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How Videogames Can Help Your Boss Understand You

| 12 Oct 2010 22:32

Older managers and bosses complain that working with Generation Y is a difficult, thankless task. Maybe they just don't play enough videogames.

It's a refrain repeated all too often by Generation X-ers and their elders regarding Generation Y (also known as the Millennials), those born between 1980 and 1995: They're too indulgent. They're too narcissistic. They have no empathy, and expect to succeed every time. They don't stick with jobs. They think they're special. For a manager or a senior coworker, managing Millennials can feel like herding cats - an impossible and thankless task.

Or maybe it's just that they don't have the right mindset or the right tools to deal with them.

That is the essence of a speech given last week by Alex "Archon" Macris - CEO and Publisher of The Escapist - at the Fidelity Technology & Leadership panel at NC State. Given that the average age of the staff here at The Escapist is 26, one would think that he has a pretty good handle on the subject, too.

The secret, says Macris, is to see the world how the kids see it - as a videogame. After all, more than 90% of Millenials are familiar with games, having grown up alongside them. So why not incorporate game design into your management?

You are the Hero
Videogames place the player as the hero of the game world. Whether you are Master Chief, saving the Milky Way from the Flood; or Niko Bellic, gangster in Liberty City, the story revolves around you. It's important to note how different this is from any other entertainment. In books or movies, you might empathize with the hero; you might vicariously experience what he experiences; but you are ultimately along for the ride. In videogames you ARE the hero. Even in massively multiplayer games, the most popular games have been the ones in which each and every one of the millions of subscribers gets to be the level 80 hero who kills the big bad evil. The latest version of World of Warcraft even gives each player their own private version of the world, called a 'phase.'. Since, in reality, we can't all be the hero, videogames now give us each our own reality. It's the ultimate solipsistic pastime.

The Takeaway: Each member of the Reset Generation sees himself or herself as the hero of their own story. You, their boss, are not the hero. You are the old wizard that gives them the tutorial when they start the game. And what they want from you is not work. They want a quest. So where possible, give them meaningful work with an obvious "victory condition".

***

Feedback is Constant
Videogames provide constant feedback to their players. The best-designed game developers deeply understand behavioral psychology, and use positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment to shape the player's relationship to the game. From the pleasing "ding!" of leveling up in a massively multiplayer online game to the visceral pleasure of seeing the opponent blown into bloody chunks of sweet, sweet gore during a first person shooter match, videogames give the player what he wants when he plays well. Likewise, bad play is immediately punished with sounds and imagery of pain, suffering, defeat, and sometimes even outright mockery.

The Takeaway: The Reset Generation expects immediate feedback on their work performance. A mentoring relationship can go far towards giving them the feedback they need, but you also need to explain that the business world does not center around them.

Whether you're a manager trying to herd younger workers - or possibly even your peers - or one of those younger workers wondering how you might come off to your bosses and coworkers, it's a rather informative talk. If you've got 51 minutes to spare, and don't mind a bit of scratchy audio, it's definitely worth a watch and a listen.

Life really is like a videogame after all. Who knew?

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