“Gamers are hermits.” “Gamers do not effectively navigate reality.” “Gaming is a complete waste of time.”

I grew up playing video games, but by today’s standards I am far from a gamer. Admittedly, I have thought the three aforementioned statements to be true at various times during my adulthood. Because my son enjoys games so much, I have had reason to pay more attention to the world of online gaming. I still am horrible and don’t get enough joy out of playing to spend time developing my gaming prowess, but the more I pay attention, the more I like what I see.

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of participating in a workshop led by a 3-Star Admiral where the subject was “Online Gaming to Achieve Faster Learning.” I mention the rank of the leader only to highlight the level of investment our Navy is making in such non-traditional thought. That excites me! Even better is the graphic that he used when he kicked off the session (see attached):

“I am a gamer not because I have no life, but because I choose to have many”

That message will likely give those who do not see value in gaming reason for pause or they may dismiss it outright. Meanwhile, gamers will see it and respond, “Exactly.”

I enjoy observing evolutions in thought and action. Even more, I enjoy helping such an evolution occur, both my own and others’. Over time, we become a combination of our experiences. By that I mean we are shaped by a combination of what we read, think, and do, as well as the people with whom we spend our days. To me, this is one of the reasons that deliberately welcoming diverse influences is so important. Just yesterday a colleague asked me how I am able to frame things so differently from others, he has experienced in his Navy career. The answer is simple, I do my best to seek out non-traditional influences and think about life from all angles. In a sense, I am gaming in real life.

The power of gaming is not in the activity; it is what happens during the activity. I see gaming as an opportunity to do three things:

  • Enable Deeper Understanding
  • Provoke Empathetic Thinking
  • Practice Déjà Vu Decisionmaking

When I talk to my son about his games, I am amazed at the depth of knowledge he has in the storyline, the tactics, and the strategy. We can debate the value of the knowledge he is gaining depending on the game of choice, but there is no denying he is building expertise. The fact that he is able to see a role-playing game through the eyes of one character today, a different one tomorrow, and still another the next, continues to open his aperture on life and develop the ability to understand and share the perspectives and feelings of others – empathy. Through experimentation and a willingness to fail, he continues to develop his mental playbook and prepare himself for success in situations he has yet to experience – enabling him to experience déjà vu during crunch time.

I am not a gamer by today’s definition, but I recognize the power of gaming: online and otherwise. I won’t call how I spend my days a “game,” because others may take exception to the term. But I will freely admit that I spend a lot of time focused on deepening my understanding of the world around me, understanding the perspectives of others, and understanding how best to achieve a desired outcome before finding myself in a given scenario. Call it gaming. Call it role-playing. Call it what you will. I call it preparation. I call it fun.

  • How do you go about personal development?
  • What experiences and people are you allowing to shape your being?
  • How might you leverage the gaming mindset?