I work in a technology company full of alpha type engineers who frequently disagree with each other – today was no exception. I walked late into a Skype design review meeting between my office mate and a colleague in a remote office. Tempers rose over some rather fringe technical issue and personal competencies (or lack thereof) were questioned in no uncertain terms. The situation was far too hostile for me to mediate by conventional means and all I could aim to achieve is a quick stalemate and prepare for a slow rebuilding of the relationship. I knew that my office mate has a very short fuse and I needed to act fast or the project is in jeopardy. I also knew that he is an avid WoW player – the poor soul – and so I muted the phone, told him to hold DPS and let me take the aggro. My office mate shut up on the spot and let me deflect my remote colleague’s wrath as best as I could. I am not saying that the situation is fixed but it could have gone so much worse that I had to count it as a success.
This is a slightly amusing story but it got me thinking. What skills have I learned or practiced in-game that help me in my real life. And I don’t mean the faster reflexes from FPS games and better situational awareness borne in cloaky intel missions. I wondered more about social skills, EVE online is after all a deeply social game.
I think I have become a lot better in listening – and not only because Teamspeak is a simplex communication system but also because I deal with people from very different backgrounds. We have Germans, Dutch, US Americans, Swedish, Eastern Europeans, Brits, a Kiwi and even a few Scottish pilots on our small alliance. Trying to understand the different accents, view points and attitudes has undoubtedly made me a better listener.
Humility. As I mentioned on top of this post, I work in technology companies which are by definition arrogant and take pride in their experience, accomplishment and education. By isolation, we loose our perspective that amazing people are found everywhere. Some years ago – in my WoW days – my DPS was below where I wanted to be, given my gear and experience. A fellow hunter took me to a target dummy and worked with me through the rotation. I added 1/3 of DPS in my first round, more with some fine tuning. That fellow hunter was the most knowledgeable, patient, kind and attentive coach I could have ever wanted. Later, I learned that he was about 17 years old, dropped out of high school and worked in McDonalds. And this was not an exception. Over the years of online gaming, I met many, many players who I would not normally meet in my daily life but are the most amazing people, incredibly smart, caring and personable – no matter what their educational, socioeconomic or geographic background may be.
Personal limits. Its a bit hard to explain but playing EVE and having a working life collided not so long ago. I was the recruitment guy for my corp and one of the core guys to keep the corp going. I cared for the well-being of my corp and corp mates more than was healthy and a swift, sharp kick to the balls from my friend and alliance boss helped me back to get to reality. I needed to step away and let a new generation of leaders run their game, coach and advise where required but make space.
I am sure I can find more points where the virtual life impacted positively on my professional or personal life but its late, I am tired and I need to get back and see if I can firefight other problems with remote colleagues around the world. I need a sensor damper – beer…