Does Gaming Teach Business Skills?

A few days ago, if someone had asked me whether gaming makes a person more business-savvy, I would have been inclined to laugh and say, “No way.”

However, a study released this week by computer giant IBM and enterprise software company Seriosity, Inc., might prove that the old phrase “life is just a game” is more accurate than previously thought. The study (.pdf file) indicates that the skills learned through playing online games actually could develop strengths used for success in the business world.

Jim Spohrer, Director of Services Research at IBM’s Almaden, California location, had this to stay:

”What we’ve found is that success as a business leader may depend on skills as a gamer. … Smart organizations are recognizing valued employees who play online games and apply their skills and experiences as virtual leaders to their ‘real world’ jobs.”

The study specifically touched on massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMPORG), such as the contagious World of Warcraft or increasingly popular Eve Online games, to name just a few. According to the study, gamers learn team building, leadership skills, organization, and interpersonal skills that could all be applied to a workplace environment.

For instance, Eve Online allows players to learn skills in real time (not an accelerated gaming time). Players can potentially start their own businesses within the game itself, in game-related industries such as pirating, ship building, and mining. At that point, they can hire other players to be their employees and get a cyber-taste of running their own fantasy corporation.

At least one avid World of Warcraft (WoW) player believes he’s learned business sense from online gaming. Kevin Clough of Louisville, KY, says, “WoW can do a good job of teaching you the intricate parts of a working team.” By working together in groups to achieve specific goals, he believes players learn “a sense of teamwork and necessity of playing one’s role correctly.”

Another WoW player who goes by the online name of “KeithK” disagrees. Drawing from his own experiences, he believes the gaming is purely recreational “unless you are purposely using it for a teaching tool where you can manipulate the data.”

As expected, IBM and Seriosity are using their study results to jump at the chance to promote their own products. IBM’s upcoming Innov8 game (press release), due for a September release to both universities and corporations, allows players to tackle various tasks inspired by some of the situations real-life businesses encounter – which, IBM hopes, will “bridge the gap in understanding between IT teams and business leaders in an organization.”

Meanwhile, Seriosity’s Attent, an enterprise game with multiplayer capabilities, teaches its players skills for reducing information overload.

It’s important to keep in mind that the study was done on IBM’s internal community of over 200 gamers, and over half of those gamers did not believe game playing promotes real world leadership skills.