It took me years to realize how, in so many subtle ways, my hobby of videogaming prepared me to be an entrepreneur. Finally, studies are researching more than the 1990s witchhunt of “do videogames make kids violent” (answer: it was “no”). They’re looking at how playing videogames helps kids think and evolve in ways school doesn’t.
No matter what field you’re in, quitting your cushy-but-lame desk job and starting on the road to work for yourself can be the start of a hard, rocky road (that of course is totally worth taking to your destination of self-employment).
After a few years of flying solo full-time, as a videogames fan I can’t help but see more and more similarities in how you progress in gaming vs. what leads you to real-life triumph.
Want the Good Ending? Be a Paragon.
In most role-playing games, you spend a lot of time on “side quests” — doing tasks for small rewards for people who would rather complain than solve it themselves. We play videogames because progress and reward are two of the strongest human motivators, so it makes sense that helping a character track down their lost cat or deliver a package across town (with the promise of reward) is enough a draw for us to put on hold our quest to save the kingdom for 10 minutes.
It can be extremely hard to figure how to balance your time when you’re starting your business. You’ve got to put food on the table here and now, with your mind simultaneously set toward toward future strategy that will create long-term success.
But if you fight a one-man battle, only concerned about your self-preservation and survival, not only will you burn out, but you’ll burn out others, as well. Studies show that helping others increases your happiness meter.
“Be generous” is a motto I live by thanks to one of my industry mentors. Help solve others’ problems, and they will want to help solve yours. Maybe not immediately in the form of a cash reward like in an RPG, but goodwill is one of the most important things to stockpile as an entrepreneur.
You need confidence in yourself and what you bring to the world, but keep your ego in check — people can easily sense when you’re too full of yourself, or worse yet, or talk, and it’s a business tur-off.
Yes, it can be fun to play a snot in games that allow you choice in your actions, but in real life, the relationships you burn through rubbing people the wrong way don’t go away by pushing the power button.
Gamer’s Example: In the Mass Effect series, your Commander Shepard is constantly deciding between “Paragon” (lawful good, letter-of-the-law, empathetic) and “Renegade” (loose cannon, take-matters-into-my-own hands, caustic) decisions.
While you can play to the end no matter what, I noticed that developer BioWare does little in-game to reward Renegade decisions In ME2 and 3 as it does for Paragon. Paragon choices bring you better allies, more in-game bonuses, more conversation, and more long-term interaction with the game universe.
I guess there’s a lesson in that (even though my Shepard is a justice-oriented Renegade – basically a Batman who looks like a muscle-bound Freddie Mercury).
Don’t Let Crazy People Stop You
Being a kind, generous person will keep you on the road to entrepreneurial success – and in videogames.
But anyone who’s played a videogame knows there are certain people who cannot be reasoned with, whether it’s Donkey Kong, a Final Fantasy villain, or idiot teammates who keep blowing the match in Call of Duty.
Everyone has to deal with their personal “bad guys” — the people who are trying to stop you from doing what you believe in.
Try as you might to forge positive relationships, you can’t connect with everyone. Some people want to take advantage of you to further their business. Some people just won’t understand what you do. Some people just don’t seem quite right in the head.
As long as you know the person you are and the way you want to do business, the easier it is to deal with people who you just can’t connect with. There’s no need to get mad, or petulant, or angry. You might feel like that on the inside sometimes, but if you need to cut a business or personal relationship off, it’s OK. Just do it with class, even if they don’t seem to have any.
Gamer’s Example: RPGs are full of people who you just can’t help, like this weird guy who’s sick in Final Fantasy VII. You took the time to talk to him, but there’s nothing you can do for him. You do what you can, but on with your quest.
Talk to Everybody (and More Than Once)
In Lunar: The Sliver Star, as a kid I thought it was the coolest thing ever that people had more than one thing to say if you talk to them multiple times! In early videogames, there just wasn’t enough memory on the cartridge to go through the trouble of writing multiple dialog for every random character in the game.
Thanks to the storage of the CD medium, finally conversation could be a bit more realistic in the games world (and often hilarious, too).
I don’t believe in turning every “no” into a “yes” in business. I figure out how our services can benefit other businesses, and then make a contact, then explain how we can help them book better events.
But pretend like your industry is an RPG. In gaming, when you go to a new town, most players talk to everyone there to see what’s going on and if there’s any opportunities they have for your party.
Likewise, attend networking events and talk to as many people as you can. Learn their stories; learn about their companies. Then figure out if you can solve a problem for them.
I am not an organized person by nature (and I’m rather forgetful) so I learned that I wasn’t going to get anywhere unless I wrote everything down in terms of businesses who can utilize our services. I maintain a Google sheet that as of this writing contains 130 contacts & organizations that we can or might do business with.
I maintain name/position/phone/email/date last contacted/notes/next step (to remember where we met, any special needs their business has, what our last conversation was about, etc). I keep in bold about 10 companies I have the strongest relationships with. This list is in my home city alone, and as our company expands, we’ll keep one for other regions, as well, as we do events internationally.
Top-line awareness is key for your business to succeed, and emailing clients (and potentials) regularly to see what you can help with will generate results for you. Don’t be annoying about it, but just be helpful!
Gamer’s example: In the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series, there are multiple times you’ll be stuck, checking every nook and cranny in investigative mode. Usually, if you can’t figure out what to do next, go back to each location and run through all characters’ conversation options again. The same goes for real life — if you feel stuck, talk to your mentors or peers!
Birds of a Feather Party Together
In a videogame, if you want to go on an epic quest to either save the galaxy or find personal glory, do you invite random dudes off the street to join your party? No, you find the people who are motivated, adventurous, the best at what they do. Characters who want to learn, experience life, and do something epic.
There are many ways you have to reshape how you think and see the world to become a successful entrepreneur. Most people are cool with a 9-5 job, working for a company, whether they really enjoy it or totally loathe it. Starting a business is a huge leap!
But you cannot even start that journey until you seek out both like-minded peers and talk to mentors who have already found success in your industry.
Your friends and surrounding have a tremendous impact on how you view the world. Most people do not want to be entrepreneurs — and that’s fine! But if you harbor entrepreneurial desires, join networking groups (even outside your field), read books on those who’ve paved their own way, and talk to the people you want to emulate and understand.
Score.org is a free resource for anyone looking to start a business. Score is all retired business proessionals who can assist with questions like: How do I LLC? How do I open a business bank account? What’s a business plan? Is my idea for a product crazy? How do I pay myself?
I joined the International Special Events Society in 2013, when I was still simply in catering and wanted to find an event coordinator job. Inspired by so many successful small business owners who were generous with their time to me, I started Games Done Legit because of the encouragement and support I found for my ideas of using videogames to entertain at special events.
Without being surrounded by successful entrepreneurs — some of whom run 2-person businesses, some of whom run nationally known organizations — I never would have had the inkling that one can start with an idea, some knowhow, and some hardware, and create a business.
Gamer’s Example: Just imagine fighting the last boss in any videogame with a Level 0 NPC. If you want to become an entrepreneur, you have to elevate to a Level 1 “hero” class and seek our your journey. Then, over time, you become that business badass ready to take on the highest challenges you seek.
Any takeaways that I could share with others in regard to what you’ve learned playing videogames? Please share with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Subscribe on YouTube for gaming + business-related interviews and videos, plus a look at our uber-cool videogaming special events!