book review

Got Game
How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever

John C. Beck & Mitchell Wade (2004)

Gaps between generations are nothing new. But this is the first time I have encountered a handbook that explains to older generation how to deal with the emerging generation. The older generation are the baby boomers, the emerging generation, you might have guessed it, are the gamers. John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade have investigated the work ethics and practices of employers and employees across generations and game experience and come to the conclusion that games are changing business forever.

The most important changes in attitude are a high level of self-confidence, pride in their own expertise, and a reduced fear of failure. Games teach gamers that the world makes sense, after all game-worlds are nothing if not logical. Trial-and-error is a good way to learn and individual skill is what makes the difference. Gamers excel in playing the role of a large-corporation executive, even when they are only in their twenties. And so the dot-com phenomenon is explained. Obviously not all changes are for the best, but by and large Beck and Wade are enthusiastic about the new generation of professionals who are competitive and ambitious. Partly because the have to (the gamer generation is already larger than and still growing) and partly because they really believe in the values games teach their players.

The tone of Got Game is fast-paced. This can leave the impression that Got Game lacks seriousness; the book sometimes seems over-enthusiastic. However, the points Beck and Wade make do make sense. They approach the subject from a different angle than the one that I am used to (business practices vs media studies), their conclusions about games are very similar. Their analysis that games are simpler versions of reality, which makes them easier to comprehend, and that is why they are appealing: “real life is full of curveballs; the game world mainly throws regular pitches faster and faster” (p. 141). Johan Huizinga wrote about a similar esthetic experience of the magic circle. Likewise their insight that in games realism means ‘like real life – only better and more entertaining’ is not far from Steven Poole’s analysis.

Got Game remains speculative about the exact changes the gamer generation will bring about. Clearly, ethics and attitude already has changed, but if we are to believe Beck and Wade, that change is only the beginning. Gamers’ affinity with dynamic data might cause serious analytic tools to resemble more and more; there is value in their statement that boundaries between analysis, decision and action will fade, but the authors remain vague about this, and never go far beyond these initial speculations.

Got Game is a good attempt to bridge the gap between two contemporary generation. Beck and Wade’s insights are helpful to understand the new generation or as a member of that generation help other understand us. Got Game also reads quickly and pleasantly, but the book leaves me with a taste for a more thorough text on the application of the effects and uses of gaming in business and serious software.