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Why Gamers Must Resist Growing Up

Some thoughts on the value of gaming in today's rapidly evolving commercial world and as an important competitive tool for gamers.

Is there really a time when we should put away childish things? Serious people used to say that, and in the same breath invoke the holiest of adult holies, "thou must behave responsibly"; but if you hear anyone spouting that line of crap these days, please give them a wedgie and run away as fast as you can.

Responsibility is important for some things, I'll admit, such as driving a car or giving your child sage advice about not sticking their fingers into the tiger's cage, but embracing the old idea of responsibility, which is more about maintaining the status quo than being smart, these days will doom you to a life of drudgery and underachievement. Gaming can help you stay young, and here's how.

The future is created by innovators. If you never have an original thought, you'll never be able to shape the future for yourself or anyone else. Old-school managers in the workplace may value drones, but that approach is being replaced rapidly by managers who embrace new ideas and solutions. The old-schoolers will eventually be extinct, replaced by those who can innovate and respond to dynamic challenges, or better yet create opportunities that nobody has ever thought of before.

To thrive in this evolving world you'll have to think on your feet, look for solutions and opportunities, meet challenges creatively and treat every failure as a valuable learning tool in your drive to succeed and win. Sound familiar? The world of commerce is becoming more like a video game every day, and gamers have been practicing like crazy. You can probably see where I'm going with this.

Gamers have many of the basic skills to thrive in the new world. They're tech-savvy, focused, competitive, used to bouncing back after a loss and trying something new. A good gamer takes in the landscape of the game, analyzes hazards and opportunities, and acts. Here's the really amazing part though: games teach you to test a hypothesis. Standing around will get you nowhere in a game--and that's pretty true in life, as well. So you think to yourself, I've got to get past the turtles and the mutant frog with only a vine and a mushroom. You get all creative, go for it, and then you die.

Ah, but then you get to try something else, maybe you have to be faster, take a different route, use the mushroom a different way, or maybe the first time around you didn't notice that the turtle will hide in its shell if you stomp on it just right. In short, you innovate until you succeed. That's what gaming is largely about. It's also what innovators do. They try something new. There's a tendency to think that people who make successful innovations knew that they would succeed. They didn't. They believed they would succeed, and that's a very different thing than knowing. They had faith and kept at it.

The other part of gaming that will help you is learning that there are rules. In games, the rules are often impossible to violate. Say you're in a racing game and you spin out; now you're headed the wrong way and the rules say you can finish the race only by going the other way. It would make no sense to drive in the opposite direction--at least it wouldn't make sense if you want to win.

In life, you can almost always violate the rules, but doing so may make it harder for you to win the game. Rules in life may be less clear cut than in a game, and some rules might need to be rewritten, but if you learn which rules will lead to success and which will lead you to failure, you'll at least know which direction to go.

I'm not saying that gaming will give you all the skills you need to succeed in your chosen field. You need to study, work hard, listen, and act courageously when you see an opportunity. What I am advocating is looking at the real benefits of gaming for yourself. Gaming teaches the importance of testing ideas, discovering rules and having faith. It's also about having fun, and you should always strive to have fun in everything you do...except maybe when giving Uncle Melvin's eulogy.

As in any pursuit, of course, you can overdo gaming. If you focus on games to the exclusion of everything else, you might find it impossible to communicate with others effectively, maybe your thumbs will fall off or your obsession might rob you of the ability synthesize two ideas from different fields and thereby realize a startling new innovation.

But if it comes down to giving up on gaming because someone is telling you to get serious, you should offer them your controller and tell them a bit about how the game is played. They definitely need some game time.

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