Friday, June 30, 2006

If You Got Game, Are You a Leader? Research by John Beck

Continuing from the last post, John Beck followed John Ware with a discussion of research on the gaming generation.

Beck says that almost anyone born after 1970 is a gamer and almost anyone born before that time doesn't understand games at all. This, said Beck, is not just a US phenomenon. His research on leadership skills finds that the common thread that distinguishes those with and those without is their proclivity for electronic games, regardless of age.

Why Gaming?

Beck argues that once recognized, it makes sense:

--Growing up "on games" creates a new way of thinking about the world.
--Games are a valid way to experience and learn about the world.
--Games change how kids respond to incentives and risk and how players absorb new concepts.
--Games provide an important outlet for creativity and foster new problem-solving methods.
--Games command kids' attention better than most other sorts of interfaces and extend their attention span. It fosters rapt attention.

Beck told the story of his 18-year-old son with Downs Syndrome who beats him every time. As an antidote to challenges raised by Linda Stone, Beck responded, "It's impossible to have continuous partial attention when playing."

Developing the Brain

Beck argued that neuropath ways in the brain stop developing late in the teens. After that, we learn differently.

Up to the age of 12 or 13, data shows that there is no gender difference in gaming. Both boys and girls play the same games for the same amount of time. After this point, socialization takes over and gender roles begin to set in. Beck didn't talk too much about this, but he mentioned that boys tend to be more involved in war games than girls.

The Data

Beck then presented conclusions drawn from answers to questions asked of a large sample of gamers. Here are some examples:

--Are gamers more competitive? Twice as many gamers say "winning is everything."
--Are gamers global in their thinking? Yes, says Beck. One big of evidence is that the most influential media in most gamers' lives was created in Japan.
--Do gamers come off as self-confident? They answered that they have a high sense of their own importance and would prefer a bonus for merit over a salary.
--Do gamers believe more in luck? Gamers feel that winning is not entirely their doing. There's a random generator in each game that makes a round easier or harder to beat. Therefore, says Beck, gamers learn algorithms and resilience and optimism -- to hit the button again and start over with hopes to do better.

One Conclusion Worth More Detail

Although gamers have a reputation of living alone in a basement, Beck concluded that this group is actually quite sociable. Most said they find people more stimulating than anything else. Furthermore, families play together. All siblings can remain in a room often while two play. The better players help the younger ones, less experienced ones because it's boring to win against someone who's no good.

Furthermore, in multi-player games, Beck claims that gamers create their own teams, recruits, management styles, and strategies for winning.


Beck concludes that the overwhelming body of evidence reveals that gamers would make better leaders than non-gamers.

Although I accept the value of learning anything new, particularly strategic and physical coordination skills, I am skeptical that the Beck's data can translate directly and transparently to the off-line business world.

If a gamer sits in the basement, regardless of his social skills online, can he relate well with people in person? Will she engage with better with those who don't game than current business leaders who overlook peers or employees with whom they see little in common? Does the ability to manage an army in an electronic space translate to optimizing challenges of learning styles or social issues in an office space? Finally, would negotiating terms with a warrior opponent really help negotiate deals in the world of commerce?

Time will tell -- gamers are still young, and they have yet to make their mark on business culture.

On the other hand, as Beck pointed out as a virtue, this population is excellent at adapting to new environments, to fitting in, to becoming part of the culture. If this happens in the workforce, their impact will certainly not be seen at all.

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