Learning organizational skills from video games

Since entering the professional world out of college in 2018, I have consistently found myself mildly overwhelmed by, well, pretty much everything. It has been a rollercoaster of new people, new challenges, and new skills to learn. And as someone with an anxiety disorder it has meant a whole host of new and exciting things to worry about. And, in addition to more conventional means of treating my anxiety, I’ve had to come up with some creative ways to adapt to specific situations, and for those, I tend to draw from what I know best.

And one thing that I’ve known very well for my entire life, is how to play video games.

Once I noticed myself subconsciously adapting my knowledge of video games to find solutions for problems at work, my first thought was, ‘Wow, I’m weird.” My second thought was, “okay, I have to flesh this out. My job is a video game now. What does that look like?’ and I started unfolding this comparison in my head, taking broad concepts of game design and applying them to my everyday routine at Posture. 

So what type of video game is my job? I found the most applicable concepts came from Role-Playing Games (RPGs). RPGs, such as Fallout, Final Fantasy, or The Witcher, are designed to give players a sense of freedom and are usually full of characters to meet and items to collect. And most RPGs share a few key design staples, some of which I’ve found to be useful for keeping up with a fast-paced, collaborative work environment.

Your Quests

The most important aspect of any RPG is the quest, usually the main objective of the game. For me, quests are high-priority items: large-scale projects or tasks with tight deadlines. Other work, such as writing or answering emails, or making small revisions to a pre-existing project, fall under side-quests: lower-priority, but still important! I’ve also jokingly referred to my coworkers as quest-givers when they assign work to me.

Besides making even the simplest task sound way cooler, mentally sorting my work into quests and side-quests is a helpful way of keeping myself organized: what needs to be done, by when, and for who?

Your Inventory

As a videographer, an ever-present part of my work is sorting through massive amounts of raw video files, most of which come out of the camera looking like this:

When dealing with a frustrating situation like this, I draw on another skill I learned from playing RPGs: inventory management.

Many RPGs include massive inventory systems: allowing the player to carry a wide variety of items while they determine what suits their style of play. However, inventory spaces are usually limited, which means that the player must manage their inventory by clearing or selling unwanted items to make room for new ones. Subsequently, this involves spending a lot of time in menus that look like this:

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Basically, playing RPGs has made me feel right at home navigating a labyrinth of menus and sorting through bins of random items, and this has been very helpful when keeping track of a video project that is potentially linked to hundreds of individual files.

Your Controls

Video games have always been my means of escapism: they offer a sense of agency that cannot be matched by any other medium of entertainment. RPGs in particular, have always given me a profound sense of agency: they offer the player multiple ways to approach scenarios, and offer more choice and input than most types of video games. This control is obviously limited; the player cannot control the content of the game, but they can control how they play it.

As a single human I have limited control over the nature of the work that makes it to my desk, which can be an intimidating feeling. However, I do have control over the effort that I put into said work. So, in a roundabout way, playing video games has helped me acknowledge my sense of agency in the workplace, which has helped me cope with work anxiety and impostor syndrome.

What If I Know Nothing About Video Games?

That’s completely fine! I’m not saying that thinking about your work through the lens of gaming will definitely improve your workflow. If you’re not someone who frequently plays video games, it would probably just be confusing. However, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and pull from areas you’re familiar with when it comes to overcoming challenges. If you are adjusting to a new job or even just a new situation that you feel intimidated by, use any and every piece of knowledge you have at your disposal, and you might find some fun, creative ways to tackle those challenges and make your work a little bit more fun in the process.