Mastering The Game: Introduction

Mastering the game book life lessons leadership video games transferable skills

I’m so excited to share with you the introduction chapter to my new book – Mastering The Game: What Video Games Can Teach Us About Success In Life. The full book will be available in March 2015 on Amazon. To stay updated on launch date and more, please subscribe here or on the book’s site:

Now please enjoy the Introduction chapter from Mastering The Game: What Video Games Can Teach Us About Success In Life. 


“This is it. This… is your story. It all begins here.”

Auron, Final Fantasy X

Video games. Success.

Leadership. Nintendo.

Productivity. Xbox.

World of Warcraft. Doing something with your life.

For many, these words are at odds. They seem to be antonyms, on the far opposite ends of the scale. But what if I told you that video games contain many secrets to success, productivity, time management, and ways to make a difference in the real world?

I believe they do.

It was early 2014, and I was sitting at my dining room table thinking about what I can offer the world. On the one hand, I have experienced success in my professional life: I have the “manager” title and I am working a well-respected position with an employer I enjoy. The past 7 years of work are with the same employer, almost enough for a gold watch by today’s standards. The job is mostly predictable, Monday through Friday, regular business hours. My role is making a positive impact in the world: I help healthcare professionals be more successful in their work.

In addition to my day job, I was writing a blog on the topic of life and leadership lessons, but let’s be honest, leadership and productivity blogs are a dime a dozen, maybe even less. I was feeling lost in the mix. I didn’t want to keep doing what everyone else was doing, sharing the same books and telling the same stories. We don’t need another 50 summaries of the same leadership and management books. We have Amazon for that.

So then I took time to reflect on my hobbies. Sure, I have dabbled in quite a few over the years, but one hobby has stayed with me for almost 30 years: video games. Now for as many leadership blogs that are out there, I wager video game blogs far outnumber personal development and productivity websites. As much as I have been keeping up with my gaming hobby, I am sure I know far less than many of these top-notch gaming bloggers, if for no other reason than my plate is full with a wife, a son, and a demanding full time job. While I am sure many of them are in the same position, I was not ready to jump into that pool just yet. My passion lies elsewhere.

There is a long standing stereotype around video games and video game players: people who play video games “don’t have a life.” The imagery of young men who are unwilling to grow up and are incapable of succeeding in real life. The individual who has moved back in with their parents, and live in the basement huddled around the light of the TV or computer screen. Yet here I am. I don’t fit the stereotype. Quite the opposite. In fact, many of my friends are gamers as well, and they don’t fit the stereotype either. Many are successful professional, even in leadership roles.

I would say that many of the traits that made them successful while playing video games also contributed to their success in the professional world. Then it hit me. Could it be possible that life and leadership lessons could be taught from video games? Can those success traits and principles transfer?

Once reaching “adulthood” many video game enthusiasts deal with criticism of our game playing. As a child, we were challenged to justify what appeared to be a waste of time to many, including our parents and other adults we looked up to. Often, the best defense we can muster is “it improves hand and eye coordination,” or as we advanced to playing first person shooters like Doom and Halo we could claim improved “spatial reasoning.” Even the best answers in defense of video games sound like excerpts from a “Things I learned in Kindergarten” poster.  “Play nice with others,” “learn to share,” and “take a nap every day” are examples of the choice wisdom offered. But these ideas don’t go far enough.

I believe real depth exists in the expanse of video game mythology, and that ideas and concepts we learn while playing video games can then be translated into the real world around us: into our professional lives, our parenting, and even our relationships. I know this because I believe the concepts found in many video games are based on principles. Principles are ideas that are timeless and remain true, independent of context, culture or even an era. Principles have value and transferability.

Now these principles have a universal appeal to them, and a game that includes these principles has as much truth as a book, a movie, or even a college class containing the same principles. A simple example is the concept of cause-and-effect. Where can you find a more perfect example of feedback than in video games? The game player sends input through a controller, and then action takes place on the screen that is directly related to the input the player has indicated, almost instantaneously – a very clear example of cause-and-effect.

Video games offer a natural framework for transferring ideas and facts. Author of Game Frame: Using Games as a Strategy for Success, Aaron Dignan asserts that video games offer a teaching advantage “…Through a structured and challenging system that makes the process of learning rewarding, enables deep engagement, provides a sense of autonomy, and asks us to be heroes in our own stories.”

Increasing the potential of video games being leveraged as a teaching tool are many factors, in particular the acceptance and engagement of individuals of all ages, from all walks of life. The reports show that for 2014, 59% of Americans play video games, with the average age hitting 31. Surprisingly, women over the age of 18 represent a larger population than young men under 18.

Jason Allaire, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-director of the Gains Through Gaming Lab comments on this shift in game playing demographics: “People of all ages play video games. There is no longer a ‘stereotype game player,’ but instead a game player could be your grandparent, your boss, or even your professor.”

More than a passing fad or a niche hobby, video games are here to stay and growing in influence. I consider it a responsibility, even an obligation, to embrace and unlock the powerful potential for good that video games represent.

I hope you will join me in this endeavor.