Sunday, July 25, 2010

How Playing Videogames Can Boost Your Career

How Playing Videogames Can Boost Your Career

Game-play can teach you valuable leadership and strategy skills.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Elliot Noss, chief executive of domain name provider Tucows, has spent the past five years training to become a better leader. How? By playing "World of Warcraft" for six to seven hours a week.

"'You have these events [in "World of Warcraft"] that are very leadership-driven," Noss says. "For example, when you're in a raid that's poorly led, it's really easy to see how valuable are skills like managing the social dynamic, making sure there was the right level of preparation and making sure that there was a clear hierarchy in terms of who is performing what roles."

In "World of Warcraft," each action, even a small task like hunting an animal, has a purpose and fits into a broader framework. Similarly, Noss has set up frameworks at Tucows ( TCX - news - people ) that allow employees to understand how day-to-day tasks impact the company.

In Pictures: 10 Ways Videogames Can Boost Your Career

He does this, in part, by giving employees a broader narrative and context for their work. Noss does a regular lunchtime series called "Tucows Lore." Around 20 employees come to each session. Noss plays the company poet, telling tales of Tucows over the years--its heroes, villains, battles with large telecommunications companies or the early days of the domain registration market. "The feedback is fantastic. It helps people feel they are part of something bigger," Noss says.

Noss' efforts seem to be paying off. He says he has seen employee satisfaction rise and turnover decrease by a noticeable percentage.

To be sure, videogames have long been thought of as distractions to work and education, rather than aids. But there is a growing school of thought that says game-playing in moderation, and in your free time, can make you more successful in your career.

"We're finding that the younger people coming into the teams who have had experience playing online games are the highest-level performers because they are constantly motivated to seek out the next challenge and grab on to performance metrics," says John Hagel III, co-chairman of a tech-oriented strategy center for Deloitte. Hagel has been studying the effect that playing videogames has on the performance of young professionals in the workplace.

Hagel cites Stephen Gillett, a gamer who became chief information officer of Starbucks ( SBUX - news - people ) while still in his 20s. By playing "World of Warcraft" Gillet developed the ability to influence and persuade people through leadership rather than trying to order them around.