Things I Learned From A Video Game

I had a surreal experience recently from a place I never expected to learn quite a number of things — from a computer shop. My wife’s relative owns a computer shop in the province where in the afternoon, children usually stay to play computer games.

We were visiting her family that night. Being the curious entrepreneur that I am, I decided to check out the computer shop and see how the business was doing and there were a lot of people. Some were even still in their uniforms, which means they had not returned home from their classes. Everyone was rowdy and playing different games, except for this group of friends who seemed to be playing the same game together.

They were playing a computer game that involved playing with a team, shooting the enemy team, and capturing an area — kind of like a “king of the hill” style of the game where they have to stay on one area and keep the other team out. It looked interesting and as I had spare time and out of curiosity, I decided to stay and watch them play. And from their playing, I oddly found a lot of lessons every entrepreneur must know:

1. Importance of defining functions. The game apparently lets you choose characters that are better in killing enemies, some are good in showing them down, among others. Everyone choose his own role and told each other what he picked, perhaps to build a balanced team.

One kid shouted, “I’ll play tank,” which apparently is a gaming term for characters who can last long in battle without dying, but could not kill enemies easily. Others followed up their own pick.

The kids understood the importance of creating a team that would address the requirements of a well-functioning organization. They knew they would need a leader to call the shots, they needed to have good followers who could perform their own roles in the team. This is what leaders in businesses must put to practice. In creating a team, it is not just important to put people who you trust, but also put them where their skills are best suited. Their functions must be defined, in order to avoid confusion.

2. Utilizing information. There is no such thing as perfect information, especially in business where a small shift in trend can steer a chunk of your market away from you. But with a good understanding of the limited information we can gather from both inside our company, and from the outside world, we can make good assumptions.

The kids I was watching were far from quiet, but all for the good reason. They were constantly telling each other the location of their enemies, what they were doing, and which enemy could not be found. With all these information being thrown to their leader, he had to visualize how the entire game was going, and what they had to do to win. He made unusual calls like asking his teammate to block off one path where there was no enemy — which paid off when an enemy showed up just seconds after, where he thought the enemy would be. I have never seen anything like that before! Through the jumbled information his teammates were shooting at him, they were able to predict what they had to do next.

In business, we can only get as much information as we can, and never get perfect information. However, obtaining even small pieces of facts makes a world of difference than relying on gut feel and passion. Information is key in understanding the business landscape; it is through that understanding that we can formulate our courses of action.

3. Synergy. Mind you, these kids playing were all friends, so we could assume at least they had some form of trust with each other. As the match was going on, their leader was telling them to hold their ground until one of their teammates (who had been quiet for the entire game) spoke and asked them to push aggressively against the enemy team. I could not believe that the leader asked them to follow this kid’s command despite their contrary to his. Not until after they won when I asked why the leader abandoned his own decision. He told me, “Because he was playing a support character and he was sure he can keep us alive at that moment even if we played aggressively.” These were the words of their leader. He trusted the call of his teammate and allowed everyone to follow through.

Everyone had their own roles in the game. The kid who made the call was apparently playing what they call a “support” character — someone whose role is to just help keep his friends alive in the match. He could not defeat enemies. He was just focused on helping his friends not lose their individual fights.

Synergy is essential to have an effective team. In business where managers are usually the ones to call the shot, he/she must also know when to trust his subordinates. Marketing managers, for example, must very well take the words of their sales people seriously as they are more aware of the actual scenario in the store than the marketing manager.

The battle in the business landscape is not a battle that a lone wolf can win. He needs a pack he can rely on to perform functions he could not do on his own. He needs to build trust, and through that trust he can eventually develop synergy.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin, C-4, Sunday, April 23, 2017. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.