A long time ago I felt into gaming, in many of its forms. My dad taught us young how to play various cards game, the awele (or Oware), pétanque (boule games) and we were owning many tables games too. Later I’ve been introduced to video games by my older half-brother, I was probably 4 or 5 and it changed my life for the better as it has been a constant source of growth.

Games have been a huge part of my life, so much that I even work for a video game company. It’s a good time to remind the opinions expressed here are my own and not a reflection of my employer. In this article, I won’t review any games, not even talk about gameplay. I want to look at how my practice of gaming, particularly video gaming, helped me to grow and opened doors in my life. As an example, playing video games made me change country, which is where I met my wife. It helped me grow as a coach and a leader too! It brought skills to my life that I wouldn’t have had if I would have taken another path.

Growth: As a Kid

Let’s start simple and from the beginning!  From childhood to teenagerhood, I could count number faster than most kids and I always had strong grades. I was finding little rules and tricks that the teachers weren’t explaining to help me make addition, subtraction, multiplication or division faster. This came from the various card games we were playing. One of our main card game was Belote, we used to play that for hours. Counting is part of the game itself and we had that constant competition about knowing who made the most points at the end of each round.

Awele (photo on the left) was also an excellent game for that, it is all about the tactic you use and counting what you can do with your own seeds! The game is a bit long to explain but if you have kids, that is extremely fun and “exotic” as coming from Africa most of the time (Youtube Video Guide).

All that developed a fast mind for calculus, as I didn’t link half the subjects in school, at least I kicked ass in mathematics! It was one of the first things I felt good at in life, somewhere I could shine and be proud of.

It taught me to focus as well, giving all my attention to what is happening and planning ahead so I have a shot at winning. I believe this developed the competitive part of me, which is pushing me to improve my life, to drive my career or strive for more in general. Playing was fun and bonding time with my dad indeed, but it created so much more!

Another major learning was when we were playing pétanque (boules game) as a team. We were used to make team composed of my dad and my little brother against me and my older half-brother. Our team was the favourite but the outcome of the game could change quickly. When we were ahead and when we started to miss a shot or made a mistake, we would start to argue and be upset. My dad was always telling us that’s “how a team loses” and he was right most of the time. When we were fighting within the team, we were losing a game that was likely won! How powerful of a lesson that is! We are evolving within teams all our lives. My relationship with my wife is a team, my colleagues are my team and I have various other teams at work, my gaming mates too and so on. Every group is a team!

Growth: As a Teenager

By the time I was a teenager, the situation changed at home. My parents divorced and I was seeing my dad during the weekend only and he was less engaged with us. My siblings and I, had multiple consoles at that time: Atari 2600, Megadrive, Super NES, Game boys and possibly a few more! We used to play after school or on weekend as much as we would be allowed (and sometimes more! But it’s a secret)

 When I was 11 or so, my half-brother convinced my dad to buy us a computer. I believe it took him a good year of negotiation, but around Christmas, it was finally ours! Fast forward a few years, I was deeply into the games made by Blizzard Entertainment (the company I am working for). Warcraft III and Diablo II were part of my daily practices! These games pushed the competitive side of me a lot further. I could compete with others people, I could make friends online and practice with them or just play and have a good time. I made friends all around France, even Canada and that was quite new to me. We were living in the countryside, in a very rural place so we used to know everyone. Online I could connect and engage with people of all types, ages and background.

Both games offered a various way of competing. Diablo II was high in commitment, you needed to invest a lot of time to be able to be competitive in such a game. It involves many hours of “farming” (killing stuff over and over to get more powerful). That taught me patience to start with. I’ve also learnt how to manage my time better and make decisions to maximise my outcomes. A lot of random is involved in Diablo(to obtain better equipment), so it was interesting to learn how to take that randomness into account and still maximise the results! The game economy was rich and trading was a big important part of it, it brought me some knowledge about currencies, markets and trade! These are quite valuable lessons in today’s world!

On Warcraft III, I learn how to train and progress. Before, I never committed to one sport or one activity that I was trying to master. Warcraft III was more about skill, timing, micro/macro management of your base and of your units. The tactic was extremely important too, based on who you play, what your opponent is playing and the map you play on, you need to have a strategy and to make a lot of choices in a fast-paced game. In order to progress, it requires an intense focus for 10 to 30 minutes (one game), a lot of practice to repeat the move until perfection and a ton of self-analyze too (watching others and your own replays to learn from it). I was literally training, like an athlete would do.

Lastly, both of these game taught me English. Translations of games weren’t that great in France at the time, particularly the voices.  So we always played our games in English. Similar to card games and mathematics, my English improved quickly and I was crushing it in school. I even had a teacher who told my mother that I should keep playing for that reason, you can imagine how happy she was! I had English speaking friends from all over the world and I would also start to read about these games in English as a lot more content was available. I wouldn’t have had my later experiences in life if I wouldn’t speak English.

Growth: As an Adult

 When I was 19, the famous World of Warcraft came online. I didn’t play it for the first year as I “wouldn’t pay a monthly subscription!”. Then one day, I went to a friend’s place and he was playing the game. He suggested I make a character and try, as it was mind blowing to him. Little he knew what he did.

I am not sure how fast I bought that game and convinced my mother to pay the subscription but it all happened quickly! I was hooked! The game helped develop all the skills and experiences mentioned earlier in that post and quite a few more. Let’s look at a few in particular.

After a few years of playing WoW, I became good and wanted to compete with the best. I joined one of the top French-speaking guilds. A guild is a group of people that play together to achieve the same objectives. In World of Warcraft, there are world rankings, with hundreds of thousands of people competing at various level. The competition is worldwide indeed and these players can be considered as athletes as they are immensely talented and highly dedicated.

Shortly after proving myself as a valid recruit, I noticed that some aspects of the guild weren’t managed to their best. The leadership had recently a huge turnover and the main leader at the time was quite unpopular. After he left in the middle of the race, to join our main competitor to due to our struggles, it was time to step up with a few other members and become part of the leadership team.

I want to pause a minute here for some context, a guild like ours means roughly 35-40 active members. We were playing 7 times a week, 4-4.5 hours for each session (called “raids”) and we expect people to be there 90% of these raids. It means that every night, except Saturday and also Sunday afternoon, people have to be online to play. It means roughly 25-30 hours of raids per week for everyone. The raid itself is 25 persons and it has to be coordinated extremely well to perform. The encounters are challenging and like anything in life, they challenge our weaknesses. On top of the time where we play together, there is a need to regularly recruit new people, with similar objectives, skills level and commitment. It is quite similar to recruiting for a job at this level (CV, interviews, trial period etc.). There are some other items like the forums and our websites to maintain. It helped me to improve my French is a written form, I had to work on my communication skills (internally and externally). I also learnt how to create forums, update databases and other similar technical aspects of it. Preparing the raids is indeed a big one, playing 4.5 hours is one thing, but doing it with it being well prepared is better. This could take up to a few hours per day in critical times. As in any competitive environment, you have to take into accounts personalities, egos and other problems/dramas that are coming up at times and that also need to be handled.

It is probably managing a small business in many ways!

You may start to have an idea of what it brought to my growth. I was a young man, barely experienced in anything with people management. After a few months, I became the leader of that group. I had to take care of most of the tasks above and as other leaders were disengaged for various reasons, I felt very alone at times.

First I had to learn how to lead. 4 hours every evening, I learnt to organize and lead verbally the raid, explain the strategies, make calls and decisions on the spot while performing. One of my company core value is “Lead by example” and that’s a philosophy that was dear to my heart at that time already (I wasn’t an employee at that time). I put high expectations on myself: I had to be irreproachable, I had to be as good and as reliable as possible so I can motivate and inspire people. I learnt how to be more charismatic and trustworthy. I learnt to make decisions and to take responsibilities for their outcomes.

After a few months of handling issues with people we had in our guild, I quickly understand the value of recruiting. Looking for talented people that are committed, motivated by the same objectives and that can also afford to spend as much time as we do. I looked at our recruiting processes and strategies and made changes to our processes to make recruiting less of a pain but also trying to recruit higher quality members. When these processes where in place, at times, we didn’t had much recruits applying. Next I looked at the communication of our guild, is our website appealing? Do people have enough information available? How players do even know we are recruiting?! We had a lot of work to do! We had to communicate in an engaging way regularly, we had to revamp the whole site and forums, we had to maintain communication with other important websites. Today I am trying to create a community with my blog, these experiences are immensely valuable in this endeavour.

Something else became quite clear, in that group of 35-40 people: people were not here for the same reasons. Some people have been there for years and their motivation was lower or their real-life was more demanding but they didn’t want to quit. They would barely manage to do as much as needed. Some people were just joining and wanted to push even harder to improve our performances. Some of our best players had huge egos and were assholes to deal with at times. Some of them would even hurt the group thinking that their amazing performances could justify anything. That part was extremely challenging for me, it was the first time I had so much tension and conflict to handle and I did a pretty poor job in many ways. This was an incredible experience, even if it was a very stressful one!

One of my biggest learning is that I tried to do most of it alone and I shouldn’t have. I was young and thought it could be better if I do (everything). It turned out to be an extremely frustrating situation at times. There were so many aspects to manage and I wasn’t good at all of them. I should have developed a team of people that work well together and with complementary strengths.

What now?

“Gaming planted the seed of that growth mindset I nourish today”

That adventure of leading a guild has been on and off for a few years during my 20s. 7 years ago, I moved to Ireland and started to work for the company making these video games. My new schedule wasn’t always compatible with such an intense rhythm and I’ve retired for a few years now. At times, I dream of the day I found a similar group of people that I can lead but this time,  adding the value of my last 10 years and hopefully more sanity and wisdom!

Today I am a Team Leader in a company I love for its values and its product. Most of the skills I needed to be there, came from the games that company made. It gave me a stable job I like, it taught me so much as you could see today! It made me move abroad to Ireland where I could perfect my English. I discovered so many interesting people here and I even met my wife. Games changed my life for the better and it is also why you are reading me today.

I have a few questions for you!

If you play, how does it make you grow?!

If you do not play, what this article brought to you? Don’t be afraid to look, there is something somewhere! Post it in the comment or my social media!

Thank you for reading.

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