Monday, April 26, 2010

Do Gamers Fail at Real Life?

Let me start by saying that when I raise this question, I'm not talking about YOU and I'm well aware that the question I'm asking is a hasty generalization about all Gamers. Certainly, I don't believe that I have failed at Real Life. Quite the contrary. And I also think that bloggers and blog readers are a "cut above" the average Gamer.

That said, I do believe that the Gamer demographic on average is less successful in Real Life. I have no factual evidence to back up that claim, only my own personal anecdotal evidence.

I am solid member of Corporate America. I have a good job with a large corporation. I own a home. I am not in debt up to my eyeballs. I have a wife and three kids. I'm not the wealthiest person I know, but I am well compensated enough to support my family without my wife needing to work.

And yet, I've never met a single person at my level in the corporate ladder who actively plays Games regularly. Nor have I ever met anyone "in-game" that has enjoyed the same level of work success that I've enjoyed in my Real Life.

That's not evidence that such people don't exist -- but it is at least anecdotal evidence that such persons exist only few and far between.

So do Gamers Fail at Life because they play Games? Or do people who fail at Life, choose to play Games to escape that Life?

Gamers Fail Because They Play Games
I think the core idea behind this school of thought is that that Gamers fail because they don't outgrow Games. As all of us mature, our priorities change. What was important to us as children is not as important to us as adults. In fact, many of the things we thought were direly important as children may be perceived as childish in adulthood.

Extending this idea to Games, perhaps Gamers simply place too high a priority on Games as adults. For example, a Gamer's ambition might be more directed towards downing that next raid boss than getting that next real life promotion. Essentially, poor prioritization resulting in less than optimum life choices and goals.

Whereas, other adults re-prioritized their life to include other ambitions. Once these priorities are re-established, Gaming falls to the bottom and becomes a much smaller part of their life.

Perhaps you were a "hardcore" gamer in College only to become a "casual" gamer as you re-prioritize your life in a post-college world. The Gamers who didn't re-prioritize as they got older are the ones who ended up as less successful in that adult world.

The best analogy I can think of is Partying. To say that my close friends and I were wild in our teens and mid-twenties would be an understatement. However, as we grew older and settled into professional lives, the extreme Partying slowed down.

We outgrew it as our priorities changed in life. By 26, I was married with child and by all accounts a 'settled' man intent on providing for his family.

But not everyone in my core group of friends settled. Some kept at it for years and never changed their priorities. Those are also the same friends who have been the least successful in their professional lives. My brother also took this approach and today, despite a college degree, works as a landscaper.

Failures use Games to Escape Life
At the opposite spectrum, there is this idea of escapism. That the Virtual Life is better than Real Life. Not really a new idea and I think that most people will admit it exists.

If your Real Life is too boring, depressing, or stressful, you can escape it for at least a few hours every evening in the world of your favorite game.

Games act as a temporary sanctuary from real life providing both avoidance and distraction. The root problem never real goes away, it’s just masked.

The most tragic example of this escapism is the case where the Korean couple let their baby starve to death while caring for their virtual child in Second Life.

Obviously, that’s a pretty extreme example. But I think it’s a good illustration of just how powerful a hold these games can hold over someone.

So I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that someone can use Games to escape all kinds of other more mundane real life problems.  No Girlfriend.  Too Fat.  No Job.  Bad Job.  Bitchy Wife.  Noisy Kids.  Small Apartment.  Lots of Debt.  Etc.

Success is Arbitrary
This topic wouldn't be complete without at least some discussion into how we define success. Certainly, success at the workplace is not the only type of success. In fact, I’m well aware that my definition of success smacks of certain type of elitism.

My best friend growing up once told me when he was in his mid-twenties that he learned the secret to a happy life is to figure out the way to spend the least possible amount of time doing "Work".

This was right about the time when he was the Guild Master for a 200 player raiding guild in EverQuest, but I digress..

His point was that "success" is not best measured in financial terms but in how well we live our life. This is a topic that often gets discussed at my workplace as "Work-Life Balance". The idea being that Work can't be so all-consuming that you don't have time to live your life.

An idea that is best illustrated by what I call the 3:00am Email. Perhaps one of the funniest things that happens in the course of my work is when I, for whatever reason, decide to check my email late at night. Inevitably, this prompts me to send out some email in response.

Now the funny part isn't that I'm sending out emails at 3am. No, the truly funny part happens when I receive a REPLY back from someone else at 3:10am!

Comical, but also a sad reflection of the burden of work. I enjoy my life and wouldn't change it, but I can certainly see the appeal of a life that someone else might have led. One where they still live a life that is unburdened with the responsibility that comes with the type of “success” that I have in my life.


Anonymous said...

There certainly is a spectrum, at our guild it is quite wide. We have a developer and a lead developer both working at Apple, as well as a doctor. On the other hand we have about 3 college students who are available 100% of the time.

sid67 said...

I think there is a distinction to be made as well for players who are more casual.

My main point is that I just don't meet any 'Gamers' at work who are in any position of authority.

And likewise, I've never met a 'dedicated' Gamer who had a really successful professional life.

I'm sure such people exist, but it just seems well below the average for Gamers.

Stabs said...

I suspect the people at work simply don't talk to you about gaming.

Okrane S. said...

Yes. Gamers are losers.
Let me add a couple reasons more:

1) Gamers are cheap.

Gaming is a leisure activity right. Now you tell me another leisure activity that costs only 15euros a month? Sure, you need a computer, but that's a fixed cost and everyone has it. So less incentive to make cash.

2) Gamers are a marginalized category.

Isolated in a room behind the screen, the only contact with other ppl is online, for a large period of time. This means in average, less sex, less social pressure, less incentives to look good and have shiny stuff which bring social status.. in a word less intensives to make money.

3) Gamers can't relate to other people.

If you spend a lot of time doing something, you definately dont spend it doing something else. And with gaming, you can't share it with most ppl because they dont understand and are not interested. Therefore in average gamers are more isolated. So less likely to be given that leadership position.

Anyway I might think of more...

Beowolf Schaefer said...

I don't think I can agree. I work for a company with about 50 employees. There are about 10 whom I regularly talk to about games. Of those a about 3 or 4 have or do play an MMO and there is one I would consider a 'hardcore' player. This doesn't seem to me any different from any other hobby. We probably have about the same number of golfers, knitters, or sudoku players. Oh and of the roughly six departments we have here 3 of them are headed by members of the 10 person group I mentioned.

My company may be an exception as we are an IT firm but I still don't think your premise holds water.

Syl said...

Like you've said, the points you make are based on the people you've met in games so far.
I cannot agree with the theory at all because I play MMOs and in the wow guild I am in, I am surrounded by well-educated and successful people - from business associates over college teachers to owning their own companies. I dont know whether the fact that it is a competitive raidguild I'm in matters, maybe it is different in laidback guilds.
I reckon if you're ambitious in real life you're likely to go for a more hardcore guild too.

If anything influences your lack of knowing successful people IRL who are also gamers, I think one very big aspect there is that gaming is still stigmatized as lame and geeky and hence nobody admits freely that he also likes to slay orcs and goblins after work. a shame too, because like this the image of gamers will never change.
a lot of gamers are forced into anonymity which the latest open ID debacle around WoW has proven.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Stabs and Syl, there are lots of successful gamers out there, we just don't always know who they are. I work in a management position in a large institution, and I am probably one of the youngest people there in such a senior position. I also hold three university degrees. I still spend a significant amount of time gaming, but virtually none of my colleagues know about this because I have no reason to talk to them about it.