re organizing raids in WoW, you need to have some serious skills in management. You need to think ahead, organize your group, and keep everyone on the same page.
It was almost like running a mini-startup. We did recruitment, assigned roles, and manage finances. I even hacked together my own set of tools outside of the game to streamline communications and scheduling for raids. At one point I was hosting my own voice chat server so that I could organize and direct people instead of having to type into the game chat.
With the right group of players and skillsets, you would go home with a legendary item or gold and the short-lived-fame wasn’t too bad either (the game developers made a point of notifying everyone on the server when a major boss was defeated).
Diablo II is one of the most played games of all time, especially for a game that came out in the 2000s. Its popularity even got it turned into a yearly conference — BlizzCon. Three successive incarnations of Diablo games have been released since 1996 and all three are still played today by thousands of people around the world.
What is it?
Diablo II is a multiplayer action role-playing game set in the dark fantasy world of Sanctuary, The game offers four different character classes (Barbarian, Sorceress, Paladin, and Necromancer), with seven playable character types in total.
Diablo II brought together a lot of important freedoms that allowed players to really take part in the game’s world. Some of these freedoms include the following: freedom of movement, freedom of choice, freedom to interact with other players, and freedom to play as you wish (meaning that your character’s skills and looks depend only on you)
Why is it relevant?
Often in online RPGs, you might find yourself coasting through the game, and then suddenly you’re killed by an unknown mob of enemies without any warning. Diablo intensified this with their infamous ‘Hardcore Mode’ which would allow players only one life, and if they were killed they would be forced to start the game again with a new character from scratch.
In Diablo II hardcore mode you would have to upgrade, change, and adjust your character builds on a regular basis. The higher you rose up the ladder, the more pressure was added for you to keep improving. The more aggressive your game-style, the more likely it that you will experience catastrophe.
Just like many big decisions we face in life, in Diablo II you need to make risky moves for higher gain, or an attempt to stay alive. You would have to double up on every little decision and make everything count.
If you’re constantly letting fear or failure get to you, you won’t get very far in Diablo II.
Failures are what shape us and improve us as human beings and business people. When I failed in Diablo II, it forced me to look back at all my mistakes as I was making them and grasp the underlying reasons for those mistakes, so that I could avoid them in the future and improve myself. It also taught me patience and to trust the process, instead of rushing to chase the first shiny object I see.
Sure, there are some games out there that lack productive value or can even be outright evil, but nevertheless, if you look closely enough, you will notice that some video games really do help you develop skills for real-life success.
At first glance, my love of video games and business may seem somewhat conflicting. I mean, aren’t they two polar opposites? One seems like it could hold you back in life while the other helps propel you forward and upward.
I’ve had that sentiment before and felt regretful of the long hours I spent gaming, but as I’ve grown I’ve learned that video games have framed my view on business, leadership, and the products I work on at my startup Node.
Games are not only entertaining, but they also have the ability to teach valuable skills that can be applied to nearly every facet of daily life, including many aspects of your professional career.