Video Games Make Better Entrepreneurs and Leaders by@colindarretta

Video Games Make Better Entrepreneurs and Leaders

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Video games are oftentimes maligned as a plague upon the younger generation, wasting hour after hour of their precious youth but leaving them with no discernible skills. To be sure, there are some mindless games that do just that. But there are others, some of the most popular games, that can actually impart the exact skills that one needs to succeed and thrive in today’s competitive professional world.

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Colin Darretta

Colin Darretta is the CEO/co-founder of Innovation Department, and a...

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Video games are oftentimes maligned as a plague upon the younger generation, wasting hour after hour of their precious youth but leaving them with no discernible skills. To be sure, there are some mindless games that do just that. But there are others, some of the most popular games, that can actually impart the exact skills that one needs to succeed and thrive in today’s competitive professional world.

Between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, I was, according to most definitions, a video game addict. By my sixteenth birthday, my mother had insisted on my seeing a psychiatrist. Why, everyone wondered, was I spending so much time in front of the computer screen? Was I depressed? Wanting to retreat from the world? The answer to both those, fortunately, was no. I was being challenged and growing in a way that I wasn’t finding elsewhere – not at home and certainly not in the classroom.

Photo credit: EverQuest on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/205710/EverQuest/

Photo credit: EverQuest on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/205710/EverQuest/

While my love of games started at an early age, the one that truly hooked me was EverQuest, the precursor to every massively multiplayer online roleplaying game that came after it. I played EverQuest for over two years, from its release in the spring of 1999 through the summer of 2001. I spent almost 4,000 hours in the game, and, accounting for one three-month break during that time (not my decision), on average that meant I logged around six hours a day.

It certainly interfered with both my academics and my social life throughout high school; six hours is undoubtedly a lot of waking hours to commit to any single hobby and have any hope of time left over for anything else.

And this was a massively multiplayer online game, where one forms an avatar that represents you to the world, one that you can’t help but grow attached to. I was Cilion the Bard, famed for his eccentricities and one of the better-known personalities on a server that normally had tens of thousands of concurrent players. Bards were the prototypical jack of all trades, master of none.

The one unique trait that made me useful was the ability to play a song that conferred some sort of boon in the form of extra healing or more powerful attacks for my party of a half dozen fellow adventurers. As I excelled in the game, I joined what was called an ‘uber guild’.  This group of roughly a hundred individuals like myself had reached max level and wanted to surmount the biggest challenges in the game: think slaying dragons, giants, and gods.

These boss monsters would drop a small amount of the most powerful loot in the game and would generally spawn once a week, creating intense competition amongst the few uber guilds on our server to be the first to kill each to horde the precious loot they would reward their vanquishers. It was a recipe that, to this day, keeps people coming back to these games for more.

So far this sounds much like the typical video game addiction story. But it was here that I learned many of the skills and self-discipline that would shape my life forever after. Each of these bosses would take dozens, if not hundreds, of attempts before we would emerge victorious. Each attempt might take an hour. We might go days seeing only failure. It was not fun, it was tedious.

But it taught me teamwork, the value of practice, the need for persistence, and how to learn through failure. By the time I joined Goldman Sachs doing investment banking after college, I was well familiar with long hours, repetitive tasks, accepting setbacks, and the need for intense attention to detail. I had learned all of these things not in school but in gaming.

Photo credit: https://darkageofcamelot.com/

Photo credit: https://darkageofcamelot.com/

Over time I moved to another similar game, Dark Age of Camelot, a game whose central conceit was pitting thousands of players against one another in a fantasy realm where they would besiege castles and seek to conquer their neighbor’s lands. Taking what I had learned from my time in EverQuest I decided to start and act as guild master for what became at the time the most revered guild in the game.

I learned how to manage competing personalities, the drudgery of administration for almost two hundred and fifty people, and how to coordinate enormous campaigns with at times thousands of people working toward a shared goal. I wouldn’t go so far as to say running a business was easy in comparison (it certainly is not) but the experience prepared me for many of the rigors of leadership.

Another point that is worth mentioning, some of my online friends from these games, now twenty years ago, remain my friends to this day. Though I haven’t played a game with them in two decades. It ultimately was a place that helped me learn how to work with others in stressful situations and, as I grew, lead them. In doing so I also made the sort of deep bonds that can only be forged through shared adversity, and many of those persist today.

None of this is to diminish the severity of video game addiction – I am sure that my case is not the norm. But I also believe that it is not so uncommon, that there are many others out there for whom video games taught them valuable lessons and skills that were later applied in positive ways to better their lives. Lessons that were critical to future successes. Today, I still make a little time for gaming, though a far cry from what I once did. I enjoy occasionally watching Twitch and am fully on board that eSports are going to supplant traditional sports for an ever-increasing number of people.

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