Not Idle Leisure: How Your Time Spent Playing Games Lends Itself to Entrepreneurship

video game

Over the years, much of the stigma surrounding video games has lifted. The generation of kids who grew up on computers and smartphones are now adults. And developers have paid attention by diversifying the titles released each year across multiple platforms.

There’s a game for everyone. And it seems we all play video games now. According to a 2020 report by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), three-quarters of American households are home to at least one gamer. 64% of adults play games. Those numbers don’t even fully account for the pandemic’s further encouragement of gameplay as a form of entertainment.

Amid all the leisure time we dedicate to games, however, one concern might arise. Couldn’t this time somehow be spent more productively? And for younger players, in particular, a more appealing prospect might be: can you somehow learn a useful skill while gaming?

Games that teach business skills

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell explains the 10,000-hour rule as a metric for becoming ‘world-class’ at a given skill. It’s a concept that has been extensively debunked since, but the heuristic still applies. Spend a significant amount of time doing something, and you get much better at that.

The ESA study cites that adult gamers, on average, play 4-6 hours per week. Separate studies indicate that for tweens and teens, this number rises to over 2 hours per day for a majority of gamers. Regardless of the demographic, that’s a lot of time invested.

What if you happened to spend that time playing a game that could teach you something useful? According to Zentech Canada CEO Matthew Ricci, it’s certainly possible. Ricci went through the familiar stages of being a newbie and learning the ropes to getting hooked and eventually trying to quit.

But the game he was invested in happened to be EVE Online. Notoriously tricky, it’s a game that forces players to learn management skills that are effectively a crash course in how to run a business. And of course, Ricci eventually managed to parlay that training into actual entrepreneurship.

playing video game

Finding value from other titles

If you’re lucky, you might already be playing a game like EVE with clearly transferable skills. There are business simulation titles you can pick up and start learning while you enjoy your free time.

But what if that’s not the sort of genre you’re interested in? Or what if you’ve already logged hundreds or thousands of hours of game time, but none of them were spent playing the ‘right’ sort of games?

The truth is, you can milk value out of your favorite games regardless of what their gameplay involves. Every game involves a learning curve. Designers don’t give you the biggest challenges upfront, nor the complete array of tools you’ll need. It’s part of what makes games fun.

But it also teaches you about complexity. It’s similar to how most young adults learn to manage credit before buying a car and then moving on to home loans. Except that these lessons don’t involve actual costs, and you can learn them well before you turn 18.

Creating value through experiences

More specifically, however, video games can teach you about business success. To fully grasp those insights, however, you have to go beyond the superficial and reflect on the design of the games themselves.

All games offer a particular core mechanism that provides the basis of entertainment in your gameplay. It could be building up a character, saving hostages, or solving a puzzle. Each iteration of that mechanism offers something new and improved: better abilities or equipment, or increased complications to sustain interest.

In the process of playing a game, you feel hooked not only because of the fun that this core mechanism provides, but also thanks to the building sense of engagement. Games track your progress, celebrate milestones, and offer rewards to keep you going. The best games are also social, tying into your desire to achieve status and recognition along with your peers.

Be conscious of these elements in the design of the games you play. And start looking for ways they could be applied to the products and services you see around you in life. Businesses today thrive not just by providing solutions, but by creating engaging experiences for customers.

Thinking this way can give you the idea for a new business concept that people might find every bit as addictive as the games that inspired it. By then, of course, you’ll have to put down the controller and start devoting more time to entrepreneurship. And the time you spent playing will be entirely justified by your business success.

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