Video games and tabletop games aren't just pastimes for military members and veterans. Both are quickly becoming an integral part of their culture. The Department of Defense is using gaming -- often called "esports" -- to get younger people into the military. Mitchel Reed, a former U.S. Army missile defense officer, says gaming can also help military veterans after they leave the military, too.
Reed is president and CEO of UKnighted XP, a nonprofit consultancy firm dedicated to advancing the world through gaming, education and charity. He says many of the skills acquired through gaming have real-world applications.
"We show individuals how to leverage their experience in the gaming world and in gaming culture on their professional resumes," Reed tells Military.com. "We show how to turn those into measurable, quantifiable things that can help land them better jobs."
Here are just a few ways Reed and UKnightedXP have shown that gaming develops real-world skills.
1. Some tabletop games require massive project management ability.
For those unfamiliar with role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, the gameplay requires one player to act as "dungeon master," someone who develops the storyline and anticipates characters, conflicts, policies and game procedures. This person also tracks stats, inventories and helps guide the other players to their individual goals. A DM can be running a game for as many as 10 players over the course of a year.
"If you quantify all that, you have a very capable project manager," says Reed. "This person created a deliverable and walked his stakeholders through the process and came out with a solid product at the end. He can lead a team, interpret guidelines and apply standards. We pay people big salaries to do things that are much less complex than what dungeon masters do all the time."
2. Games develop management ability.
World of Warcraft still maintains a top-three player base after 17 years of gameplay. In the game, players can become officers in guilds, an in-game player association. They can even begin their own guild, recruit new members and manage membership of other players. These guilds can be filled with hundreds of other players.
Guild leaders also have people who, in the real world, are compiling information on your guild and its teams, analyzing data in spreadsheets and researching upcoming events, then disseminating information to the team.
"You're leading a 400-member organization," Reed says. "It's got a government, a board of people and a staff who help you manage the different classes. ... You manage multiple teams, along with an entire portfolio of projects that you manage. You can't tell the difference between someone that spent 20 years working in project management and someone that spent 20 years playing World of Warcraft."
3. Workers are adjusting to a remote world. Gamers have been here the whole time.
In the wake of COVID-19 restrictions, businesses and offices all over the world are struggling to find the sweet spot between in-person and remote work. Simply put, not every employee thrives in a remote environment, and managing those workers becomes more difficult, no matter how well they adjust.
"Right now, people are complaining about digital remote environments," Reed says. "How do you lead teams in a remote environment? How do you inspire people and hold them accountable? Guess who's been doing that for decades now: the gaming world."
4. People get paid a lot to do what gamers do for fun.
In some games, gamers will analyze data to improve the abilities of their teams to inflict damage on a game's boss. Sometimes, this means calculating the amount of damage a team can inflict per second of gameplay. The data analysts on those teams do this for fun. Reed, who is also an Air Force civilian data analyst, knows analysts get paid to calculate confidence levels on spreadsheets.
"It's phenomenal," says Reed. "These guys are creating their own spreadsheets and math equations to calculate these things. A lot of energy, effort and organization that goes into that ... Organizations like Walmart, Tire Factory -- you name it -- pay good money for that aptitude."
5. Gaming is a form of networking.
One of the most essential elements of continuous employment in the civilian world is building a solid network and maintaining that network for years on end. Through these games, people meet other people all over the world, forming real bonds and relationships that transcend time and distance. This is as much a professional network as attending networking events.
"You meet some phenomenally wonderful people professionally in your gaming sphere," Reed says. "It's important for people to think about who they're hanging out with in their games, as in the real world. We gravitate away from toxicity and develop soft skills, like interacting with new people."
6. Gamers adopt emerging technologies employers want.
Everyone lists the technology and applications with which they are proficient on their resumes. It's a critical part of a potential hire selling themselves to potential employers. So much new tech emerges so fast that it can be hard to keep up, but gamers tend to adopt these apps, formats and technologies very early. They also become quickly proficient.
"People use third-party applications to enhance or share their experience," says Reed. "Ventrilo, Discord, things like that. It's a big deal because in a largely remote environment, in technical environments, employers want to know that people can use these technical mediums competently. Can they learn? The answer for gamers is absolutely."
Veterans interested in learning more about how they can translate their gaming skills to real-world skills and experience on their resumes can learn more about UKnightedXP on its website, and scroll to the bottom of the page to follow its social media links.
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