– and a case of attitude
It was a cold night, somewhere in the depths of a babyfaced winter 2019. It was our first mission together, teaming up for the mines under Fort Reval. We were in a tight spot. I was low on ammo. The enemy Swarm just kept coming. I figured if I could just sprint across the open space, past the Snatchers and hit cover before I got swarmed by those goddamn Juvies and that Scion, I could grab some ammo from the crates I’d seen coming in. I had 23 bullets left. We were knee-deep in waves of enemies. Getting out of the mine called for bullet enthusiasm, not economy.
Walking my figure up to my squaddie for a gun swap, getting ready to bash the hell out of my space-bar, I asked my him to cover me as I sprinted across the cavern so I could grab some ammo, for him as well. I did not see his response coming: “Don’t bother, I swept for ammo while you were shooting at the snatcher.”
Now, playing a co-op round of Gears at 3 a.m in the morning with someone who’s never played co-op before can make you imagine things. I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right, so somewhat confused, I asked “You swept for ammo? Dude, you grabbed all the ammo?”
Turned out he had. When I pointed out that the norm is that you ping when you team up (You tell your squaddies when you grab or want to grab items like ammo, armour, healing potions, and so on, so they can tell you if they need it or not, and you share), he got surprisingly annoyed. He figured that even though we were playing co-op in a game where there is no winning other than keeping your figure alive to finish the story, he was fully entitled to play as he wanted. Which included leaving his squaddie(s) high and dry.
I got a little irked and pointed out that was a piss-poor attitude to have when playing a game on co-op, even for a newbie. The “oh, women and their bloody etiquette” card was played. As was my “You can always spot the n00b by their attitude”, and we had a pretty good spat. After some snarkage and namecalling, we agreed to restart the level. And now we pinged. ’cause that’s what you do when you’re a team. And Ms Project Manager should have checked if the new guy on the team knew the rules – unspoken or not.
For some reason, this episode has lingered in my mind this last year. It pops up when I read project management or hiring articles. One of the reasons may be that a few years ago, I decided that when hiring people for projects, I prefer people who game. Not because of my personal passion, but because of the mental or soft skill toolkit they bring to the table. The ones my friend had yet to learn.
It doesn’t matter if they play shooters, adventure or strategy games, people who actively list gaming as a hobby tend to have sets of soft skills you don’t necessarily learn at uni or your first few consulting gigs,. Here are my favourite five
- Communication skills. Especially if they list, i.e. World of Warcraft or similar games on their CV and they contain leading raids as a GuildLeader or participating at any level below this. For me, as someone looking to help staff an SWE project, it means (s)he knows how to deal with challenging situations on deadlines in teams, and does it well enough to play nice with others. To be blunt: Assholes or people not pulling their weight get kicked out of guilds.
- Those communication skills also translate to a lot of gamers being team players who aren’t afraid to state their opinion. They may be a bit blunt, as communicating via text and voice-only strips emotion from a lot of this, but I’d rather have a candid, but straight to the point “No can do” from a developer or tester than one who is afraid to say no, or to give you a clear answer. The latter tends to let you find out for yourself they can’t deliver, and I am not keen on that cost in time, been there, done that, and the poor guy got fired. Not only that, you can easily pick out the ones you can groom to lead. They’re the ones capable of defining a strategy for their deliverable, and able to quickly reach a common consensus with team-mates and management on said deliverable. These are valuable soft skills, even in a junior developer. If you’re lucky, they also adhere to basic gamer etiquette at work: They know they need to communicate, pull together, help carry the (other) newbies, and the last thing they’ll do is to slink away to do their own thing, sending random signs of life via non-standard commits.
GuildLeader: A player character who heads a guild. They have administrative control of the guild’s operations in World Of Warcraft including giving ranks, privileges, setting permissions to the guild bank, as well as removing or adding members to said guild.
Raid: A raid is a large group of people in a game teaming up together for a mission, usually to defeat an in-game enemy or to get loot (treasure/money)
Shooter: A shooter is a game, predominantly played with firearms in an environment focusing on combat via fire arms and close-up fighting. The purpose is to defeat enemies through areas of the game, called levels, until you have defeated all enemies in all levels.
- A few years ago there was this ad for something called Lumosity doing the rounds on the web. It promised to improve your neuroplasticity via games, making you remember better, learn and do things faster, and all that. I got curious, and I tried it. It was unengaging and far more tedious to grind through than even a basic level video game. Ironically, I think gamers have better neuroplasticity. For several reasons: if they play one game, chances are they play dozens. To me, as someone staffing and running a project, it means they are fast learners and adapters in regards to mental tasks. Different games have different controls, puzzles, and playstyles, and beating them is not just down to muscle memory. What works in Gears of War, may not work in Call of Duty or Battlefield. The dream of Utopia in Civilisation sure as hell doesnt work in a survivalist scenario like Frostpunk. Which also means they have to keep assessing what works and not. And being used to diving into things where the norms are so varied, it means they tend to be faster adapters and learners. Something I see as undeniably handy, when i.e. developing on multiple platforms and apps
- And speaking of games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Gears, and other noisy shooters: If you know you’re going to be in a big, open office space with lots of visual and noise-based distractions, research shows that people who play these games actually are better at handling, and dealing with, these kinds of environments. Earlier research shows that when interrupting a developer or someone else deeply immersed in a task, the time taken for them to get back in the zone is about 20 minutes. Chances are a player of shooters bounces back into the zone faster
- It’s a lie shooters teach you to shoot. But players of games like EVE Online, a game jokingly referred to as a spreadsheet simulator (albeit set in space in a vast universe), play in a system based on real-world market principles. If you’re hiring for finance development, this may come in handy, as intermediate and above players do have an understanding of markets and the principles behind them. New spaceships need to be financed, raw materials need to be mined and purchased, with real fluctuations in price based on distance and demand before it’s even finished, and then they need to get a RoI on that purchase and its financing.
Provided someone is brave enough to list gaming on their CV, which is not a given (yet) in today’s job seeking environment, of course, seeing a CV where it lists a list of games does in no way or shape mean they automatically posess the soft skills listed above.But they open the doors wide open to assess these, as well as a whole slew of additional questions you can ask, to get a feel for how your candidate thinks:
The science bit
Some Personal Favourites
Frostpunk is about survival. It’s harsh, brutal and beautiful
- Gears of War.
Anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge fan. I love the graphics to stories to combat. On Insanity, preferably with some of my friends
- The Witcher
Played it since the first came out in 07 or 08. Witcher 3 is an amazing technical construct.
- Ask someone who plays World of Warcraft or Defense of the Ancients what they think of ganking (Ganking means taking out a lesser experienced opponent. Between the games the answers will be very different. In DotA, it’s an approved tactic. In others – not so much…)
- Ask someone who’s led guilds or raids fully or in part how they dealt with disruptive players. It’s not only a management question, it shows how they handle co workers if they don’t get along with them
- Ask the Frostpunk player what was the hardest to figure out when (s)he first started playing, and how. Most probably watched a YouTube video but what to figure out can vary in so many ways from logistics to keeping people happy
- Ask people what his or her preferred class is. Play-styles can say a lot about a person. A healer in a fantasy game like World of Warcraft is used to many people depending on them. It can be stressful. A “tank” in any fantasy game will be on the front line soaking up damage and protecting people behind them. They don’t reinvent the wheel much. A sniper in a shooter can be more interested in having a total overview than the soldier or rangers in the thick of it, and so on. My preferred classes for example, are Vanguard (kind of a tank) and sniper (I have an unhealthy obsession with heights and head shots)
- Ask someone who plays a game like EVE Online what they think of how propaganda affects markets. Propaganda is aimed at combatants in EVE, but I am pretty sure it can affect markets too
I was talking with my friend the other day. We were swapping managerial war stories, and I told the story of one of the first bosses I had. How we were so bad at communicating with eachother, that when he drove me home via my directions, we ended up at Ryen, not Bogerud where I live. And it made me think: We give people all kinds of personality tests. Personally I don’t believe in most of them, be it Meyers-Briggs (based on pseudoscience) or others. But I do think doing something together as part of an interview can be valuable to both the candidate and the interviewer. Hell, why not invite them to come play a game of Gears with you? Just remember to check if they know ammo crate etiquette first…