I'm not a competitive person. I tend to prefer multiplayer shooter games that are based on team tactics and allow for helping out team members with the ability to play medic or engineer or other non-shooty aspects to the game. I love discussing team tactics and working together to achieve a common goal... and in the rare case when that actually happens, games are magic for me. They fill my heart, not just with a love of the game, but with a sense of real affectionate for the random players I might be in the squad with.
My lack of a truly aggressive competitive spirit seems to be fairly common among my gender. There have been several recent studies that seem to point to a possibility that the salary gap between men and women may, in part, be due to women not wanting to apply for positions that are very competitive. The first study
showed that men are much more likely to apply for positions where salary was based on personal performance, and women tended to strongly prefer positions that had low competitive levels - where the salary was a flat fee (independent of performance) or where the performance was based on how the team did, rather than the individual.
The second study
was even more controlled and eradicated issues that might actually arise in the workplace (women were equally skilled, there was no chance of discrimination and the time limit would create no conflicts with home life), yet 75% of the male participants in the study opted for a competitive tournament setting with the chance to make more money, whereas only 35% of the women chose this option.
Now these are just preliminary studies and don't represent all men or all women. Obviously there are strongly competitive women in the workplace, and non-competitive men. The main thing I took away from these studies was a side thought on whether video games could actually help non-competitive people become more comfortable in competitive situations? Looking back on my own experience with competitive multi-player games, I do think that video games can be helpful in better understanding many of the variances in a competitive environment. Gender, age, race, sexuality, appearance... these factors play almost no role in video game competition, so we are all free to better examine the actual nature of competition and how it might apply to real life.
Understanding the Game:
Playing a variety of competitive video games has shown me that it's not entirely about skill, sometimes it's about looking at things like the points structure. In a game like MAG, people can often achieve better personal scores by playing the role of medic - gaining massive points for healing and reviving. They can use a well situated vehicle's turret as an armoured gun to more easily acquire kills, and if they equip a repair gun, they can get additional repair points for repairing their own vehicle. In games like Modern Warfare 3, spamming the recon drone and marking enemies can help to bring up a personal score if one's killing skill isn't high. In a game like Warhawk, sneaking around and continually hiding out and taking zones can make someone an MVP.
A game may seem to be about killing the opponents and achieving team objectives, but a closer look at a game and it's structure can reveal ways to "win" and achieve high personal scores that are a little bit outside of the main game's structure. The same can hold true of the workforce. When competing, it's important to understand the structure of the competition. It may not be about achieving the best sales record - it might be about the ability to bring in new clients, grow existing clients, client satisfaction, and retaining clients. In some workplaces, personal popularity and networking is more of a factor than performance, in other workplaces, promotions may be entirely based on statistics like the number of calls handled in a phone support situation, so brevity and volume might even be more important than client satisfaction. It's all about understanding how the game works.
Understanding Your Own Skills:
One thing I've learned from video games is that I don't always know my own skills. I always thought I was a bad sniper, but by actually giving it a go, I've found out I'm a awesome sniper! I can easily rack up the most kills in a game by sniping, but again, it goes to understanding the game and by not taking objectives or reviving other players, my overall points will often be low. I can however, apply this new-found skill to an assault rifle with a 4X scope and a silencer... and be in the action accruing points while still getting those long range kills I seem to be good at. Gaming has taught me that I should try things I don't think I'm good at, and additionally to look at new ways to use those skills. In the workforce, I think we too often focus in on something we "think" we're good at, but don't try other aspects of the job we dislike or where we think we will do poorly. Every game and every job is different. Sniping in one game is very different from sniping in another game... and sales in one job might be very different from sales in another job. Being competitive often means trying out all aspects of your job and often finding you may be good at something you didn't previously like, or felt you weren't good at! It can mean adjusting how you use your skills in order to be more competitive.
Understanding the Competition:
Those of us that play competitive video games have, at one point, found ourselves being red-lined, pwned, or totally destroyed. Those are the games where we can barely spawn without encountering an undignified death. In the workforce, we may well be the "new kid" and everyone around us looks skilled and quite ready to teabag our lifeless resumes or corpsehump our performance statistics. Video gaming has taught me that there is value in seeing an arrogant and overpowered enemy. Often it's not all that difficult to sneak around behind enemy lines, take the objective and win the game. In other circumstances, it's possible to find a safe spot where you can snipe all those arrogant red dots rushing out into the open and at least achieve the highest score on my team.
In the workforce, whether you're a web page designer, an accountant, an artist or a CEO - look at your competition. What are their weaknesses? What can you do better or different to win against established forces? Looking at the competition and adapting becomes second nature in video games. Seeing their weaknesses and using them to your own advantage is part of healthy competition - in a game, or in the workplace.
Understanding Your Own Team:
Sometimes you get on a team where everyone wants to snipe and nobody is going for the objective, where people are rushing headlong into an obvious enemy area, or where people are just... well... dickheads. Sometimes when you look around at your own team, you realize that you're on a team of losers. In a video game you can try to take charge and see if you can bring some order and strategy to the idiotic chaos, you can cut your losses, forget about your team winning and just go for personal points, or you can just quit the game and find another game with a better team. In the workforce it's important to look around and see if you're on a team of winners, or a team of losers. If you're stuck with the losers, you might try and make them into winners... or you can just forget about them and look after yourself. You can also try to get on that team of winners you see over in the corner. Regardless of your decision, it's important to take an objective look at your team - be it your work unit, branch, or even the personal relationships you've formed in the workplace. It's also important to realize, that just like a video game, your team might change over time. Some clans in certain games become the "winners", but changes over time might see new clans arise and older one's start to disintegrate. Being competitive means having an honest look at your own team, and often making some hard decisions.
Fair Play and Morals:
It doesn't take too long when playing competitive video games before you will encounter those that glitch, cheat, or have no sense of fair play. You may also on a rare occasion encounter the opposite... someone in the group who says, "we've won the game, it's over, pull back a bit... everyone switch to pistols!" - I love that guy! Mostly though, you'll find those glitchers, cheaters and asshats. When people on your own team are using a glitch you are presented with the moral question of use it, or not. Report them, or not. The more I play competitive games, the more I start to realize that the use of some glitches or cheats is not entirely a black and white issue... there is a lot of grey where certain glitches are used by everyone to the benefit of the game. In many situations, what one person might call "cheating" another person might simply say that it's not outside of the rules of the game (flag tossing in Warhawk was often used to pad points before a patch was brought in to disallow it).
These same situations often arise in the workplace, especially if you're competitive and take better notice of this phenomenon. It's interesting but I remember one example of a company that found that some of their sales people had teamed up in order to win a quarterly prize offered to the employee with the highest sales. They would use one employees number when entering sales and then split the prize. Corporate decided to look the other way because what was happening was that employees were teaming up, working with each other, looking for potential partners... and overall sales were dramatically increasing because, through teamwork, employees with normally low sales when teamed with other employees actually had a chance at winning... so everyone's sales were up. Even employee morale was increased because more employees had a chance of winning and people were getting along better so as not to offend a potential future partner in this "scam".
In various work situations - as an employer or an employee, we are often conflicted regarding whether to cheat, or how to deal with others who cheat. We also have to go back to the rules of the game to even determine IF there is cheating. These are all situations faced when playing most competitive multiplayer video games and individuals can learn from how they handle these situations and possibly apply what they've learned to workplace situations.
Overall, would playing competitive video games help non-competitive people become better at competition? My own feelings are that it might help them to better understand competition, it might give them more faith in their abilities, it might help people become more familiar with how to handle certain competitive situations... so yes, I do think that playing competitive video games can have some real world positive value. Video games are also one of the few venues where men and women can compete directly against each other - very much like the workforce.
From a personal viewpoint, I do think that playing competitive online games has made me much more comfortable competing against men. It's also brought me a certain level of confidence and a better understanding of competition. It's "toughened" me up a bit more where I am more willing to take risks for greater rewards, and where I'm also more willing to compete based on my personal performance and not always based on cooperative game play.
So if your young daughter starts to take Mario Kart a little too seriously... knocking others off the track, wanting to "win" at the cost of others - this may not be something to discourage. Finding her competitive spirit may not seem very gentle or ladylike... but it may better prepare her to break through the glass ceiling in the competitive real world of the workforce.
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