Fun skillset: Study finds playing video games can be good for your career

GUILDFORD, United Kingdom — Video games are considered a waste of time by many, but researchers from the University of Surrey suggest that playing online games can actually help professionals develop a more refined skillset for their chosen field.

Study authors found that IT professionals and engineers tend to gravitate towards puzzle-platform games, which can help enhance spatial skills. People working in managerial roles, meanwhile, displayed more interest toward action roleplaying games that require both organizational and planning skills.

Those working in the engineering field preferred strategy games involving problem-solving and spatial skills. Besides career choices, researchers also observed gender differences. Women tend to prefer single-player games, while men went for shooting games more often.

Up until now, no research project had investigated the connections between online gaming behaviors and how career interests are reflected by the games people choose to play. So, in order to better understand how video games can impact players’ future career planning and professional training, the research team at Surrey, in collaboration with Game Academy Ltd., assessed the gaming behaviors of 16,033 people.

Study participants played various online games on Steam, a video game digital distribution service and storefront. With that data in hand, the research team focused on the 800 most played video games, and only included participants for whom they had access to both gender and job information.

“In recruitment processes, the best candidates may be missed because organizations do not consider the soft skills that have been gained through non-work activities (for example, online gaming). As a result of our research, we believe applicants’ online gaming experiences should be highlighted because these acquired soft skills can really help to develop their all-round strengths for the job at hand,” says lead study author Dr. Anna-Stiina Wallinheimo, a cognitive psychologist and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Surrey’s Centre for Translation Studies (CTS), in a university release.

“By understanding to what extent career interests are reflected in game playing, we may be able to demonstrate more clearly how these align with career interests and encourage employers to understand the value of the soft skills associated with gaming. Our research could also inspire game developers to work on honing these soft skills more closely in their design,” explains study co-author Dr. Anesa Hosein, Associate Professor in Higher Education at the University of Surrey.

“Furthermore, places of learning, such as universities, could allow students to reflect and incorporate gaming as part of their career development and consider how gaming can be included in the curriculum to enhance alignment between students’ learning, career aspirations and extra-curricular gaming interests.”

The study is published in the journal Simulation & Gaming.

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John Anderer

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