Play Games With Your Resume

"Organized and led my 50-member guild through three successful back-to-back Nexus runs." You don't see that written on anyone's résumé, but apparently some folks do list the level and class of their World of Warcraft characters. This might seem a little far-fetched, but associate professor--and director of MIT's Education Arcade Program--Eric Klopfer says that a number of recent studies have examined what practical skills a person can pick up by playing electronic games. Can you legitimately learn something from WoW besides efficient techniques for slinging fireballs at foes?

Klopfer points to Constance Steinkeuhler's work at UW Wisconsin. She is "showing that people are developing and applying all kinds of useful skills in World of Warcraft--data collection and analysis, collaboration, planning, resource management and even team management." Remove the "WoW" identification from the place of employment, and all of these accomplishments look fantastic on a résumé.

"It's just too bad that gaming still has this stigma attached to it in the modern workplace," says Ethan Mollick. A researcher at MIT's Sloan School of Management and coauthor of Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business, Mollick believes that many employers view video games as some scarlet "S" for slackery. After all, Gears of War 2 is no replacement for vocational training unless you happen to own a chainsaw. There is evidence that task-specific educational and corporate training games can vastly improve real world performance (Mollick points to a study concluding that executives were at least 25 percent more effective months after playing Virtual Leader -- a game about virtual meetings. yay.), research into the effectiveness of mainstream games is still in its infancy.

So, considering the miserable state of the economy, what can you do? Well for starters, you need to blow off some steam. And while you're doing that, maybe we can try to level up a couple of traits. In that spirit, I asked Klopfer, Mollick, and David Edery (Mollick's coauthor on Changing the Game) to help revisit some time-tested résumé bullet points and see how some games might provide an upgrade.

[DISCLAIMER: The following suggestions are intended for mental calisthenics, not as talking points in a full-court-press job interview--unless you're looking for employment in the game industry. And even then, you'd have to convince the interviewer that you play games during off-hours and not on the company dime. So let's just keep this between us for now.]

"A Born Leader"

You know how to make a commitment and you're not afraid to get your hands dirty to achieve team objectives. The experts agree that an MMO guild is the best place to start (though some guilds are better than others). You devote time and energy to your guildmates, prioritize quests, and pull long hours for glory (not to mention epic loot). While you could form your own guild and cut out the middleman, working your way up through the channels and receiving promotions is a better way to hone you ability to lead others--and to strengthen your interpersonal skills in the process.

"Strong Communication Skills"

A big part of any MMO involves learning how to express yourself and how to work well with others. Here's something else to consider when you join a guild: Today's online games could be tomorrow's golf courses, where business deals get made between holes -- I mean, dungeons. I'm not saying that the surly dwarf you just resurrected could be your next boss--but you never know. At least one CEO I've met rallies against The Horde when he isn't closing major deals. And this guy doesn't even work in the video game industry.

My two cents: Even single-player games offer you a chance to refine communications and how you react with others. Take last year's hit, Fallout 3. It's a huge, open world with lots of open-ended conversations. There is no patently "right" or "wrong" way to go through that postapocalyptic world--but the things you say and do alter how people perceive you, just as they do in our preapocalyptic world. Ally yourselves with some folks at the risk of angering others. Try to resolve conflicts without firing a shot. It's no match for real human conversation, but it does immerse you in the practical experience of cause and effect.

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