Tobold's Blog
Sunday, October 06, 2019
No-lifer video game excellence

I am good at my day job. How do I know that, when there curiously is no "gear score" or similar rating of my performance displayed over my head? Well, while companies aren't always very good with giving feedback to employees, they tend to have some pretty easy system in place. Your continued employment depends on you not totally sucking at your job. And if you do your job well, you probably get a promotion from time to time, and/or a bonus. If you really need a score, you could argue that the number on your paycheck is just that, a representation of your value to the company that employs you.

A major reason why I am good at my job is that I have been doing it for about quarter a century, for over 40 hours per week, around 2,000 hours per year, or 50,000 hours total. That is well above the usual estimate of 10,000 hours needed to master something. Now because you know me only from my blog, and on my blog I tend to write about games, you might think that games are my major occupation. They aren't. I spend significantly less than 2,000 hours per year on games. Furthermore I play a wide variety of very different games. The skills that would for example make me a good dungeon master in Dungeons & Dragons are completely irrelevant to my performance in World of Tanks. So while I have a good "general gaming" skill and knowledge, there are few games in which I am any good, and none in which I could dream of winning an e-sports or other game tournament (well, I did win some minor Magic the Gathering tournaments long ago, but only local ones).

Why am I talking about my skills in my job and in games? With games having become more and more "main stream", there are now millions of people like me. People who work a full-time job and are good at it, and then spend much less time on games than they spend on their job, and so they aren't particularly excellent at those games. Now the convention in gamer culture is to look down on me and these other millions of people. Filthy casuals, that can't even dedicate 10,000 hours on completely mastering game X. How dare they tread the same (virtual) ground as the masters of the universe, the people who are really good at their chosen video game?

Now the casual players tend to also spend less time to gather on forums and talk about games. But if they would, their point of view somewhat mirrors the point of view of the hardcore gamer. The thing is that there are only so many different things a single person can be good at. There are only 8,760 hours in a year, and if you consider the need for sleep and other necessities that means you need at least 2 years to put in 10,000 hours to mastery into anything, and only if you concentrate on one single thing. You need to choose carefully what you want to become good at. The reason why many people choose to become good at their job is the above mentioned link between job skills and pay check. From the people who are excellent at a video game, only a tiny percentage can make a living out of it, be it from prize money in tournaments or as streamer / YouTuber / influencer.

In absolute terms being good at your job isn't completely incompatible with being good at a video game. You could fit in a 40-hour job with 40 hours per week of gaming, if you don't do much else. But for most people that would be stretching it. So the people who do work 40+ hour weeks are often correct in assuming that the people who play 40+ hours per week don't also excel at their jobs. So when it comes to trading insults, the "no-lifer" description of the hardcore gamer is an obvious one, even if it isn't always true.

That has consequences. For example in the course of my job I sometimes have to review CVs of young people for job interviews. I am pretty certain that most people under 30 play video games regularly, and a good percentage of them plays them enough to qualify at least as "a hobby". However the "hobbies" category of a stack of CVs is full of reputable things like sports and social engagement, and rather void of any mention of games. So even people who would privately consider themselves as "gamers" wouldn't want to attach that label to themselves when applying for a job. I don't frequent dating sites, but I'd assume that it is the same there. "No-lifer" is more than an insult; it is a description that hardcore gamers actually fear when it comes to their life outside of games. Anything you do in life has an opportunity cost, that is to say it costs you time you could do something else with. As gamers, hardcore or casual, we need to be aware of what the opportunity cost of gaming is, and if we are really always doing the right choices.

> the "hobbies" category of a stack of CVs is full
> of reputable things like sports and social engagement
> and rather void of any mention of games.

I think it makes sense NOT to mention videogaming, because it would be like mentioning "proficient with Gmail". Everyone can sit on a couch and play Mario. While almost every 20-30 male candidate is probably playing videogames on a regular basis, not everyone is practicing sports and/or social/healthy activities. So.. Yes, even though I am a casual gamer myself I still think gaming doesn't add anything valuable to your CV, unless you're applying to a gaming-specific job and your gaming time is spent in a way that could be useful for the company (example: you're a modder, texture artist, etc).
People don't mention "Watching TV by myself" as a hobby, either. In fact, you probably don't see a lot of "Doing X by myself" in there.

Everyone wants to look like a dynamic, social creature that rock climbs and plays sports. So they lie their asses off. er... "Stretch the truth considerably." towards that end.
Well smoke, lots of people do lie, but you're right. Gaming is roughly equivalent to watching TV so why do some people make it an identity while TV people don't?

I've played a LOT of video games over the years. Had a lot of fun with them. If I had a time machine though I would have played a lot less of them though. Not saying none. Just a lot less. You can get 80% of the fun in the first 20% of the time, seems like. And mastery of a video game is like being an excellent kazoo player. Technically an accomplishment, but barely.
Back in the days when I actually applied for jobs (last time would have been about two decades ago) I always put my actual hobbies and interets in that part of the form and on my C.V. I used to put reading, comics, watching movies amongst other things. I used to get interviews, so thos things didn't seem to put people off calling me in, but I can't recall anyone ever asking me a question about them.

I got the impression that no-one interviewing cared tuppence for how I spent my leaisure time. Maybe that's changed but I doubt it.

Also, I thought that 10,000 hours theory had been roundly dismantled and shown to be nonsense? It self-evidently does not take 10,000 hours to become proficient or even expert at a specific video game. I very much doubt it takes 10,000 minutes.
> I got the impression that no-one interviewing
> cared tuppence for how I spent my leaisure time.

Maybe your interestes were completely non-relevant for the job position. If I apply for job as senior developer I will not write "I love cooking Asian food and I enjoy playing with my cats". Who cares, to be honest?
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