How video games foster real-world skills and professional growth. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

From pixels to potential: How the best video games shape our professional future

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
  • Video games have evolved from entertainment to tools that enhance professional skills and growth.
  • With AI and team-building applications, today’s best video games influence our personal and professional realms.

Video games have undergone a radical transformation over the past two decades. From the pixelated graphics and simple mechanics of the early 2000s, we’ve moved to photorealistic visuals, complex storytelling, and immersive virtual environments. Additionally, the rise of multiplayer online games and esports has turned gaming into a communal experience, bridging geographical divides and forming global communities.

The evolution isn’t confined to visuals and mechanics alone. Game genres have diversified, leading to hybrid genres that mix elements from traditional categories, such as action-adventure RPGs or puzzle-platformers. Platforms have also expanded beyond the console and PC. With the ubiquity of smartphones, mobile gaming has carved a dominant niche, bringing gaming to a broader demographic.

Technological advancements like augmented and virtual reality are pushing the boundaries of immersion, allowing players to step directly into game worlds. Game narratives have matured, tackling complex themes and moral quandaries, drawing players into more profound, emotionally resonant experiences.

AI has also become pivotal in gaming, creating more intelligent NPCs (Non-Player Characters), enhancing game mechanics, personalizing user experiences, and influencing game design and testing processes. AI algorithms also optimize graphics rendering and improve overall gameplay fluidity.

The business models around games have evolved as well. The rise of digital distribution platforms, microtransactions, and the freemium model has changed how developers monetize their creations and how players access and engage with content.

Today, the gaming industry is a dynamic tapestry interwoven with technological marvels, diverse narratives, and global interconnectedness. As we stand on the cusp of another decade, the potential avenues for gaming’s evolution seem limitless.

Best video games at work.

Should videogames be allowed in the workplace? (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)

Companies embrace the best video games for team building

While video games primarily serve as a relaxation tool, they can also be instrumental in honing professional skills. In an interview with Chief CX Officer at Arise Gaming, Jonathan Shroyer, he emphasized that gamers possess enhanced problem-solving abilities, greater patience, better concentration, and can effectively strategize and multitask.

Jonathan Shroyer, Chief CX Officer at Arise Gaming

Jonathan Shroyer, Chief CX Officer at Arise Gaming

“Gamers also display pattern recognition, which is extremely useful in data-driven work. For more physically intensive jobs, gamers can even hone in on their hand-eye coordination skills with certain games,” he added.

Recall the episode of “The Office” when Jim joins the Stamford branch, and they all play Call of Duty? They aren’t alone in this. Tech Round says video games rank among the best team-building activities a company can adopt.

Companies can integrate online gaming systems for teams to bolster collaboration. Such initiatives offer a unique blend of relaxation and skill sharpening during the workday, emphasizing strategy, problem-solving, and multitasking. Games are versatile tools that can be effectively introduced into various corporate environments.

However, not all games fit seamlessly into a professional context; specific ones particularly enhance professional skills. For example, “Portal 2” focuses on problem-solving and critical thinking, as Shroyer points out. “Minecraft” promotes creativity and planning, whereas “Overwatch” or “League of Legends” stress team coordination and strategy. Games like “Kerbal Space Program” offer insights into physics and engineering concepts. According to Shroyer, each of these games, in its unique way, aids in refining skills transferable to professional settings.

Mastering skills with controllers, mouse and keyboards

Once perceived solely as entertainment, video games are increasingly recognized for their potential to cultivate valuable skills. These skills don’t just enhance personal growth but also find relevance in professional environments.

  • Strategic planning: Strategy games like “Civilization” or “StarCraft” compel players to think multiple steps ahead. Players must analyze situations, predict opponent moves, and allocate resources judiciously. Such foresight is invaluable in roles that require long-term planning and decision-making.
  • Critical thinking: Games, especially puzzles and mysteries like “The Witness” or “Portal,” challenge players to evaluate situations, identify patterns, and derive solutions. This ability to analyze and solve problems translates well into roles that demand analytical skills.
  • Multitasking: Fast-paced games or those with time constraints teach players to juggle several tasks simultaneously. “Overcooked” or real-time strategy games are great examples where players manage different units or tasks under pressure.
  • Resource management: In many simulation or management games like “SimCity” or “RollerCoaster Tycoon,” players must efficiently allocate resources to build, maintain, and expand. This skill can be beneficial in budgeting, project management, or operations.
  • Team coordination: Multiplayer games like “Overwatch” or “League of Legends” emphasize collaboration. Players learn to communicate effectively, allocate roles based on strengths, and work synchronously to achieve a common objective—skills essential for any team-based professional setting.
  • Adaptability: The ever-changing game scenarios train players to adapt to new situations or strategies quickly. Games teach resilience and flexibility, be it a surprise enemy attack or a sudden resource depletion.
  • Leadership Skills: Leading a guild in “World of Warcraft” or captaining a team in “Counter-Strike” requires coordination, delegation, motivation, and conflict resolution. These leadership traits directly apply to managerial or supervisory roles in the workplace.
  • Empathy and Narrative Understanding: Narrative-driven games like “The Last of Us” or “Life is Strange” place players in emotionally charged scenarios. Players often have to make moral choices or understand complex character motivations. Engaging with such narratives can enhance empathy, cultural sensitivity, and the ability to comprehend multifaceted stories or situations.

Convinced or not, the presence of video games in professional contexts is prominent. “There’s an increasing number of films and series emphasizing the professional side of gaming,” says Shroyer. “For instance, “The Social Network” highlighted a bit of the competitive coding associated with game development. Shows like “High Score” on Netflix provide a historical context to the gaming industry’s evolution. Moreover, with esports’ rise, mainstream media channels regularly feature competitive gaming tournaments, further highlighting its professional aspects.”

But it does have some challenges

While video games promise unique team-building experiences, they might not resonate with all organizations. They can boost collaboration, communication, and strategic planning. Yet, Shroyer emphasizes the importance of gauging team dynamics and corporate culture. A properly executed integration can enhance camaraderie and teamwork, but a generic approach might miss the mark.

Using video games as professional tools can provide many benefits, but there are potential pitfalls and challenges.

  • Selecting appropriate games: Not all games are created equal or suitable for every professional context. Choosing games that align with the company’s objectives and culture is essential. For example, while a strategy game might help improve decision-making, it might not be the best choice for enhancing communication skills. Therefore, understanding the specific skills a game can hone is critical.
  • Distraction over productivity: Video games’ fun and engaging nature can sometimes overshadow their purpose in a professional setting. There’s a risk of employees viewing gaming sessions as leisure time rather than skill-building opportunities, leading to potential drops in productivity. Establishing clear guidelines and time limits can help mitigate this risk.
  • Potential conflicts within teams: Competitive games, while promoting team coordination, can also lead to rivalries or disputes among team members. It’s crucial to foster a positive, collaborative gaming environment and emphasize teamwork and learning rather than merely winning.
  • Addressing the learning curve: Not everyone is familiar with or skilled in gaming. Employees with limited gaming experience may feel left out or frustrated. It’s essential to provide introductory sessions or tutorials and ensure that the games chosen have varying difficulty levels to cater to both novices and seasoned gamers.
  • Balancing inclusivity and engagement: Different individuals have diverse gaming preferences, and what engages one might not necessarily engage another. Striking a balance to ensure all participants feel included and interested can be challenging.
  • Technical limitations: Introducing gaming in a professional setting might require hardware, software, and infrastructure investments. Ensuring the technical setup is robust, scalable, and free from glitches is crucial to maintaining a seamless gaming experience.
  • Monitoring and feedback: Simply introducing games isn’t enough. Continuous monitoring is essential to assess their effectiveness and gather feedback. Without regular evaluations, it might be challenging to determine if the gaming sessions are meeting their intended objectives.
  • Balancing fun with professionalism: Maintaining professionalism in a gaming environment can be challenging. It’s essential to ensure that the gaming sessions don’t lead to an overly casual attitude, potentially impacting the overall professional environment.

To ensure gaming sessions in companies remain productive and don’t devolve into mere recreational activities, it’s vital to have clear objectives and outcomes, as per Shroyer. For instance, post-game debriefing sessions after a team-building workshop can be invaluable. Continuous monitoring and feedback are essential to ensure alignment with company objectives.

The potential challenges of integrating some of the best video games at a workplace.

The potential challenges of integrating some of the best video games at a workplace. (Source – Shutterstock)

How AI and diverse narratives are shaping the best video games of tomorrow

As we look to the future, AI will likely shape more personalized and adaptive gaming experiences, tailoring them to individual players’ tastes and skill levels. Games might evolve in real-time based on player decisions, fostering unique narratives and results. Additionally, AI will aid developers in crafting more realistic and dynamic virtual worlds.

“The industry is now more focused on fostering diversity, both in game development teams and in-game narratives. Companies are investing in ensuring games are accessible to players with disabilities. Community feedback is actively sought to create more representative and inclusive content. Moreover, initiatives like Girls Who Game and many other community-driven programs aim to bring underrepresented groups into the gaming sphere,” Shroyer concludes.

Video games have transcended their origins as mere sources of entertainment to become multifaceted tools that can be instrumental in personal and professional growth. The rich tapestry of gaming’s evolution, replete with technological innovations and an expanding range of narratives, is a testament to its adaptability and relevance in contemporary society. As the lines between leisure and learning continue to blur, one thing remains clear: the potential of video games is vast, encompassing both the virtual worlds they depict and the real-world skills they can foster.

Whether we’re strategizing in a multiplayer match or navigating ethical dilemmas in a narrative-driven game, we are not just playing but evolving, learning, and connecting in ways that were once unimagined.