Ever wonder why so many people try to escape reality by going into video games? True, I love video games… but the real world should be more desirable. I was puzzled by this oddity. Why does virtual loot become more valuable to people than real loot? More specifically, why is eight hours of killing rats in World of Warcraft considered so addicting, but eight hours of office work is so dreaded? That’s when I had an epiphany. It’s the management style. Video Games are about managing people. What do the players do with their time, how do they work/play together and what are fair rewards? These are important principles that office managers tend to miss. That’s why I’ve created this Video Game Management Style article. Perhaps it could lead to more productive and happy workers.
Looking back at my career, I found myself hitting similar problems. Conventional management says something like, “Well… it’s obviously your fault. You’re not working hard enough.” This didn’t seem right to me. I do work hard, both at work and play. Why is it I can take over the world in virtual reality, but in the real world I often feel frustrated and tired? Both of these tasks are essentially the same. While playing video games, I’m pushing buttons on a computer. At an office job, I’m pushing buttons on a computer. When I took a step back and realized that many of my peers feel the same way, that this is a generation defining problem, it says that something is horribly wrong. Most people aren’t inherently lazy. They want to succeed, they want to be part of a winning team and they want to feel good about what they do. So what is it about video games that makes them more preferable to good old fashioned hard work?
Tutorials – At one of my old jobs, I was doomed from early on. I was in a complicated organization but I was expected to know everything from the beginning. There was very little training. It was mostly about meeting and greeting my co-workers. It was as if I was a prize or a toy. “Look… see… we have a new employee. Isn’t it exciting?!” Unfortunately, the fanfare wears off quickly and the next important step of training is neglected.
Quality video games don’t work like that. Training new players is often a core requirement of a video game. The difficulty is slowly escalated as you master specific techniques. They don’t just throw you in a new world and say, “Oh… I see you’ve played Super Mario Galaxy… yeah… this game is pretty much like that.” Modern video games are judged on how it presents complicated material.
I realized this when I was playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I was collecting Star Coins and I discovered that many of them were strategically placed. It was as if the game was teaching me new techniques and I was barely noticing it. You may have played a game with Yoshi before, but did you know that in this game he can fly for a little bit after a jump? That’s a new feature. It was something slightly different from previous experiences. As a manager, don’t just look at resumes, circle keywords and assume that they’ll figure out the rest. Take the time to explain the subtle differences (such as office politics) or even basic job functions. When a worker fails to do well at their job, it looks bad for the manager. You hired this person so help them succeed. Break down their job into basic parts and slowly build up to the complicated stuff.
Documentation – So OK, you’re a busy manager that doesn’t have time to babysit a new employee. I can respect that. As an employee, I’d rather figure out things on my own. Like with video games, I enjoy figuring out a new adventure. But when I get hit with a tough spot, I don’t call someone over to my house to beat the game for me. I go online, where I can find strategy guides, cheat sheets and instructional videos. The same can be applied to work. Give your employees the tools that they need to do their job… including information. Build a knowledge base, start a wiki or something like that. The idea is that you shouldn’t assume your workers know everything, as they might not want to ask for help. So instead, give workers the ability to help themselves.
Friendly Competition – The main inspiration for this article was an ultra-boring freelance assignment. While grinding through the task, I found myself preferring to punch Dwarves in Guild Wars. I’m a responsible person, so I knew that I had to do the job first. But all the while, I couldn’t understand why I hated the work. I was at my home. I was sitting in the same chair and facing the same desk. Physically, I was doing pretty much the same thing. Why did it feel so stressful to work on this assignment, but “farming” for virtual loot was relaxing? Why did I feel better when I was clicking buttons in an ArenaNet game, rather than clicking buttons for a paying employer?
Guild Wars is a highly competitive game. That’s how I got through the hours of tedious work. I focused on the competitive elements of the task. I wasn’t the only freelancer on this bizarre cut-n-paste job. Everyone knew (or should have known) that the assignment was silly and dull… but it had to be done. By involving other people, it became a competition. I knew that if I was slow, other people would get more work than me… that meant less money.