How Strategy Games Helped Me Manage

Managing this project hasn’t been without challenges. But many challenges can be approached in a game-like fashion I find. The strategy games I’ve played throughout my life have helped me with parallel process thinking and macromanaging as well as knowing where to micromanage when necessary. What I’m trying to say is that all those hours I’ve put into videogames haven’t completely gone to waste.

I’m reminded of Shogun 2: Total War a lot, one of the last strategy games I’ve played.

Shogun 2

Shogun 2: Total War

In Shogun 2, you’re experiencing what its like to lead a Japanese clan into dominion over Japan during the Sengoku period (15th-16th century Japan). One of the aspects of this is a requirement to wage battle in real-time, as you command your troops into combat and find ways to counteract your opponent’s moves.

One of the main pieces of your army is the general, who if you lose during combat will likely cost you the battle. Another important aspect of the general is in improving morale. Keeping him close to your lower morale Ashigaru units improves morale, and deters them from wavering and scattering when faced with losses. I find this to be true at work as well.

In this case, I am the general (a hefty promotion, I know). I notice that when I leave the construction site to do some office work, morale slips. When I return, I’m very suspicious of the multiple whistles I hear, most likely a signal from those ‘on watch’ signaling my return and a cue to keep working. Lately I’ve been more actively surveying different groups to make sure my presence is felt, and I notice it does make a difference. There are certain people I know I need to keep an eye on, and also certain jobs can be done with smaller teams, so I micro manage certain individuals on different tasks. The other day I had 21 people doing 7 different tasks.

Another game I’m reminded of is Age of Mythology (similiar to the Age of Empires franchise).

AoM

Age of Mythology

In Age of Mythology you have to manage your economy whilst managing battling your opponent. Sometimes when a task gets completed by villagers they become ‘idle’, and because your focus is elsewhere, you forget to re-task them on something else. The ‘idle villager’ problem is something I’m experiencing here as well. To solve this, its important to make a round with all the different teams to check progress, and to give follow up instructions so tasks are queued. Even simply observing some teams and being present makes a difference. Kind of like the pharaoh’s ’empower’ ability in Age of Mythology (from general to pharaoh! Getting really generous with these promotions…).

The whole thing with the military ranking system I use for my workers also didn’t come out of nowhere… I’ve played an extensive amount of Brothers in Arms and other squad based shooters like Full Spectrum Warrior, Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon to know how squads should function, and recognize the responsibility that different ranks bestow.

BiAFSW
Brothers in Arms: EiB and Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammer (respectively)

Understanding the different leadership at every level is useful for coordination.

Rainbow Six
Rainbow Six: Athena Sword

Team based tasks are also more easier to manage even though breaching a door with explosives and flash bangs is a bit different to the work I’m doing here.

The underlying theme is that games, especially (real-time) strategy games, have helped me into a mindset of coordination and management in ways I couldn’t have otherwise learnt. The only difference is that clicking and dragging in real life works a little different.

Simulations that put you in leadership and command positions also help craft responsibility for real roles. I remember caring about the life of every pixel soldier in Command and Conquer and often refusing to complete a mission if any of my mech pilots died in Mech Commander.

RA1Mech Commander
C&C: Red Alert and Mech Commander (respectively)

Sometimes you have to make the tough decisions and take responsibility even though you might not make the best choices. There is however a ‘Save’ and ‘Restart’ button which is sometimes missing in real life. Learning through trial and error in the real world is sometimes the only way, but it can happen that you only get one chance, so prepare yourself in whatever way you can to help you make the best decision. By playing games of course. I probably wasn’t thinking about that with all those hours burnt, but things sometimes only make sense once you start to connect the dots in hindsight… and according to Michigan State University scholars, both boys and girls who play video games tend to be more creative, regardless of whether the games are violent or nonviolent (http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2011/video-game-playing-tied-to-creativity/). So my reasoning actually has relating scientific support from the academic community! That’s put my childhood addiction in a whole other light 🙂

Now to see if I can pirate a copy of Mech Commander somewhere…

Ciao 😉

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