This post is #3 in an collaborative eight part series by Brad Szollose and I about how culture shapes technology.
DO VIDEO GAMES REALLY MATTER THAT MUCH TO DIGITAL NATIVES?
Yes. Video games are the formative computer user experience (a.k.a. UX) for nearly everyone born since 1977. Genealogists call these people Gen X, Gen Y, or Millennials, but we use the more general term “Digital Natives” because they were born into a world surrounded by interactive digital technology starting from their toys and learning devices.
Malcolm Gladwell explains, in his book Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to develop a core skill. In this case, video games have trained all generations since 1977 in a whole new way of thinking. It’s not worth debating if this is a common and ubiquitous experience; instead, we’re going to discuss the impact of this cultural tsunami.
Before we dive into impacts, it is critical for you to suspend your attitude about video games as a frivolous diversion. Brad explores this topic in Liquid Leadership, and Jane McGonnagle, in Reality is Broken, spends significant time exploring the incredibly valuable real world skills that Digital Natives hone playing games. When they are “gaming,” they are doing things that adults would classify as serious work:
- Designing buildings and creating machines that work within their environment
- Hosting communities and enforcing discipline within the group
- Recruiting talent to collaborate on shared projects
- Writing programs that improve their productivity
- Solving challenging mental and physical problems under demanding time pressures
- Learning to persevere through multiple trials and iterative learning
- Memorizing complex sequences, facts, resource constraints, and situational rules.
Why focus on video gamers?
Because this series is about doing business with Digital Natives and video games are a core developmental experience.
The impact of Cloud Culture on technology has profound implications and is fertile ground for future collaboration between Rob and Brad. However, we both felt that the challenge of selling to gamers crystallized the culture clash in a very practical and financially meaningful sense. Culture can be a “soft” topic, but we’re putting a hard edge on it by bringing it home to business impacts.
Digital Natives play on a global scale and interact with each other in ways that Digital Immigrants cannot imagine. Brad tells it best with this story about his nephew:
Years ago, in a hurry to leave the house, we called out to our video game playing nephew to join us for dinner.
“Sebastian, we’re ready.” I was trying to be as gentle as possible without sounding Draconian. That was the parenting methods of my father’s generation. Structure. Discipline. Hierarchy. Fear. Instead, I wanted to be the Cool Uncle.
“I can’t,” he exclaimed as wooden drum sticks pounded out their high-pitched rhythm on the all too familiar color-coded plastic sensors of a Rock Band drum kit.
“What do you mean you can’t? Just stop the song, save your data, and let’s go.”
“You don’t understand. I’m in the middle of a song.” Tom Sawyer by RUSH to be exact. He was tackling Neil Peart. Not an easy task. I was impressed.
“What do you mean I don’t understand? Shut it off.” By now my impatience was noticeable. Wow, I lasted 10 seconds longer than my father if he had been in this same scenario. Progress I guess.
And then my 17-year-old nephew hit me with some cold hard facts without even knowing it… “You don’t understand… the guitar player is some guy in France, and the bass player is this girl in Japan.”
In my mind the aneurism that was forming just blew… “What did he just say?”
And there it was, sitting in my living room—a citizen of the digital age. He was connected to the world as if this was normal. Trained in virtualization, connected and involved in a world I was not even aware of!
My wife and I just looked at each other. This was the beginning of the work I do today. To get businesses to realize the world of the Digital Worker is a completely different world. This is a generation prepared to work in The Cloud Culture of the future.
A Quote from Liquid Leadership, Page 94, How Technology Influences Behavior…
In an article in the Atlantic magazine, writer Nicholas Carr (author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains) cites sociologist Daniel Bell as claiming the following: “Whenever we begin to use ‘intellectual technologies’ such as computers (or video games)—tools that extend our mental rather than our physical capacities—we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies.
In other words, the technology we use changes our behavior!
There’s another important consideration about gamers and Digital Natives. As we stated in post 1, our focus for this series is not the average gamer; we are seeking the next generation of IT decision makers. Those people will be the true digital enthusiasts who have devoted even more energy to mastering the culture of gaming and understand intuitively how to win in the cloud.
“All your base belongs to us.”
Translation: If you’re not a gamer, can you work with Digital Natives?
Our goal for this series is to provide you with actionable insights that do not require rewriting how you work. We do not expect you to get a World of Warcraft subscription and try to catch up. If you already are one then we’ll help you cope with your Digital Immigrant coworkers.
In the next posts, we will explain four key culture differences between Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives. For each, we explore the basis for this belief and discuss how to facilitate Digital Natives decision-making processes.