Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

What Multiplayer Games Have to Do with Leadership Development and the Future of Work

When not gallivanting around Gielinor slaying monsters, completing quests, or working on skill levels on my own, I’m leading a small group through an activity that involves finding several roaming pixelated penguins disguised in bush, rock, or barrel costumes. It all sounds very silly and lighthearted but, let me tell you, this can turn into a challenging endeavor! Although I didn’t initially seek out leadership, I took up this task as planning the sequence of places to visit and the optimal route through them as well as coordinating sweeps (where we split up to efficiently cover a large area) came naturally to me. The challenge is in communicating directions to people you can’t see face-to-face and, similar to those familiar conflicts that arise when driving around with your significant other and getting lost, the interpersonal frustrations that flare up – What do you mean you don’t know where Piscatoris Fishing Colony is?! You just did a quest there recently FFS!!!

As described in this article, Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders: Online games put the future of business leadership on display (IBM, Seriousity; 2007), practicing the art of navigating your way and interacting with others in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) facilitates building communication and leadership skills necessary for working in fast-paced dispersed, virtual work environments where the people you may be working with come from far-flung places around the world. Moreover, as the article points out, the MMORPG environment often prompts people who would not ordinarily seek out leadership opportunities to step up and give it a try for short “projects.”

Such short-term opportunities that give more people a chance to lead reflect the nature of leadership in dynamic, ever-changing situations that today’s organizational leaders find themselves in. In this scenario it becomes more advantageous to elect one person to take the lead for a special project or circumstance and then have someone else take over leadership for another. So, it can be the case that people will increasingly find themselves taking turns leading and following. Other key points about the nature of leadership in virtual environments made by this article are included below:

Online gaming environments facilitate leadership through:

  1. Project-oriented organization
  2. Multiple real-time sources of information upon which to make decisions
  3. Transparent skills and competencies among co-players
  4. Transparent incentive systems
  5. Multiple and purpose-specific communications mediums

In fast moving distributed environments, leadership can be:

  1. A temporary phenomenon
  2. Task-oriented
  3. Dynamic and constantly changing

Hence, I agree with the article’s concluding point below that this form of play can contribute  to gamers’ professional development.

It’s not a stretch to think resumes that include detailed gaming experience will be landing on the desks of Fortune 500 executives in the very near future. Those hiring managers would do well to look closely at that experience, and not disregard it as a mere hobby. After all, that gamer may just be your next CEO.

Nice isn’t it that the hundreds or even thousands of hours some of us have spent in these MMORPGs hasn’t been all for naught? I have often suggested that I should list my in-game accomplishments on my resume just to show how tenacious I am: Lynn’s MMORPG achievements. Finally, for those who have a similar tenacious interest in how the online gaming experience provides a training ground for functioning in the distributed workforce of the future, here is a long but interesting lecture about it at Stanford University:

Join us at the next Better Collaboration online Meetup which takes place Wednesday, May 22nd, 2:30-4:00 pm EST (11:30-1:00 pm PST): Innovating the way dispersed teams collaborate! 


Featured speaker is Paul Brody, CEO and Co-Founder of Sococo. Sococo is an innovative tool for fostering impromptu collaboration without having to physically be at the same place. Everyone can see who is around and, with one click, can immediately start a conversation or meeting (voice, video, chat, multiple screen shares).

These educational video conference series are geared towards organizational leaders who wish to learn more about improving collaboration and productivity through the use of online tools. Visit the Better Collaboration website or register here at on the Better Collaboration meetup page!

3 responses to “What Multiplayer Games Have to Do with Leadership Development and the Future of Work

  1. Pingback: Internet games and Leadership | Leadership By Virtue

  2. cindy knoke October 13, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    This is fascinating too!

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