If you’ve ever wondered whether you could make a real contribution to the world but aren’t sure you have any really meaningful talents, perhaps you should look at how you play computer games. A growing body of research suggests that the virtual world can show you what you are truly capable of.

While some people see video games as a means of living out fantasy, the truth is who we are in the virtual world largely reflects who we are in the real one. For instance, one piece of research has found that a player’s real values match their in-game decisions, suggesting that their true personality often gets reflected in a game scenario. There is also evidence that our ability to lead is strongly reflected in the way we form relationships in video games.

Some of us are fortunate enough to be aware of these kinds of skills and can take advantage of them in real life as well as in the virtual world. Some players even list their in-game achievements on their CVs. But there are also many people who are capable of much more than they realise. In fact, the above research suggests that the in-game decisions we make and the behaviour we show while playing can tell us about value systems and skills that are, perhaps, unconscious.

This is because when we are playing in an engaging simulated scenario, we can enter a state of “flow”. This is a psychological phenomenon characterised by an extreme focus on tasks, an innate sense of joy, matching our skill level with the level of challenge and, interestingly, a total lack of self-consciousness. In other words, we are so involved in the game scenario that we are reacting more authentically instead of filtering behaviour through our perceived social expectations and rules.

Given that these characteristics often stay in the area of game play and aren’t put to use in the real world, there is a clear need to make people more aware that games have this revelatory power. At the very least, there should be a way for the persistence, problem-solving skills and motivation of many game players to be transferred to their ordinary working lives.

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