Once seen as a distraction and waste of time, video games are gaining new levels of appreciation among employers for teaching in-demand skills. Game on!
Here’s a stat that’ll blow your mind. It definitely blows me away whenever I share it: It’s predicted that 65% of third graders in America today will eventually work in careers and occupations that don’t currently exist.
How do we even prepare for a future like that? My answer is that we need to give young people access to robust academic knowledge, technical competencies and professional skills which will allow them to adapt to whatever the world throws at them.
But we can’t force anything on young people. They need to want something, to spend their time in what I call “active purpose mode.” When a younger-gen person actively chooses to take steps toward pursuing a goal, watch out. Because they will move heaven and earth to reach their destination.
That’s why I am also a believer in encouraging young people to pursue a career driven by passion. And one thing that many young people are passionate about is playing video games.
Now what if I told you that video games can become a bridge between living in active purpose mode and pursuing a passion-driven career?
Seem too far-fetched? Then let me explain.
An overlooked source of skills
Video games have been popular ever since they were first introduced. I’m old enough that the first video games I played were in an arcade and cost a whole quarter to play.
Obviously, gaming has come a long way since then. Not only do at-home game systems have more computing horsepower than the computers that sent a man to the moon, but who doesn’t have at least one game app on their smartphone? Thanks at least in part to the stay-at-home lockdowns caused by the pandemic, video game sales soared. Today, there are an estimated 2.5 billion gamers around the world, and, in the U.S., half of gamers are women.
But the perception, of course, is that gaming is simply a distraction at best—and at worst, a waste of time. After all, what can you learn by playing a video game?
It turns out, quite a lot. That’s one of the thought-provoking conclusions issued in a new report by the ManpowerGroup called “Game To Work—How Gamers Are Developing The Soft Skills Employers Need.”
At a time when many employers continue to struggle to find enough employees with the right skills—especially so-called “soft” or “professional” skills, as I like to call them—hard-core gamers might be overlooked.
As the report states:
Gamers bring improved critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence and complex problem-solving to the table. Games even teach players how to communicate feedback effectively. These soft skills are hard to find and even harder to train—43 percent of employers say it is more difficult to teach the soft skills they’re looking for.
As Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Chief Talent Scientist, ManpowerGroup, says in the report: “In today’s workforce environment, employers need to assess skills differently and creatively to attract new sources of talent.”
Learning while playing
As part of the research that went into producing the “Game To Work” report, ManpowerGroup analyzed some 11,000 games across 13 genres to identify the kinds of professional skills gamers develop by playing video games.
For example, for games that fall under the “Strategy, Puzzle and Quiz” umbrella such as StarCraft, Civilization, Pac-Man, Words with Friends or League of Legends, gamers develop skills like decision-making, planning, concentration and persistence.
When playing action-adventure and role-playing games like World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, Monster Hunter or Pokémon, skills like collaboration, communication, problem-solving and judgment are built.
ManpowerGroup also developed an online tool called the Gaming Skills Translator where gamers input their favorite games and then receive a report about the valuable skills they are learning while playing.
The report also identifies potential jobs and career paths that match those skill sets. For example, gamers who enjoy solving puzzles might excel at jobs like production and machine operators, warehouse and construction workers, or quality control technicians.
Gaming the resume
One of the more interesting takeaways for me from the “Game To Work” report was the idea that gamers should be encouraged to list on their resumes the games they like to play and the skills they’re learning by playing, and ask about their gaming experience in interviews. Embracing this kind of practice could prove to be a competitive advantage for open-minded employers interested in tapping this talent pool.
For example, in Norway, it’s estimated that more than half of the population aged 16 to 24 plays video games. The companies that have been actively recruiting and evaluating young people as job candidates based on the skills they have learned from playing games are having success.
One such company, a global e-commerce company called Komplett, has added new gamer employees in their customer service group.
“Gamers develop knowledge and skills that transfer easily to the e-commerce industry, for example IT skills and cognitive skills such as focus, multitasking and cooperation,” Daniel Hauan, Customer Care Manager, Komplett, is quoted as saying in the ManpowerGroup report.
Another case study highlighted in the ManpowerGroup report features Lyse Dialog, a utilities company, which has seen some 10% of the candidates applying for open positions list their gaming on their resumes—which also has helped the company improve its image as an employer of choice among members of the younger generations.
Preparing for the jobs of tomorrow
With the advent of disruptive technology like robots and artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT, we’re going to need people who know how to adapt and work alongside that technology in the jobs of tomorrow.
And it’s easy to imagine a future where young people can learn the skills they need to excel in those jobs by playing video games—which will also continue to increase in sophistication over time.
What might be harder for any parents out there to wrap their heads around is that all that time their kids are playing video games might actually be paving the way for an exciting future career they’re passionate about.
To that notion, I say, game on!
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