“I’m not a gamer” is something that I, as a gamer, hear a lot. Gaming, unlike a lot of other activities, creates a strange compulsion in people unfamiliar with it, in that they must immediately, on the spot, tell you that they aren’t a gamer before taking the conversation any further. This boils down to a few things, like the exclusive appearance of the gaming scene and the dated social stereotype of what a “gamer” is (note: if you play Candy Crush on your lunch breaks or have Flappy Birds on your iPhone, you probably contribute more to the industry than you realise).
You don’t get this with football, salsa dancing, or most social past-times, for that matter, but this reverse pidgeon-holing happens in gaming and, more notably, in your professional life on a near-daily basis.
How many times have you encountered a “that’s not how we do it” or a “I’m not the person for that” scenario at work? Maybe your colleague has complained about some work they’ve been given, simply because they’ve never done it before, or a team has avoided a new process because they “didn’t do it that way last time”. Sound familiar?
Ruling ourselves out of something is something that we’re all very good at. After all, why not? It’s a really easy, instantly rewarding experience after all – say that you can’t do the new scary thing and you can go back to doing the old familiar thing. If you’re lucky, you might even get to do nothing at all. In the immediacy of a change, this can feel like the best, safest decision, but it could in-fact be the most destructive and the highest risk option in the long run.
There are probably a few positive applications out there for boxing yourself in and out of situations, but in the day-to-day workplace, it’ll likely breed gaps into your team that could have easily been filled with a more open-minded outlook, no further skills necessary.
It’s a scary decision to have to make. Nobody likes change, but, in this now-agile “adapt or die” world of programming, nobody likes to be left behind, either. So, how do you get your team into the habit of getting out of their collective comfort zones? To start off, there’s no better environment than one where everyone is equally the amateur.
So, with that spirit in mind, a Street Fighter tournament was arranged at Orange Bus HQ.
“I’m not a gamer”
“I’m not into fighting games”
“I don’t like violent games”
“I haven’t played a Street Fighter game since the 1990’s!”
All along the gamer/not-a-gamer spectrum, people were finding reasons not to discount themselves from the big competition. However, since it was in the have-a-go environment of the Orange Bus BWI, it didn’t take long to coax a good chunk of the office into the games room.
The magic begins in a fighting game the instant that both players sit down and shake hands.
Not being a fan of Street Fighter has very little to do with the actual act of playing Street Fighter. You box yourself out of liking the game for a variety of reasons – you don’t engage with the characters, you don’t like the idea of fighting, you only like single player and co-operative games, but the thing that Street Fighter is really about, much like a good game of poker or chess, is the act of playing the person across from you. The game is just a vessel for that.
So, before you know it, the Wandering Warrior and the World’s Strongest Woman on the screen simply become moving pawn-like play-pieces on the screen, as you try to predict and outplay your opponent. From there, you’ll either feel the relief of the win, or the frustration of a loss to your colleague, knowing that if you’d just blocked a little more, or jumped a little less, you may have won.
You sit down for another round, not as a newfound fan of fighting games, but as someone who wants to better understand the person sat in the player 2 seat.
This is exactly how the professional Street Fighter player sees the game too. The characters become an arrangement of “hitboxes”, the moves become “active frames”, the buttons become “options”. All of this happens in the first 2 rounds of playing Street Fighter and continues to exist for as long as you play.
At OB HQ, in no time at all, a room full of “not really a gamer” types had transformed, going from saying things like, “that’s not for me” to “I think I’ve got you this time” and “just one more go”, cracking their knuckles, sitting at the edges of their seats.
Long after the tournament had ended, OB staff were still playing, finishing off grudge matches, still trying to punch holes in each other’s defences, no more fans of Street Fighter than they ever were, but certainly bigger fans of competing against each other – the real thing they were boxing themselves out of earlier on.
The final two players were a “not a fighter” and a “sure, but I’ll lose” at the start of the day, at the end, they virtually had to be ushered out of the building.
There’s a likely chance that stepping into new territory could help sharpen your toolset, make future work even easier, or teach you something about yourself that you didn’t already know. “Adapt or Die” can quickly become “Adapt and Overcome”.