In the opening lines of the original Star Trek series captain James T. Kirk introduces the episode with the phrase “Space: the final frontier”?. Today there is a new frontier being crossed by society. A frontier no less foreign, intimidating, and in some people’s minds, no less fictional than Star Trek’s galaxies – this new frontier is the world of the Gaming Generation.
Generation X and the Millennials are the first generations to have grown up in the computer game era. In the past games were events; everyone would gather around and block off an evening or significant amount of time to play Monopoly, Risk, Backgammon, or cards. The game was played at a time set aside specifically for it. Today’s youth come home and turn on the TV to play on their Playstation, not watch TV. When they stand in queues they have games on their cellphone or iPod to keep them busy. At the end of the year when Sony releases the PlayStation 3 it will be the most powerful computer in the household. In short, games and gaming pervade almost every sphere of their lives, not just the odd Friday evening put aside for a social gathering.
This shift has built gaming into the DNA of the Gaming generation. Their values, worldview, and lifestyles are affected as they look at the world very differently to those non-gamers they share the world with. These changes need to be understood & engaged with as we become the colleagues, friends, bosses, and parents of this group. World of Warcraft [one of the most popular games on the internet] wizard Helen Cheng says that many players spend more time playing the game than working at their regular jobs.

Gaming as Sport
In July 2005 a group of 750 gamers gathered in the Louvre Carousel shopping mall in Paris. The group had got together for the Electronic Sports World Cup. Gamers who participate at this level talk about Electronic Sports rather than computer games. Through the course of the competition it was expected that in excess of 40 000 spectators would watch the sportsmen & sportswomen battle for global supremacy. Each of them was a winner at regional level already so they represented a significant global constituency who take gaming as seriously as they do.
One of the new gaming genres is Massively Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Games, popularly called MMOPRG’s or MMO’s. These games are internet based with several million people having downloaded them. Game play takes place in an online environment where in excess of 1 Million players can be online playing at the same time. The 750 players at the World Cup in France represent the cream of this social crop.
While it cannot be considered a main stream sporting code, gaming is building a big enough base to soon be calling for recognition as an official sport. Nineteen-year-old Oskar Holm, from the Swedish team NIP, spoke about his career ambitions: “I’m playing full time now. I finished high school one year agoâ€?.
One of my business partners is on the governing body of his daughter’s school in Johannesburg and he has already convinced the school to allow computer gaming to be offered as an extra-curricular activity: they have jumped at the chance (and this is a girl’s school).
Gaming and Success
In computer games learning, & eventually success, is done by trial & error. When you try something in a game and “die” or fail, you go back to begin or “respawn” at the last place the game allowed you to bank your lives. When you get to the place where you died last time around you try something else….until eventually you succeed – and then you move on to the next challenge. Failure isn’t dying or needing to respawn, there is only one thing that gamers see as failure and that is trying something again when you know it didn’t work before.
Gamers are also good at sharing failures and ways of achieving success. There are literally millions of websites and chat sites where gamers share stories and gaming insights.
The implication for those of us who work & live with gamers is that they see failure as an integrated part of the process that leads to success. John Beck & Michell Wade recently wrote a book on the gamer generation called “Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Foreverâ€? in an interview on the book they said: “Gamers are also resilient. They know failure is survivable, because they have each failed literally thousands of times on the way to whatever success they have had with gamesâ€?. Not only are they not stressed out by failure, they actually embrace it. The benefits they bring to teams and situations they engage in is that they also share these failures freely so that others can learn from them. Gamers don’t see failure as weakness, but the inability to eventually succeed most certainly is.
Connection & Social aspects of gaming
In a recent Business Week podcast the interview discussed the emergence of “post-geographic” man. The phenomenon they were referring to was the project dynamic where people from all over the world are working on a task together with none of the team members ever having met in person. The online gaming community live in a post-geographic reality where it is possible to have significant, though different, relationships & friendships with people on the other side of the world.
Many parents of gamers wring their hands in concern as they watch their child closet themselves in front of the computer screen with no “social interaction”. When friends do come around they sit virtually wordlessly in the lounge playing against each other on Playstation or Xbox. Even when the family goes on holiday the PlayStation Portable [PSP] now comes along too.
The lesson that those of us who grew up in a “geographic” world need to learn is that the social reality of this new dynamic are very different from those we are comfortable with. We need to realise that connection and socialising in this world are not wrong because they are different, they are just different. At the same time, there are some “real world” social skills that gamers will not develop that can hamper their ability to engage with the real world around them.
Gaming creates employment opportunities
Gamers have used their new view of the world and the opportunities it provides to begin creating a new set of career opportunities. The gamers at the World Cup are increasingly able to leverage their popularity & reputation so that gaming offers the potential for a future occupation.
In some parts of the gaming world a sub-culture is developing of young men & women who are using the dynamic of the community to make some money. There is some social backlash from ‘hardcore’ gamers, but there is also definitely a market for what these people are offering. It has been estimated the in 2005 a total of $800 million was spent in the gaming world buying virtual add-ons like swords, different clothes, bigger houses, etc.
The people in the community who sell these things are called “farmers”. Farmers spend time in one place in a game killing all of the bad guys / dragons and amassing significant points & online currency. The purchaser will then pay the “farmer” using real money via a paypal account. Once the “farmer” has their money they will send their online character [called an avatar] to the buyer’s character to deliver the purchased virtual item. There are whole groups of young men & women, in developing countries with cheap bandwidth, who are choosing this type of farming as a legitimate career option.
Gaming is gender neutral
While the numbers of female gamers are significantly lower than men (only 20% of the competitors at the Gaming World Cup were women] the gaming community is responding. New games are being written that cater for the unique dynamics that female gamers want. The skills required to play games are not specific to either gender. There are more male than female gamers at the moment because of the types of games that have been designed. It is however equally easy for a guy or girl to be a world class gamer.
As more games are designed that are attractive to both genders – like the SIMS – we should expect the male female ratios to equalise.
In light of the picture sketched above there is one final point to note on the impact of the gaming generation in your world.
Gamers don’t live life according to rules, but they look for the logic behind the rules and make decisions based on this. Successful gamers beat the game by ignoring the rules of the game and trying to understand the logic / thought process that the author used to design the rules. As they do this they learn new ways of engaging with the physical community they are part of. This means that they will be seen to ignore rules. They will engage with social groups by carrying themselves according to what they see as the logic behind the rules – if they end up failing in the process, not a problem, they will “respawn” and try again.
The Gaming Generation will change the world as we know it. They will rewrite the dynamics of social interaction and unlock new commercial opportunities. We need to understand them to get the best out of them, and position ourselves to be successful in the new world that is upon us.
The rock band REM said it: It’s the end of the world as we know it; and I feel fine. We need to engage with gamers if we want to feel “fine” in the world they create.

TomorrowToday Global