Friday, April 29, 2011

Startups are like computer games

I used to love computer games and would play them all the time. If the time I had spent playing the Civilization series was instead spent doing something constructive like learning Mandarin or the guitar, well, I would be pretty good at those other things.

I've pretty much gone off computer games in the last 6 months, I have no desire to play them anymore. And the reason I think is that Shoes of Prey has taken the place of computer games for me.

Here's what I used to love about computer games:
  • Strategic thinking - My favourite computer games were always the strategy games. The Civilization series, Sim City, the Command and Conquer Series as well as business sims like Theme Park and Transport and Pizza Tycoon. I love thinking strategically and up until starting Shoes of Prey I never really had an opportunity to do this in my work.
  • Near instant feedback and rewards - This has to be one of the best things about a computer game. You do something, you get instant feedback in a higher or lower score, moving up a level or getting more of some important resource. This is hard to replicate in the real world as feedback and rewards tend to take longer to achieve. The online world has reduced this feedback time, we can make a change to our Google AdWords campaign, on our Facebook page or run a YouTube promotion and see near instant feedback in Google Analytics or in our sales.
  • A release for my addictive personality - I'm pretty sure I get addicted/passionate about things more quickly and easily than most people. Fortunately I've managed to avoid addictions to most bad things, but I certainly used to find myself very addicted to computer games! I can now safely say that I am addicted/passionate about Shoes of Prey instead. I'm happy to work on the business 15 hours, 7 days a week when it's required - about the same amount of time I was capable of spending playing Civilization II during school holidays until my parents kicked me out of the house to go do something outside.

In addition to all those things Shoes of Prey provides:

  • A positive feeling after working on it - as opposed to that awful 'my god, I just wasted 10 hours of my life today playing Civilization' feeling.
  • A potentially significant real life monetary reward - if we achieve all our goals.
  • Social interaction - I work on Shoes of Prey with other people, and people who I've never met are actually interested enough in what we're doing to read this blog. My nuking of the Aztecs after a big day of Civ was never of much interest to anyone except my mate Bob who happened to playing as the Aztecs. ;)

I still occasionally get the urge to pull out a computer game and play it, but that urge is much less than it used to be as our startup now fulfills this role for me.

Image credit


  1. Interesting post...

    A related question: do you think your playing of video games (specifically strategic-based video games) played any part in the development of your thinking or problem solving skills that now help you on a daily basis to run a start-up company? I also gave up video games (quite a long time ago now) for the sole reason that they wasted a lot of my time without repaying any significant value. I'm starting to think that perhaps this isn't necessarily 100% the case though, and that there may be some psychological benefit to a small amount of targeted gaming (ie: turn-based strategy and business simulation games)

  2. Hi Corey, that's a really interesting question and I'm sure there are some very positive learnings that come from computer games.

    I don't think there's too much that compares with the intensity of that first 20-30 hours after you start playing a new strategy game. Learning the rules of the game, how it works then trying to understand the subtle mathematics behind it so you can game it as much as possible and get the highest score - hugely pleasurable and I think good for the strategic thinking abilities.

    The downside is it also teaches you to expect very short term rewards and those 20-30 hours, while good for strategic thinking aren't productive in themselves. You also don't want to get hooked on the game and waste 100's of hours on it.

    On the whole though, there are much worse things to be doing in your spare time and I'd agree that a small amount of strategy and business simulation gaming has some advantages. Plus life's not all about being 'productive', if you enjoy gaming that's a good reason to do it occasionally too. :)

  3. Just love playing computer games, am a great fan of them.... Well done great posting....

  4. Here's my story on computing gaming & business:

    In my marketing class at uni (about 7 years ago!), we had to run a business simulation online. You competed against everyone else in your class.

    You were a wholesaler selling widgets, had to make products, hire workers, buy raw materials, sell to the retail market etc...Kinda like Sim City in a way. I was coming 2nd or 3rd, and I saw what the #1 guy was doing. Raising his prices and selling more to the trade market than the retail market. I optimised his practices and came first in the class.

    I then showed my friend who was in another class, and we applied the same methodology, and she came 1st as well!!



  5. I think the odds of winning a computer game are much better than have a start-up that's successful. And a computer game is much more controllable.

  6. Hi Michael,

    I enjoyed this post, especially when I remember how competitive you were with your gaming and the fun you had with the other Googlers with it.

    I can totally relate to where you're coming from. I too find business like a game. Although computer games gives us quick rewards, the rewards in business are much more rewarding and something you can share with others. Like being able to spoil family and friends with a night out verses having the highest score. But gaming does offer an environment where I can get away from it all, yet feed the competitive personality I have in life and business.