19 Jan “Got Game” makes big claims; can 90 million people think the same?
Got Game (2004, Harvard Business School Press) takes a detailed look at how video games have affected the people who grew up playing them.
Authors John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade compiled personal interviews and surveys to give business managers a lesson on how to handle the increasing number of professionals in the workforce whose ways of thinking — on competitiveness, risk-taking and everything else — are shaped by video games.
The book’s sensationalist subtitle says you’ll learn “How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever.” (At least until the next generation comes along and changes things forever, again.) What matters new, of course, is the effect that players of video games are having today. And it’s big.
The authors put the size of this gamer generation at 90 million people in the United States alone, or about 30 percent of the population. Of those, 56 million are old enough to have joined the workforce.
It makes you wonder: can 90 million people be thought of as a group with similar behaviors, beliefs and motivations? More than 81 percent of business professionals 34 and younger have been either frequent or moderate gamers, the authors’ survey found. Has it changed them all in the same way? I doubt it.
And that was what first made me doubt this book. That 90 million people — 15 to 35 years old — are hard to paint with one wide brush. The book’s statistics are divided up by “younger” and “older” gamers, but the idea of one “gamer generation” persists throughout.
Got Game seems angled at an older, baby-boomer readership trying to understand the young. Just picking up a game, by the way, isn’t enough. Beck and Wade argue fairly convincingly that having played games while growing up has a more lasting effect than playing them as an adult.
A healthy mix of statistics and stories makes the book worth reading, though I do wish the bar graphs’ scales hadn’t been stretched to make even differences that must be easily within the margin of error look significant. This is a small failing as long as the reader is aware of it.
That the margin of error does not appear to be given at all is a larger one. At least, I’m still looking for it, while trying to figure out just how much weight I can give to differences between gamers and non-gamers of sometimes a few percent. (Amazon.com’s “Search inside this book” feature says: No reference to margin of error in this book.)
Nevertheless, some of the statistics nicely illustrate the stories Beck and Wade tell based on their interviews with around 200 people of diverse backgrounds. It is those stories and anecdotes that give the book life.
My recommendation? If you’re part of the “gamer generation,” you can read this book safely. You’ll be able to spot the parts that don’t really jive and have a laugh or two while learning how baby-boomer researchers view you. All 90 million of you.
If you employ younger gamers but don’t understand them, Got Game can give you some insights and ideas — but you might want to sit down with some of those gamers over lunch before you change the way you manage them based on this book.