What follows is a piece (or the start of a piece) I have been doing some work on over the past few days. It repeats a few things I have stated elsewhere on this site but still covers ground well outside the realm of the educational system. It is currently where I have myself focused and, as you will see, all started with a simple question.
Like every project, it started with a question. “What can businesses, and by extension employees, learn from video games?” And like most people in their late 20s, I have been both a video game player and employed. I have also seen that many people act either incredibly similar to or incredibly different between the real world they live and work in and the virtual world they have decided to play in.
I left the womb to analyze. It is probably why I was born seven weeks early. The whole “nine months” thing was incredibly inefficient for creating life. Some insects can do that stuff in less than a few hours. They know how reality works. It works fast. If you do not believe that all it takes is to watch the faces of your parents or grandparents as you try to show them how to use any modern video game controller (or worse a keyboard for gaming).
Obviously I am not here to analyze the human birthing cycle. Analytical brains wish to analyze, yes, but they wish to focus on something that they feel is important to their own life. While I am not some professional gamer (it is quite possible that I could live without them as far as personal interaction goes), I am still a professional something. Everyone with a job is technically a professional, even if it is nothing more than being a professional burger flipper or soda jerk. What I want to analyze is games, and what I want to apply that analysis to is business (hence the opening question).
Games, from the standpoint of an agreed upon definition, are fun. They are meant to elicit a sense of happiness and maybe even a bit of competitive spirit. Competition itself can lead to unhappiness and total non-fun, especially if you happen to be on the losing end of the equation and the winning end does so well at the task of winning that it is as if your role in their victory was only slightly above the level of spectator. Here, have some uniforms and halfhearted well-wishes. You are barely a speed bump to the steamroller.
But inside that competitive spirit, games can show us who we really are. Even the most self-described complex mind can be broken down to the basics in just a few rounds of Poker, a few rolls of the Monopoly die, or even a complete level on the newest platform game or first-person shooter. Video games are especially good at showcasing a distilled form of reality. I say distilled because it just so happens to be wrapped in a big virtual tarp all of the time and people tend to disagree about the need to look beneath it for any real value. After all, it is just a game.
Many people tend to look at a good bit of their existence as just a game, but will oddly enough treat actual games with a, to the uninitiated outside observer, completely unwarranted amount of seriousness and drive. It does not even have anything to do with competition. It may have something to do with obsession or compulsion (or both) but to those that exist on a similar wavelength they understand exactly why some people have no problem immersing themselves in a virtual space and forging a ‘new’ identity to live in.
When I say “new” with the quotations I feel I must explain myself. There are legitimately only two kinds of person you can be. You can be yourself or you can create a new persona that has as little to do with you as possible. Those are your only options. Okay, that is not completely fair. You can technically be yourself but under an alias, although that is more a form of wanting to showcase yourself without losing any perceptions of personal privacy. It could even just be that your true opinions could be a little jarring to those close to you, and anonymity is a simpler answer than the emotional baggage that comes with being seen as ‘wrong’, ‘awful’, ‘misguided’, or any other such adjectives by the people you are closest too.
I don’t have any reason to chastise, demean, or begrudgingly shake my fist at someone who wishes to have a false identity on the internet (except for cases of theft), so I will leave that entire issue alone. If you want to lie, go ahead and lie. Life will still move on and you will still be whomever you are in the reality that actually matters (not to say that the internet doesn’t matter…you get my point). Remembering what matters is one of the best starting points anyone can have when it comes to deep thought.
Let’s get deep. Video games are around four decades old, with what was considered the first generation of gaming occurring in 1971, however it is the human generation born more in the late 70s and early 80s that have come to consider themselves the first to grow up along with the industry. This is especially true for those born in 1980, who found themselves in potential possession of the Nintendo Entertainment System as it first hit shelves and with them at an age where they could begin to understand how to use it. In today’s world, it is almost preposterous that a three year old child could even begin to use the consoles that exist, but it is not outside the realm of possibility that they could be handed the two button NES or even the one red button of the Atari 2600 and be able to become competent enough to find joy in the device, even if they aren’t exceptionally good at evading the ghosts, ostriches, or asteroids presented to them.
We now sit in the seventh generation of the home console, and needless to say the evolution that has taken place would have been almost unimaginable in the mid 80s. In some respects it would have been seen as crazy even into the mid 90s. The amount of technology that has gone into what is primarily a distraction is mind-boggling, but it also shows just how much people want to see the industry stay alive and see it continue to push boundaries. We want our distractions to be as good as possible, or else they are not exactly distractions.
It is an industry, distractions. Almost any form of primarily sedentary observational entertainment can be considered a distraction by someone (usually a supervisor, teacher, or other such person of influence) and are almost always vilified for any number of reasons. Even simply watching a sporting event live can become a target due to the potential for riots or fan-on-fan violence that has the possibility to occur when heated rivalries and alcohol are mixed together.
But I am not as concerned with the other distraction-potential industry as I am with the industry of video games. And even inside of that, I am not so much talking about the production part as I am the actual use of the products by the grovelling and needy public. Almost everyone that falls in the previously-mentioned generation has played some kind of video game, be it a console – Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, on some kind of computer, or through the world wide web (not to mention arcades, they are a dying breed thanks to the other three).
Games themselves are a tremendous part of popular culture. The simple fact that some games can have launch parties, record breaking pre-orders that would rival most other entertainment platforms, and an almost innumerable amount of written and visual material devoted to breaking down every aspect of every game, system, and company that has ever existed is something that would be seen as unthinkable twenty years ago. This is not even counting all that is devoted to fans discussing other fans (and non-fans), because it is close to impossible to have someone like something without someone else disliking it. Being a player is no longer putting you in the minority or attaching a stigma to your personality (in most instances). The sheer amount of games that are making their way to shelves rated “Mature” or “Adult” is more than enough evidence of this. As much as media watchdog and censorship groups wish to curttail the creation of such games, the percentages are becoming more in favor of the adult gamer. Sure, some of the objectives these mature games present might be nothing more than showcasing needless violence, but if there was not a market for such a game then it simply would not exist or would be forgotten by gamers lone before being forgotten by the people who shout from the rooftops to forget it in the first place.
Even people that hate video games realize they have an influence on society. What they seem to fail to realize is how much society influences video games. Again you can look at the influx of the “M” rating as a good indicator that society is spending money on that rating, though the reasons that they do so are varied. Oddly enough, there is also a social push towards the so-called ‘casual’ market. This market sees games as simply games. One might say that the point of a game is to be a game, but I (and others) know that gaming can be incredibly educational.
It is just this sort of education I wish to analyze. I started with a question, and have found that there are quite a few answers to be found, as none of them are perfect. As with gaming, actions and reactions in business are entirely situational, almost trapped in their own little niches. What a Forbes 100 technology company implements could be staggeringly different from what a five-person neighborhood landscaping company implements, but as I talk from genre to genre I have found rules, if one wishes to define them as such, that are broad enough to make sense for almost any business. That is not to say they can not be modified for specific uses or departments, but that is in no way their true purpose. Just as their is no absolute true purpose for gaming, businesses and employees are meant to (and sometimes forced to) evolve along with society. I just want to make that evolution as easy as possible.