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What value if any does Gaming hold for the development of soft skills at work?

Gaming for Soft Skills

Recently we published a blog about how a shortage of soft skills in the workplace costs the UK economy £88bn, according to research funded by the likes of McDonalds and Barclays Bank. This research said that “… having better soft skills would improve productivity in a number of ways, including enabling workers to undertake more complex tasks, work more efficiently and be more adaptable.”

Even the UK Government has caught on to the idea, saying is clear that the UK needs to improve how we support employees in acquiring the “essential ‘soft skills’, such as team working, collaboration and punctuality, which are needed for the workplace.” (Rigour and Responsiveness in Skills, 2013)

Gamers put the hours in

A number of writers and researchers have said that it takes 10,000 hours of effortful study to become a master of a given skill. So I was surprised to read the research conducted by Jane McGonigal at the Institute of the Future (IFTF) which found that between the ages of 10 and 21 we now play computer games for about 10,000 hours! So does this effort result in anything useful, and make our young employees masters of more than shouting at a screen, or staying up far too long at night?

What exactly are gamers getting so good at?

Jane McGonigal identified four benefits and skills which are developed as a result of intensive gaming.

  •      Urgent optimism

This is the development of extreme self-motivation, and the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success. Urgent Optimism sounds like a quality most employers would definitely want in their business.

  •  Weaving a tight social fabric

We like people better after we play a game with them, even if they’ve beaten us badly. Playing a game together actually builds up bonds and trust and cooperation. And we actually build stronger social relationships as a result. Why not include gaming sessions as part of your team building processes?

  •      Blissful productivity

As humans, we feel happiest when we are doing hard and meaningful work. And this is why the average World of Warcraft gamer plays for 22 hours a week! When they are playing they are actually happier working hard at the game, than when they are doing other types of relaxing. And gamers are willing to work hard all the time, if they’re given the right work.

  •      Epic meaning

Gamers love to be attached to awe-inspiring missions to human planetary-scale stories. How do we know? Because the second biggest wiki in the world, with nearly 80,000 articles, is the World of Warcraft wiki; five million people use it every month and they have compiled more information about the World of Warcraft on the internet than any other topic covered on any other wiki in the world. They are building an epic story.

Gamers are hardworking and hopeful individuals

Gamers are perhaps people who believe that they are individually capable of changing the world. The challenge for employers of today is to bring the drive, determination and desire to change the world which Gamers have, into the real world.

Did gaming change the world?

Herodotus tells the tale of a famine in the Kingdom of Lydia so severe that the King of Lydia made it a rule that every other day, rather than eating, people played dice games. This kingdom-wide policy lasted 18 years! According to Herodotus, after the famine they played one last dice game before sending the winners off to find a place to colonise. DNA evidence shows that the Lydian’s share the same DNA as the Etruscans, who later formed the Roman Empire. So for over 2500 years, gaming has been creating “Super Humans”. Is it now time we embraced gaming as a viable tool for developing motivated, hardworking and positive people, rather than dismissing gaming as merely “Geek Culture” and a waste of our young people’s time?

Richard Peachey, Gamer, Modeller and Geek