Can Online Gaming make you a Better Manager?
COVID lockdowns pushed people to remain constrained for more than a year now, and many have taken up new hobbies during this time. Many have started their learning journeys and utilized this time to add new skills or have expanded their knowledge spheres.
I, too, tried to learn new things, and audiobooks occupied a reasonable amount of time in my learning journey, but I stumbled upon something which was not a planned move. It all started as a recreational thing, but I spent more than a year before I left the game, and I feel I had an unexpectedly excellent experience.
The topic that I landed up is Online Gaming. Since my teenage days, I have been a gaming enthusiast, but I left console gaming and PC Gaming a long time back (though I still own a beaten-down Xbox 360 bought in 2008), which is not much used. The game I landed up was advertised as a puzzle game, and I installed it as a means to kill some spare time if I have.
The game turned out to be a full-blown RPG, and better at that, it was a team-playing game where you had to build alliances to conquer kingdoms. It revived my Age of Empire gaming days, but the whole thing was at a different level, with players from all over the globe and from other countries and cultures.
Paid Players vs. F2P
While I was acclimatizing the game controls and variables, I realized it brings the common age-old issue of money spenders (aka Paid players) vs. Free-to-play players to the fore. No matter how good you are as a player, if another player pours in money, they will get higher features unlocked or more complex tools available readily, tilt the game, favoring them.
I got frustrated about this fact when I was an enthusiastic gamer in my late teens and early twenties. This time though, I was playing the game as a hobby and wasn’t too flustered with it, but soon I realized I was getting burnt or kicked without any reason.
Using Game as a Learning Opportunity
I am a voracious reader of geopolitical, history & management books, and I see this as an opportunity to utilize this platform as a live MBA class to train my negotiation & conflict management skills.
I got to engage with people from different cultures, backgrounds, languages, and nationalities. The gaming environment was becoming a geopolitical theatre in a microcosm with people bringing their beliefs, ideologies, and faiths in the mix to justify their acts as players in the game.
This interaction was a great lesson in cultivating empathy and fine-tuning my logical reasoning to make everyone see a common goal and ultimately work as a team. It helped me see many cultures up close, and by interacting with them, I better understood what made them take specific calls when they did. This helped in better negotiations and smoother conflict resolutions.
Building a safe space
The game allowed me to play on multiple servers, and I could improve upon the mistakes that I made on the previous server to structure my arguments better. But one primary thing I discovered was that everyone was struggling in their lives, and the game gave most of the players a space to escape from their real-life troubles.
In my teams, I had players as young as 12-year-olds till 75-year-old grandparents, every one offering a different take to a problem and was coming from rich life experiences to tackle conflicts. This made me put a conscious effort to build a team free of foul language, and the team must bond as a family to help each other, not just in the game but also extend listening ear for real-life issues.
This safe space encouraged people to bring their spouses, girlfriends, and kids to join the game and join my teams as an extension of families, which gave my alliances/coalitions a feel of extended families. We rarely saw defections at mass scale.
Cross application of skills in Gaming & Real World
I manage tech teams in real life, and I like to work with my groups intimately to build better interactions and open culture. I tried to simulate the same team-building tricks in the game, and it worked.
It also showed me my limitations when teams started to grow beyond a certain point and made me more aware of my blind spots and how to manage bigger teams more effectively. This was an add-on takeaway that I later applied in my real-world game to be more effective.
I always felt that the varying perception of the situation at the root of any conflict and having a multi-cultural setup with additional curveballs coming from language translations. It was even more apparent that as team management or even brokering/negotiating peace, one must work harder to bring two sides of the story much closer. The gaming outcomes made me believe in those views even more strongly.
Although it happened just as an innocent app install on my phone, after spending a good amount of year as a serious hobby, I feel the following could be the credible takeaways from online games.
Strategy games are an excellent way too -
- hone your communication skills as you are interacting with other humans and not just an AI
- get rid of your social anxieties by getting confident in your language skills
- learn about new cultures and backgrounds, as it only takes you to hear people out with an open mind
- hone your negotiation skills by being more empathetic and willing to listen to others’ points of view
- improve your management skills by trying to lead the alliances and groups, and it will get you ready for future management challenges.
Do note that online games can be a space of cyberbullying and unnecessary targeting, so please venture out in this space with a pseudonym initially till you feel confident about this space. I will cover more about that in my next post.