Ahead of Ludum Dare competition this weekend I've thought a lot about video games, how to build them, how to design them, and their role in my pursuit of entrepreneurial dreams.  As I noted in a previous post, I think entrepreneurs in tech should try doing a Ludum Dare competition. However, I never put much thought into playing video games themselves from an entrepreneurial perspective. Here are some thoughts...

Activities To An Entrepreneur

Common advice in entrepreneurial circles is to sacrifice activities like watching TV and spending an evening at the club with friends. These activities are seen as a waste of the time that should be spent in the pursuit of your goals. This is sage advice as it certainly takes tremendous amount of sacrifice to be a successful entrepreneur. It takes hard work and focus.

Entrepreneurs also suggest habits and life hacks that to help you to succeed. These are things like meditation, getting enough sleep, exercising, eating healthy, and so on. Your cause, what you are trying to achieve, is benefited from these activities in that they increase focus and help your perform better on those things you must do to be a successful entrepreneur.

All activities fall into the spectrum depicted in the graphic below. The vertical axis speaks to the necessity of the activity. The horizontal speaks to the level at which the activity helps or hinders you in entrepreneurial endeavors. Every activity falls into 1 of 4 quadrants: Necessary/Help (NHelp), Unnecessary/Help (UHelp), Necessary/Hinder (NHind), and Unnecessary/Hinder (UHind). I've noted a few activities in each quadrant to demonstrate...


It is debatable where each of the activities I noted actually belongs on this graphic, but you get the idea. Spending time at your day job, for many people, is a necessary activity that hinders progress towards your goals. Getting sleep, and by that I mean more than enough sleep, helps you be more focused and get stuff done but is ultimately unnecessary. Product development helps your progress and is necessary as you can't sell products you don't have. Watching TV, however, is unnecessary and it hinders your progress as it takes time away from other, necessary activities.

Activities that you must sacrifice in order to pursue your dreams are in the UHind quadrant. These are things we derive pleasure from, but ultimately consume time and prevent us from being productive in our pursuits. Success requires sacrificing UHind activities for NHelp activities.

Now for the point of all this...

Where Do Video Games Fall?

Which quadrant does playing video games fall under?

Without a doubt, playing video games falls into the unnecessary side of the spectrum, unless of course your work or business involves playing video games. I think everyone would agree with this.

The conventional wisdom is that playing video games falls into the UHind quadrant. They are often referred to as time sucks. People binge on them. They provide an outlet to our procrastinating minds. They are often explicitly noted as something you must sacrifice in order to be successful.

That being said, I am under the belief that the conventional wisdom around video games needs to be challenged. It is my hypothesis that the limited, intentional playing of certain types of video games may belong in the UHelp quadrant with things like meditation and exercise. Playing video games is certainly unnecessary, but can they help us?

This is, of course, only a hypothesis, but I believe there is considerable merit to it.

I started to develop this hypothesis after watching a GDC talk by Jane McGonigal  called THERE IS NO ESCAPE: Designing Games for Maximum Real-life Impact.  Games are often cited as escapist entertainment, and they certainly can be that way, but there is potential in games that can be unlocked for benefit of all. There are also a few TED talks by Jane where games are explored in a positive light, and she has a load of research on her blog https://janemcgonigal.com/. I could repeat much of what she says here, but check it out for yourself and see what conclusions you draw.

Video games are now being prescribed as therapy for a range of afflictions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism, PTSD, and so on. Playing games releases chemicals in our brains that can be used for positive, constructive purposes. It may be that entrepreneurs can tap into the power of video games as a tool to achieve goals.

Video games, like meditation, may be something entrepreneurs should recommend as a means to increase productivity and focus. It may also be possible that playing video games together may be an excellent way to build business relationships and gain trust. There are a number of possibilities here that I think entrepreneurs should experiment with...

The Experiment

Like many others I had subscribed to the belief that I needed to cut video games from my life to focus on things like writing blog posts, creating podcasts, developing products, and so on. However, like skipping sleep to code, I wonder if doing this has actually hurt me in some way.

In light of what I have read and heard on the topic, I've decided to test my hypothesis in a personal, non-scientific way by starting to play video games again. So...

I am going to do 25 minutes of non-competitive, focused gaming per day.

Non-competitive is somewhat key, as apparently playing games like LoL and COD against complete strangers pumps up testosterone and can cause you to become somewhat of a jerk. That is also not true of playing these games competitively against people you know. Apparently, the anonymity of the other players is a major factor in this. There are probably a load of exceptions to this, so take that with a grain of salt.

I think I will probably play the Ludum Dare games after this weekend, maybe try Minecraft, play TIS-100 (not just buy it and let it sit in my Steam account), finish Thomas Was Alone, and so on. These are all pretty low key games with interesting puzzles.

After a month or so I'll report on how this affects me. I look forward to trying this out. Like cold showers, maybe I'll stumble on something I never knew could be so beneficial.

What are your thoughts on this?