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Good At Playing Video Games? You Might Make A Good Leader

Far from being a waste of time, being adept at video games can significantly boost one’s career prospects
Far from being a waste of time, being adept at video games can significantly boost one’s career prospects
  • Recruiters often use specifically-made games to judge applicant skills and capabilities
  • However, new research shows that “off the shelf” video games can be an effective means of building core leadership skills, such as negotiation, decision making and strategy
  • Using such games as part of the skills assessment process could enable recruiters to save both time and money

Practice makes perfect.

We’ve all heard this said at some point in our lives – usually from a teacher, older relative or peer as we seek to master a skill. And sometimes the oldest advice is the best. We employ the “practice makes perfect” model in every element of our lives, from the moment we take our first steps.

Through constant practice, beloved hobbies and childhood games can hone skills to be turned into profitable career paths. For example, sportsmen and women spend countless hours practicing plays in order to perfect their tactics for beating the opposition.

Military forces the world over enforce the necessity for running drills so that every part of their operations can be carried out seamlessly when the time comes – hence the saying “military precision”. Actors rehearse before plays… the list goes on. Rather than being a waste of time, the hours spent endlessly repeating and refining skills, sometimes to the point of exasperation, all comes with the promise that such efforts will pay off in future.

But what about those time-consuming, oddly addictive pursuits that often hold no tangible benefit to the time people invest in them?

Gaming, for example, is a hobby which is wildly popular the world over. According to research by Cloudwards, 77% of Millennials and 81% of Gen Z around the world class themselves as gamers. According to their statistics, Gen Z gamers can spend more than seven hours a week playing in virtual worlds, honing their skills and gaining gaming credentials which, unfortunately, hold no weight once they finally log off and re-join reality.

Well… until now that is. It turns out that video games could provide a vital training ground for future business leaders.

According to a study from the Rotterdam School on Management Erasmus University (RSM), video games can be used by recruiters to assess the capabilities of aspiring managers.

Conducted by Dr Markus Weinmann, along with Dr Alexander Simons from the University of Münster and Isabel Wohngenannt of the University of Liechtenstein, the study expanded upon pre-existing research which explored the benefits of using specifically-designed recruitment games and tasks – a tactic called “gamification” – in order to judge applicants’ capabilities beyond what their CVs might state. This fresh exploration instead analyses whether off-the-shelf video games (the ones played by the general public) can offer the same benefits.

Whilst gamification is nothing new, Dr Weinmann says the potential of commercial video games in assessing talent has long been ignored by HR experts. Using the popular strategy game Civilization, widely considered to be a modern-day equivalent to chess, the researchers enlisted 40 business students to learn the rules of the game  – giving them a month to do so, before assigning them to play a series of timed games against each other under test conditions.

Participants were also required to complete a series of typical assessment centre exercises, designed to measure the managerial skills most commonly desired by employers when selecting candidates for senior-level positions, which are hard to communicate or judge from a CV. These included; consideration and awareness of others, communication, ability to influence others, organising and planning, and problem-solving. 

The study found that those students who achieved high scores within Civilization were also revealed to possess significantly better problem-solving, organizing and planning skills, proving that such games can offer many benefits to employers, particularly for management level roles.

“The high levels of complexity that players are confronted with require them to plan their actions carefully, develop sophisticated strategies, employ critical thinking and trade with other players – all critical skills for managerial roles,” Dr Weinmann says. “Far from being a waste of time, being adept at video games can significantly boost one’s career prospects.”

Whilst the researchers acknowledge that video games are unlikely to replace the traditional assessment centre recruitment methods, they state that their use provides a significant advantage as they allow recruiters to see and measure skills that may not be as visible, or measured as accurately through other methods.

For example, in analysing the in-game data such as the chat function, the researchers suggest that strategy games such as Civilization could be effective in enabling recruiters to conduct “stealth assessments” – analysing applicants whilst they are less aware of being monitored – providing a more holistic insight into not just their personalities but their communication and negotiation skills. Furthermore, analysing gameplay performance data could also provide a key indicator to potential managerial performance and capabilities.

An additional benefit suggested by the researchers is that using such games as part of the skills assessment process could also provide an opportunity for recruiters to save both time and money.

In terms of personnel development, Dr Weinmann and his team also suggest that deliberately designed strategy games may not also be used to measure performance but may also be used by organisations in-house to improve certain skills, enabling employees to train and test their abilities before putting themselves forward for promotion.

It could, potentially be also a means of helping to even the playing field art senior levels as data shows that the gender split between gamers is almost 50/50. Whilst women do not necessarily want to be labelled as “gamers” there’s no doubt that the skills they’ve gained whilst putting the hours into conquering virtual worlds could help them gain a foot up the ladder when it comes to career development, if recruiters were to take gamification seriously.

So next time you’re criticised for switching the Xbox on rather than picking up a book, remember, you might just be preparing yourself for that CEO role.

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