I’ll never forget about this motivational speaker they invited to my high school back in the early 2010s. His name is Jeff Yalden. He was very eccentric, moving, and hilarious, and he reminded me a lot of Matt Foley in that one SNL sketch.
Except, instead of telling us we’d live in a van down by the river, his big line during the speech was: “Take time to think.” If there’s one thing I’ve had a lot of time to do over the last year, it’s been thinking.
Jeff really spoke to me. “Take time to think” is something I will carry around with me forever, and is what leads me into the never-ending void of random information that is my brain. Sometimes a fun place, sometimes a scary place… ya never know these days. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
After quitting my full-time job to pursue a career in the esports industry, I obviously started to think about video games a lot. I was consuming video games, in some way, each and every day without falter. When I started this line of work, the hours I would spend gaming lessened and lessened, because I was spending so much time thinking about it instead.
As a consultant, I was being challenged mentally in my work in a huge way, and it occupied a lot of my time. Working in collegiate esports specifically took things to new limits in my mind. I started to think about big things like integrating esports into college-level curriculum at age 23.
As a result of all this thought, I started realizing that video games had been a major source of helping me hone the skills I needed for these high-level decisions. In fact, I’d argue that video games taught me more about myself and the world around me than any other medium or educational tool.
It was really hard for me to communicate the value video games added to my life when I was a teen. I knew they were important and were helping me build more than an in-game character, which is why I always fought back when my parents challenged me to pause my games, but it wasn’t until I entered the industry as a professional did it “click” for me.
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Boating Video Game School Is…
For most of my heavy gaming years, I ping-ponged between two titles: World of Warcraft (WoW) and League of Legends (LoL). I dabbled in a few other games here and there when I desired novelty, but I would say these were my “core” games.
In the moments that I was playing these games, I was deeply immersed in what I was doing. Whether I was buying and selling items at the Auction House in WoW, or split-pushing top lane as Darius in LoL, I was fully focused on what was going on in-game.
However, it turns out that what I was doing in-game this whole time was setting me up for a well-rounded and successful future IRL. Allow me to explain.
In order to make consistent sales on the WoW Auction House, I had to learn the market inside and out. As a skinner and leatherworker (these are in-game professions you can opt-in for to make or enhance items for yourself and other players), it was important to be aware of how much the materials I collected or needed were going for on the Auction House.
Back when I was playing religiously in the expansion pack Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK), “Arctic Fur” and “Borean Leather” were the materials I always sought after. When WotLK was no longer current, the prices of these materials dropped significantly. Staying current on content was a big part of making sales.
I could either go out and do the work to collect the materials I needed to make gear by skinning in-game animals I killed, or I could buy stacks of them from the Auction House with in-game currency (gold) for a predetermined price from another player. (Most materials for crafting items are stackable, meaning that you can have multiple “stacks” of 20 individual items to save space in your inventory).
If I went with the former, I could choose to skin in excess so I could sell a few stacks of leather on the Auction House and make a profit from the hours of time I put in skinning. To sell faster, I could choose to “undercut” other players on the Auction House by a few gold so that my items appeared as the cheapest.
Through the professions of skinning and leatherworking, as well as buying/selling on the WoW Auction House, I was learning some important life lessons about economics and mathematics, like:
- Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
- Supply and demand
- Marketing and sales
- Production and distribution
- Personal finance
…and it was all organic.
There wasn’t a teacher breathing down my neck, lowkey cringing at me for selecting “B” on the test when the answer was clearly “C.” There were no study guides. There were no flashcards. There was nothing forced about what I was learning. It was all organic, and that was the key for me.
Math was my worst subject in school. The standard curriculum with word problems and “y=mx+b” didn’t make sense to me. In fact, I have vivid memories of crying from frustration in high school math class because my brain just could not comprehend learning math like that. WoW math, however, made complete sense to me, because it was fun.
In LoL, the lessons I was learning were less about academic concepts and more about developing stronger soft skills. Specifically, communication skills.
Whether it was utilizing the in-game pinging system, text chat, or voice chat, there was an unspoken expectation in LoL to communicate my next moves, as the game is team-based. Coordinating a win for a team of 5 people is close to impossible if no one communicates at all!
Being a female in the space definitely added some hurdles to learning this one. I’m still working on my communication skills, but one of the biggest takeaways from my time playing LoL was:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
There were too many times when I was in-game that I tunnel-visioned or just didn’t know what to do. I then paid the price by ruining my KDA score (Kills/Deaths/Assists) and sometimes ended up being the reason for a loss for the whole team. Yikes.
If I would have spoken up, someone might have been able to intervene in those times. For how toxic the LoL community at large can be, I’m confident at least one person on my team would be willing to help me out to the best of their ability.
The inherent educational benefits of video games run deeper than we know. I personally believe we have just started scratching the surface of the crossover between games and education.
The current education system in America is outdated and sort of crumbling before our eyes (let’s be real), so many educators are turning to video games and esports as a solution due to their popularity among our youth.
With talks left and right about incorporating video games into all levels of education, we need to “take time to think” strategically about how and why they are implemented, as to not contaminate the two fields in a way that is counterproductive.
If you want to hear more, I will be talking about how to leverage your gaming passion and skill set to support your college and career goals. Join me at Ritual Motion’s Esports College Fair on March 27-28. It’s free for attendees!
Additionally, if you want more examples about what I learned through gaming (alongside research from other incredible authors), I go into greater detail in a chapter of Esports Research and Its Integration in Education that will be published and available by 2022.