Nerds are discovering they are, in fact, entrepreneurs.
Nerdy curiosity, pragmatism and overall high intelligence make for technological business success. We know this. And wherever you find this type of entrepreneur, you’ll inevitably find a fascination with video games.
New insight into the neuroscience of gaming indicates that too much of it is a seriously bad thing for entrepreneurial minds.
Video games can drain the motivation and willpower that drives entrepreneurs to make big things happen in life and business.
Obsession with unlocking achievements has negative side effects
A University of Rochester study reveals that there are three critical “satisfactions” that video games seem to fulfill: Autonomy, Competence and Achievement. While Autonomy and Competence are positively correlated with post-play mood elevation, the evidence points to Achievement as the unhealthy component of video games.
The study shows gamers with obsession around “Achievement” value — associated with leveling up characters and progressing through linear unlocking systems — experience negative emotional side effects, post play.
Entrepreneurs interviewed for this article reported that the types of game play associated with achievement progression left them feeling emotionally and motivationally drained.
Brian Martelli, CEO of Kaptu.re, believes he has a healthy — if only occasional — relationship with gaming. He prioritizes simple shooter games resulting in instant gratification. He intuitively avoids games requiring arduous leveling up — a process known as “grinding” amongst gamers.
“When I do play, I want it on easy. I just want to walk through and shoot.”
It’s hypothesized that the linear nature of gaming achievement itself has a draining effect on a gamer’s general motivation. Even the most complex games offer clearly defined skill trees, demanding only the most simple either-or decisions to progress.
Simple achievement is rare in the non-linear world of startups
Entrepreneurs — whose career paths are typically ambiguous and fractal — are attracted to the linear progression of such games precisely because it’s something missing in their lives.
Linear progression rewards entrepreneurs with the emotional gratification of progress. In the start-up business world, entrepreneur’s rarely have the option of following simple instructions to “level” themselves up — financially or otherwise.
Decreased entrepreneurial drive appears to be a serious side effect of this achievement based, linear progression gaming. While it offers a fun experience, it drains the “motivation tank” in the same way challenging mental exercises have been proven to decrease decision making prowess.
A young startup founder and CEO, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed that video games and specifically the “unlocking addiction” were a problem in his career.
“When I start finding myself really obsessing over leveling up in a video game, it’s always obvious — in hindsight — that I was unsure how to proceed in some key cross-road in business. It’s easier to just play games.”
Other entrepreneurs reported similar habits, almost unanimously admitting that long bouts of achievement-based game play were always followed by slumps in motivation to achieve business goals.
The simplicity of video game linear achievements appears to fulfill and replace the hunger in entrepreneurs to “level up” their business or personal life.
What to do if video games are hurting your career progression
The solution lies in distinguishing between the three different types of gaming, as described by the study. The types of games you choose is the key to preventing motivation drain.
Entrepreneurs who let off steam by playing highly autonomous games like Grand Theft Auto V or Minecraft will be less likely to experience post-play emotional slumps. Focusing more on competency — which typically revolves around quick wins and beating opponents in multiplayer scenarios — is also much healthier. Leveling up or “unlocking” focused games are the ones to avoid.
More than anything else, simply knowing why such games are so enticing is itself a significant step in freeing yourself from them. Next time you feel the pull of an addicting game, look for the ambiguous and non-linear decisions you’re trying to avoid. Then lean into them.
Leveling up in real life is always more rewarding that clocking a game.