Key to business is knowing gamers

Hey you, reading this right now.

Were you born after 1970? Did you grow up playing video games?

John Beck calls you a gamer, and he thinks he knows you.

And he thinks he knows what schools and businesses – and you young gamers that are, and will be, staffing them – need to know to learn or succeed: Strategy guides.

Beck, the co-author of “Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever,” spoke yesterday in the Union Ballroom on why understanding video games is crucial to understanding how the mind of almost anybody under 35 works, and how businesses can capitalize on that knowledge.

“This generation’s growing up with the notion that bosses are an obstacle … something to slay, if you have to,” Beck said. “Perhaps you could be a strategy guide … somebody that the gamer comes to when they’re stuck.”

The speech, “Capturing the Value of the Gamer Generation,” was part of the University’s Presidential Lecture Series.

“There is a significant generation gap,” he said. “[It’s] different than any generation gap, we would argue, before, in the history of the United States.”

Beck said video games are part of a youth culture of which the older generations are clueless about.

That, he said, is a different kind of gap then what baby boomers and their parents dealt with as youths when they still viewed the mostly the same content.

“In every house, there was basically one television, there were three channels … and everybody watched it together,” Beck said.

Growing up playing games, Beck said, “creates completely a new way of thinking about the world.”

“This is not passive, baby boomer behavior,” he said. “This is doing. This has a tremendous impact on what people retain and what gets built right into the brain.”

Attempting to bring the interactivity of games into his lecture, Beck bounded up onto the stage and immediately dove into audience participation – a level of energy that remained even after his computer failed to play the song he had hoped to use in his game of “Name That Tune.” He would appeal to audience participation several more times during his speech.

Citing his research, Beck said gamers are more competitive and consider themselves more important than non-gamers. They often picturing themselves as knowledgeable as the “heroes” they control in the virtual world.

“So here’s 20-somethings saying ‘I’m a deep expert,'” and they’re doing so more than even people over 50 years old, he said. “That’s a little self absorbed, wouldn’t you say?”

Responsibility then falls on managers and instructors, Beck said, to learn how to work with the attitudes of gamers.

“Gamers want to be heroes, and you build projects … to make them heroes,” he said. “Something that’s difficult enough to do that when they do it, they know they’ve overcome something.”

Bruce Petryshak, the University’s chief information officer, attended the speech and said he could see similar traits in the younger members of his office.

He also said the University had been “looking at some ways to [integrate] the gaming experience” into classrooms, or possibly developing a gaming degree, but that no specifics were available yet.

Beck also said that gamers have different definitions and ideas of the role of business internationally, sociability and responsibility that are significantly influenced by their years of game playing.

Even psychologically, gamers have become wired differently Beck said. For example, gamers function much better with an array of tasks to do at once rather than with a single, focused task.

“The implications for businesses here are just tremendous,” he said.

At one point, Beck featured a Powerpoint slide listing games that are probably well known to most students at the University, including the Sims, Mortal Kombat, Zelda, and Super Mario Bros.

Each game, he said, provides gamers with a perspective that they can incorporate into the real world.

“This generation knows Mario,” he said. “Once you collect enough gold pieces, you could fly – in this case, in your own corporate jet!”