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Gamers have a somewhat bad reputation in the professional world. They are often associated with the stereotype of having “no life” or with addiction caused by playing video games. However, some gamers develop skills that can be applied to businesses and forms of behaviour that are essential for managers: project management, teamwork, combining talent, performance guidance, planning, resource monitoring, coordination, strategy and leadership. Recruiting gamers can thus offer original and effective solutions to the challenges of modern companies. A study by Oihab Allal-Cherif, NEOMA professor.

Organisational metaphor of the company

A game can be described as: a group of players; a collection of strategies and possible actions for each player; rewards based on performance and player profiles; game rules. Similarly, markets can be described as a group of competitors, customers and suppliers who need to achieve objectives and make critical decisions to improve their profitability and gain market share while complying with the legislation. The skills, activities and objectives of gamers can therefore be seen as running parallel to those of managers.

In the very popular game Fortnite: Save the World, up to four players from four different skill classes—building, adventurer, ninja and soldier—unite to survive together in a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies. The hostile universe in which they move has its own economy and currency. Unpredictable events occur. The players must gather and optimise their resources, establish strategies, anticipate various dangers, perform transactions, create weapons and traps, construct fortifications, develop their skills and expand their experience.

In Fortnite, super storms and zombie attacks can be considered as an organisational metaphor for the waves of change and hostile manoeuvres that companies experience at an increasingly intense and frequent rate. For Fortnite players, this instability is not an anomaly; it is completely natural. They have adopted the required reflexes to know how to act depending on unforeseen factors in a way to optimise individual and collective performance growth. To counter threats, players are able to make quick collective decisions for the right action to take at the ideal moment to enhance its effects.

Video games as training tools

Some very popular games can be considered as training tools that are more effective than those provided in schools and businesses. Furthermore, major corporations and universities that use serious games to recruit and train their employees and students have recognised this. The immersive qualities of video games, amplified by the latest technologies like 3D and augmented or virtual reality, contribute to the better learning and memorisation performance.

In a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), the players join a guild, meaning an organised group of people who collaborate to collectively achieve common objectives. Guild chiefs recruit the members of their team based on their skills and social abilities, and dismiss those who are not effective or have a bad attitude. Chiefs use their remote communication skills with players/collaborators from different cultures, generations, and socio-economic profiles. They manage to create motivation, cohesiveness and a very strong sense of belonging among players with disparate profiles who accomplish missions and perform feats in the game.

In heroic-fantasy games like World of Warcraft and Dark Age of Camelot, the objective is to complete the quests and face up against other kingdoms. Dozens of guilds and hundreds of players, with some being professionals, organise with each other to be the most successful conquerors. In the guilds, players share knowledge, skills, motivations, codes, practices, histories and identities. The guild chiefs are the leaders oversee the communication in virtual worlds and develop the ability to move from one activity to another without reducing productivity or making errors.

The chiefs manage projects where they require rigor and obedience to obtain the desired results with the available resources and within set time frames. They use their divergent thinking to put the available elements to use and come up with original, suitable solutions.


The gamer as manager and entrepreneur

MMORPGs are virtual worlds where a large number of people interact, develop and live out adventures. These games have been pointed out for their addictive qualities and their negative impact on social life. But while some players cam develop self-destructive forms of behaviour that pose a danger to their health, others develop their intelligence, creativity, skills and behaviour in a way that companies can put to use.

In the game Second Life, created in 2003 by Linden Lab, the players are asked to invent one or several other identities and virtually live out other lives. In the game, they can have profession that they want and learn to create and manage a business. This business can even generate revenue in the real world and become their principal activity. Ailin Graef became the “Rockefeller of Second Life” with her avatar Anshe Chung, through whom she earned her first million dollars in 2006 as a virtual real estate agent. She then employed hundreds of programmers and designers to develop her products and invested in several gaming companies, including Frenzoo, the empire of virtual fashion.

Whether on YouTube or on Twitch, a start-up bought for 970 million dollars by Amazon in 2014, e-sports are also a good way for gamers to create their own businesses. As streamers, they can provide access to their platforms to viewers who pay for access to their channel and interact with them through a chatbox. Competitions are organised for certain games like DOTA 2, a battle arena game where two teams confront each other to take control of the other team’s territory and destroy its base. The revenue produced from the live broadcast of their competitions on streaming platforms can reach tens of millions of dollars.

Knowing how to make a place for them

Aside from the fact that being a gamer is somewhere poorly viewed in the professional world, the majority of the organisations do not offer favourable conditions to happily employ video game players. A vertical, hierarchical, bureaucratic, closed-off and rigid work environment is entirely ill adapted to these profiles who feel them to be ineffective and obsolete. They prefer growing in organisations that are horizontal, cross-functional, dynamic, agile, open and adhocratic, which are better suited to their practices.

Recruiters find themselves confronted with the difficulty of contacting, attracting, integrating and keeping these talents without impose on them a work format that they will reject or that would put them in a marginalised situation in relation to their colleagues. In this context, gamers’ experience of management is like Peter Drucker described it: a way of making work more difficult by creating unnecessary constraints. Today, the rigidity of organisations has the tendency to inhibit the creativity and initiatives of these employees. Communication methods are also too formal, lacking the spontaneity and sincerity that builds trust.

Gamers also want to be able to work remotely, have flexible hours and regular feedback on the specific tasks that they must complete. They need to be able to have access to the best technologies, hardware and software, to be competitive and effectively contribute to organisational performance. Through playing, gamers acquire extraordinary talents that can be very beneficial for companies. Recruiting gamers thus seems to be a promising strategy, provided that we know how to make a place for them in the company.

>Translated from the article published in French in The Conversation France on May 27, 2019 « DRH, recrutez des gamers comme managers »