Article by Chrystal Taylor, Head Geek, SolarWinds

With every aspect of our lives disrupted, the lines between work and home have become increasingly blurred and our social lives are essentially placed on hold indefinitely, the value of escapism has never been more pronounced.

As a result, video games are having a moment.

Amidst the tumult of the past 12 months, video games have provided a vital lifeline for many people, delivering tangible mental health benefits at a time when they need them most. And if that’s not impressive enough, many of the skills learned in gaming can also empower people to excel in careers in IT.

Whether you’re managing your island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, diving into RPG classics like Final Fantasy VII (or its awesome new reboot), or collecting stars as an Italian plumber, the vast number of different video games means players are becoming equipped with an increasingly broad set of skills they may not otherwise have developed.

Here, we talk about how gaming can help both the current, and next generation of IT professionals develop skills that can carry over into their everyday roles and take their careers to the next level.

Transferrable skills

The number of skills that can be carried over from gaming to IT is surprisingly high—surprising because many of them are called into action inherently, often without the player even realizing.

Take Final Fantasy VII, for example. You’re preparing your party for one of the many final boss battles. There’s no turning back, and you must select three characters out of a possible six (or even more), each with different strengths and weaknesses. Not only that, but you must reattribute resources from the left behind characters and arm the ones you’re using with the equipment, abilities, and items needed to beat the dastardly Sephiroth, making tough decisions as to what and who should be left behind.

This single example demonstrates the need for players to understand and exhibit skills such as task management, organization, resource and skill optimization, and more. Countless other examples, from numerous other games, may require the player to use team leadership, problem solving, hand-eye coordination, perseverance, or teamwork to overcome a challenge.

And look, we’re aware not all games are the same. Lopping the head off a demonic hellbeast in Devil May Cry may not arm you with the skills required to manage the move to hybrid IT. So, are there specific genres and titles more effective in developing these transferrable skills to IT professionals?

Really, it depends on the skill. Horror and/or survival games inherently teach resource optimization, problem solving, and perseverance through the nature of the game. Strategy games, meanwhile, will help with strategic planning and thinking a few steps ahead whereas games involving multiple parties help develop management skills—all key aspects of a successful career as an IT professional.

There are so many different types of games, you’re almost always likely to subconsciously learn something while you play. If you apply the same thought process you use in game to tasks and issues at work, you can “game-ify” your job. This perspective will help you translate those soft skills from your gaming into useful skills for your career.

Competitive edge

For many players, video games are a means of satisfying competitive impulses. The popularity of competitive games is reflected in the boom in esports—an arena that feels pretty far away from the world of IT professionals—and the surge in battle royale games. That’s not to say, however, that competitive gaming, whether FIFA, Rocket League, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, or Counter Strike, doesn’t also have much to offer IT professionals looking to hone their craft.

Competition drives a person to constantly get better at their task or role. Translating that to the workforce is tricky because you want to make sure it’s healthy competition—you don’t want to drive a wedge between team members or create conflict. A healthy drive towards constant improvement, though, is welcome in any workplace. In IT specifically, it may help drive better performance in the day-to-day tasks or even invite new and innovative ideas for improvement.

Speaking of competition, we won’t get into the console-or-PC debate (both are great), but there’s one minor difference as to the type of skills that can be developed depending on how you play games. PC gamers typically build and upgrade their PC which gives them some insight into hardware. Not everyone has worked in desktop support, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have some idea if they built and maintain a PC at home.

Out with the old?

Much like IT, which has seen burgeoning technology trends like IoT and hybrid cloud deployments fundamentally transform the landscape, gaming has grown increasingly, often mind-blowingly sophisticated.

Open world games, for example, have been around in some form for at least a couple of decades, but the likes of Cyberpunk 2077 (when running properly, anyway) and Red Dead Redemption 2 demonstrate the technological leaps made in the industry.

But do the games stretching the possibilities of available technology have more to teach IT professionals than a 2D side-scrolling platformer? Personally, I don’t believe so.

There’s as much to learn in old-school games as newer games, and different skills can be developed from each. Not many new games make you do inventory management, for instance, but it’s a skill you can take away—helping to build organization and even optimization.

It’s also important to note, people learn and absorb things differently, so someone may pick up on those skills more easily in an older game as it may be less complicated or less involved with other mechanics of the game. Some IT professionals could learn just as much from completing a level in Sonic the Hedgehog, for example, as others do from building worlds in the latest Civilization.

Gaming may be having a moment right now, but the benefits it poses are plentiful and long lasting. Whether it’s encouraging a curiosity in new technology or helping to build a talent for creative problem solving, a passion for video games can help IT professionals level up their careers. After all, that’s how I got started: with a passion for video games and a curiosity for learning technology.

Chrystal TaylorAbout the author

Chrystal Taylor is a dedicated technologist with nearly a decade of experience. Taylor is a SolarWinds deployment veteran who’s built a successful IT career by translating client needs into optimised and performant systems.


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