As the proverb goes, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” In this case, Jack is a generic name for a “hard-working, supernova entrepreneur.” The best way to massage that hard-working mind of yours is through a digital romp in a video game universe. The chance to change gears and get involved with a different world for a while will help you start afresh when tackling your company’s problems.
However, not all video games are simple entertainment. Real-time strategy, simulation and puzzle games all offer entertainment with real challenges. These six games are a great way of entering into the video game world while leaving your thinking cap on.
1. Portal 1 & 2
The Portal series is physics-based, which means that the crux of Portal’s world is manipulating objects and seeing the results. Using your portal gun, you can create a wormhole that connects the first shot and second shot of your gun; you are linking spaces. Your goal is to simply leave each room you find yourself in. If this sounds confusing, here is a gameplay trailer that will show you what it means to “think with portals.”
Portal is basically one of those horrible slide puzzles from when we were kids but in a 3D universe with a compelling storyline. The platforming elements, clever enemies and unusual puzzles of Portal involve using a high-level of creative thinking all entrepreneurs should be familiar with. Here is a diagramof one of the clever ways of ambulating within the Portal universe.
2. World of Warcraft
Massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMOs) is a dangerous genre of gaming. There are countless stories of people getting addicted to their online personas and foregoing the rest of their lives just to level up their wizards and warlocks, but this is where the real challenge is. Since World of Warcraft is so compelling, entrepreneurial players can rise in the ranks quickly, create guilds and gain “power” in the virtual realm.
Stephen Gillett, the CIO of Starbucks and formerly the youngest CIO of a Fortune 500 company, claimed that he learned everything about managing people during his time as a guild leader in WoW. MMOs allow players to create a completely unique identity for themselves and interact in a world with millions of other player’s avatars. This gives players boundless opportunity to make money, gain power and create influence. Since the game is so fluid, understanding changing power structures, new enemies and managing people are all useful skills to succeed, just as they are for any entrepreneur.
3. Second Life
In a similar vein to World of Warcraft, Second Life is a free counterpart to standard MMOs. There are no quests, armor, or even goals in Second Life, it’s simply a collaborative 3D space where the users create the world. Multiple companies, like BigPond, Pontiac, and especially IBM, have had success engaging their customers through Second Life. Some companies, like Seltra, use the Second Life platform as the crux of their business. Second Life gives entrepreneurs the chance to flex their creative muscle in a fun virtual world with anything from virtual real-estate to in-game gadgets and fashion. Here’s agreat book on the subject.
Everyone loved Lego blocks when they were a kid (or an adult) and Minecraft is the massively scaled up, digital equivalent. Just like Second Life, there is no direct “point” to Minecraft. The main game mode allows the user to create anything. Seriously, the point of the game is take your player and make everything from the ground below you to the sky above you. Using this unlimited gaming palette, players have made a gigantic, “true size” Star Trek Enterprise, a very simple 16-bit computer and even a multi-part web series called “Survival Island.”
While most entrepreneurs must wait years for their ideas to even begin to come to fruition, Minecraft allows anyone to make anything, as long as they do it block by block.
Micromanagement, vast empires, enemies and allies, real-time strategy games test the limits of players’ awareness and finesse. Being able to collect enough varied resources, defend your home base, and expand your empire truly tests your multi-tasking abilities. As this video shows, the battles can become intense very quickly. Since RTS games use a rock-paper-scissor approach to battle, managing which units are fighting what, when and where becomes crucial. For example, if your anti-air units become flanked, then your main combat units become open to air strikes which opens further possibilities for your enemies which you must now counter. The levels of stress and quick pace of RTS games such as Age of Empires and StarCraft are very similar to the life a busy entrepreneur.
What is this archaic piece of gaming history doing on this list? If you’re a die-hard gaming nerd, you already know. BattleToads is infamous in the video game industry for simply being the hardest game ever made. The most infuriating aspect of the game is the fact that it’s so simple to control. All of your movements come down to incredibly successful timing and precision. As the writers for GameSpy state, “it’s so hard that smashing your head through drywall was, at times, more fun than playing this freakin’ game.”
It’s a badge of honor. If you have the dedication to conquer this game, you can defeat anything.