I’m Game: Can Your Kid’s Mad Skills in Warcraft Get Him a Job?

According to The Wall Street Journal, a growing number of savvy video game players believe that their proven ability to bring satanic druids, malignant warlocks and morally flawed dwarves to their knees can translate into meaningful activity in the real world. No one ever felt this way about checkers.

Many older people, none of whom have ever experienced the thrill of these games themselves, believe that spending hours and hours and hours, and sometimes even decades, locked in a dark room playing video games, only coming out once every four days for a snack, is a complete waste of time, and wrecks your eyesight, and impedes social development and makes it hard to get dates. The participants, by contrast, believe that playing complicated video games—not Pong, not Super Mario—teaches young people how to organize, delegate authority, lead missions, identify objectives, and destroy adversaries. All of which could come in handy in sales, marketing, money management and even public relations.

“Some major firms, including IBM, would welcome a World of Warcraft veteran at the company if only because interactive games teach players how to work together with strangers they may never actually meet.”

The Journal says that a number of major corporations, including IBM, would welcome a World of Warcraft veteran at the company if only because interactive games teach players how to work together with strangers they may never actually meet. The Journal specifically mentions an individual who landed a job as director of marketing and communications at the University of Michigan, after including extensive World of Warcraft experience on her resume. Yes, the successful job seeker—defying the myth that only boys play video games—was a woman.

I agree that such skills should be included on resumes, if only to help a young job applicant explain what he’s been up to for the past 15 years. Employers don’t like resumes with huge gaps between jobs or CVs where the job seeker has no work experience whatsoever. But if the aspiring employee can list 15 years of playing war games eight hours a day on his resume, it proves that he hasn’t been wasting his time skateboarding or hanging around outside the fast-food outlet or watching television or selling drugs. Employers value this.

The idea of listing game-playing skills on a resume should not be limited to video games, however. Poker is a brilliant game that teaches participants the ability to keep a straight face, never give away one’s hand, play reasonable hunches. These skills are enormously useful in the world of business, particularly on Wall Street, particularly during hostile takeovers. The same is true of bridge, pinochle and blackjack. Card games that should probably not be listed on a CV include whist (too antiquated), Old Maids (too juvenile), canasta (too exotic) and three-card monte (borders on the criminal). And for obvious reasons, a job applicant should never write under the space for Work Experience: “I have played an awful lot of Fish.”

Skills developed playing board games might also be included on job applications. Chess, Backgammon, Parcheesi and Go are obvious examples of traditional games that teach skills that can be used in the real world. Risk falls into that same general category, as do Monopoly, Stratego and Clue. Due to their somewhat juvenile nature, neither Candy Land nor Chutes and Ladders should be included on a CV, as they might give the prospective employer the wrong idea about the level of maturity the job seeker has reached. This is especially true if the job applicant is seeking a position that involves moving around large amounts of money.

A number of games fall into a somewhat gray area. Mastery of Bingo might not be the sort of thing one would hasten to include as a skill on a serious resume. Bingo lacks that cutting-edge, plugged-into-the-zeitgeist aura. Moreover, the very word “Bingo” just doesn’t sound as convincing as “World of Warcraft” or “Final Fantasy IX” or “Assassin’s Creed.” Neither does Trivial Pursuit or, for that matter, Boggle. For obvious reasons, cribbage, euchre and pick-up-sticks should never be listed on a resume. Employers don’t mind it if job hunters goof around a bit. But they don’t want things to plunge into the realm of the ridiculous.

Joe Queenan is a regular contributor on business issues, corporate culture, and financial follies to Barron's and The Wall Street Journal.

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