For many adults, the video game revolution came along too late, and it’s just not something they’ll ever be interested in. And that’s fine. But gaming is a huge part of so many people’s lives, and sticking your head in the sand to it doesn’t make you ‘mature’ or ‘sensible’ – in fact, the opposite is true. Gaming and e-sports have become massive business, with annual gaming tournament The International offering nearly $25 million in prize money this year.
But from a business productivity perspective, hiring gamers – whether they be pros or just mad-keen amateurs – in your office presents serious benefits to the business of tomorrow. Because these people are already living it.
Here at Atomic 212°, we have more than a few devote gamers on the payroll, and it didn’t take us long to recognise that they bring some very unique benefits to our agency. And, from the perspective of Atomic at least, it doesn’t seem like they are suited to any one particular type of role – we have gamers rising through the ranks in tech-driven roles, creative positions and account management.
Working with teams based in other parts of the country, and indeed the world, is only going to grow more common.
But being common doesn’t make it easy. Aside from the logistical and financial pressures it can create, there is also the issue of an ‘us and them’ mentality arising between the groups that are supposed to be working together.
However, there’s a decent chance gamers in these teams will already be across this.
Some of the most successful franchises are online, team-based games where each player has a completely different skillset.
Success, therefore, requires communication and teamwork – generally with people from all over the world, with whom you have no personal links and may never encounter again.
Back in the office, one of the major temptations when working with a team or person you don’t see on a daily basis is to ignore their skillset and simply turn to someone you can talk to in person with your problems.
However, as pointed out in the Harvard Business Review, “spending the effort to get the real experts on the team, rather than defaulting to those who are familiar but less adept, will ultimately pay out.”
The ability to reach out and collaborate with people you may never meet in the flesh will come a lot easier to people who do it regularly.
The rise of Twitch – essentially an online video platform for gamers – may be one of the strangest aspects of gamers to the uninitiated. If you don’t get why anyone would play a game, you’re going to be absolutely baffled by the desire to watch other people play.
To which, I suppose, the answer is that you don’t have to play rugby league to enjoy State of Origin.
Regardless of whether you’re watching or not, plenty of other people are. Twitch, a platform largely dedicated to streaming video games, launched in mid-2011 and by January 2015 was averaging 100 million global viewers per month.
And, much like State of Origin, or any televised traditional sport, the most successful Twitch streams aren’t just the best players, but the people who are most engaging – that have entertaining and/or informative commentary.
As for how this translates to the office, well, it’s been the basis of Khan Academy’s success.
As Sal Khan, the academy’s founder, said during his TED talk, the whole thing began as a remote tutoring tool for his cousins, with Sal teaching via video chat, then posting the video to YouTube. The breakthrough came when his cousins told him they preferred him on YouTube.
“At first it’s very unintuitive, but when you think about it from their point of view, it makes a ton of sense,” Sal explained.
“You have this situation where now they can pause and repeat their cousin, without feeling like they’re wasting my time. If they have to review something that they should have learned a couple of weeks ago, or maybe a couple of years ago, they don’t have to be embarrassed and ask their cousin. They can just watch those videos; if they’re bored, they can go ahead. They can watch at their own time and pace.”
Videos aren’t just for entertainment anymore, they’re the preferred delivery method for many people when it comes to learning new skills – but the best of Twitch tends to bring the two together.
So it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a glance at a few Twitch videos – because footy might get people chatting around the watercooler, but Twitch could help facilitate a far more efficient and engaging way to upskill your team.
Just generally better employees
While different workplaces put different levels of importance on specific skillsets, being decisive, creative and energised are pretty desirable in most businesses.
So if you want these kinds of people working for you, the research says you should encourage your team to be gamers!
A 2010 study from the University of Rochester found that action-based games give people the skill of making faster decisions than people playing strategy games – but with just as much accuracy as their slower peers.
“Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference,” author Daphne Bavelier said.
Of course, there are positives to strategy games as well, such as improving a person’s cognitive flexibility – which is a cornerstone in coming up with creative solutions to problems.
In 2013, scientists from Queen Mary University of London and University College London – with support and funding from the US Air Force – found that “real-time strategy games can promote our ability to think on the fly and learn from past mistakes,” according to Dr Brian Glass.
The team added that cognitive flexibility has become more important than ever, which stacks up given repetitive tasks are increasingly being automated.
As for the perception that gamers are fat, lazy slobs who spend all day on the couch glued to a screen, the opposite can often be the case.
Researchers from Brock University found that playing sport-based video games was a great way to learn the rules, skills and knowledge of a given sport – which can be the high, intimidating barriers that stop active participation in the first place.
As a result, adolescents who load up Madden or NBA 2K17 “predicted greater involvement in sports over time”.
You don’t have to get it
There are huge benefits to gaming, even if that benefit is just having a bit of fun, and as e-sports continues it inexorable rise, we’re all going to be hearing a lot more about gaming in our day-to-day lives.
So you can either be a stick in the mud, or embrace the huge benefits gaming brings and hire a gamer. If you’re anything like us here at Atomic 212°, you won’t regret it.
See also: “It’s like Vegemite” – Why the business world has a love-hate relationship with culture, “Before us, esport content providers operated out of college dorm rooms,” says GAMURS CEO
About the author
Aline Eloy is the Programmatic Director with Sydney-based creative media agency Atomic 212°.