Changing the Game

I’m part of the generation that grew up with video games, pen-and-paper role-playing games, tabletop wargames, and online mobile games. If you’re reading this and have a mobile telephone in your pocket, it’s likely that you have more gaming power in that one device than was available to the sum total of all previous generations (that was speculative, but I’m confident, like an Angry Bird). Games are increasingly part of everyday life, and it’s time we understood how they can make people more employable.

Games have copped a bad rep over the past decade or so, blamed for time-wasting, lowering academic performance, causing mental health problems, even inciting hate-crime. It’s only recently that our Attorneys-General decided that games should be treated the same as other media, and that took a long time. This indicates that there is a lot we don’t understand about games, and as employment providers, this is an opportunity for us to learn about the next generation of workers.

Recent findings from science research companies are showing that gamers have specific problem-solving skills that are highly valuable in the workplace. If that report was a little verbose for you, the story was also reported by The Age. A skillset that is fun to learn, uniquely needed, and possessed primarily by younger people? That’s great news for employers. It’s great news for people with disabilities too, because it shows that some skills transcend perceived workplace limitations.

I want to share a more specific example of this from my own case files. One of my clients, let’s call him Harry (see my previous post, and thanks to Jacquie F for the advice) is a regular gamer. Talking about games was a good way for me to build rapport with him. I like to find out what type of games my clients play, and it turns out that Harry and I have pretty similar gaming tastes. Harry struggles with communication, especially with new people, so this common ground was a blessing. It also turned out to be critical in placing Harry in a job.

An internet startup that runs out of Tamworth needed someone to attract hits to their website. Harry is able to do this by posting reviews, strategy articles, and other posts about the games he plays. He actively looks for questions that people are asking in forums, then posts answers on his employer’s site. There’s no direct contact with other people, so the work leverages both Harry’s interests and his preferred methods of communication. Harry may also be able to use the work that he’s performing to satisfy some school curriculum outcomes. In gaming terms, that’s an epic win.

The lesson from Harry’s story is that disability employment providers shouldn’t just be changing the rules, e.g., offering wage subsidies or supported wages: we should be changing the game. When I started working with Harry, I didn’t consider his gaming skills particularly relevant to employment. Now they are his employment. Harry brought his skills to the employer and found a way to use them productively. How do your skills present unique and creative opportunities for potential employers? Post your ideas in the comments section.