Web Worker Epiphany: I Treat My Career Like a Sim Would

Sims3plumbobIn case you weren’t aware, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was held this week, which basically means we gamers have been finding it rather challenging to keep our attention focused firmly on work. Not only was one of the world’s biggest gaming show on, but this past Tuesday also marked the release of The Sims 3. It’s been a recipe for disaster. Or at the very least, a dip in productivity.

Luckily, I had professional cause to engage with The Sims 3. And it was with strictly professional interests in mind that I devoted upwards of 14 hours over the past two days to EA’s (s erts) wildly popular life-simulation franchise. Well, maybe that’s not strictly true, but there was work involved.

In-game, I was working, too. Specifically, I was pursuing Sim careers in both the music industry and professional sports. In doing so, I realized that I think of my job in exactly the same way a Sim would.  Here are the specific parallels I’ve drawn between my real-life and simulated experiences.

Build Relevant Skill Levels

In The Sims 3 (and every previous version), in order to advance your Sim’s chosen career, you have to build up relevant skill sets. So, for instance, if you want your Sim to be a writer, you “practice writing.” When your Sim “levels up,” its product is worth more. It’s a very simple premise: acquire more skill and earn more revenue.

That was exactly my guiding philosophy with regards to my real-life education, too. I picked classes believing that class “x” leads to the acquisition of skill “x,” and even decided which degrees to pursue based upon an assumed natural career progression that would result from said choices.

Even now, as a working professional, I look upon improvement as a simple process of writing more about a particular subject to become better at writing about it. In fact, if I think about it, I can almost picture my skill learning status bar filling up and approximate a percentage of completion. Never mind that gaining real-world experience is an analog (continual) process, not a digital (staged) one.

Thinking of real-world skills as things with definable, static levels of achievement is useful for a couple of reasons. First, even if it’s not technically true, it helps you set up milestones to track your progress. It’s much easier to strive for something if there are defined plateaus between slopes. Second, it helps communicate your comfort level with a particular subject. Everyone understands the concept of skill levels, and will understand approximations based on that concept far more easily and quickly than a narrative of your accumulated experience.

Befriending the Boss Will Help You Advance

In The Sims 3, a crucial new component of job advancement is knowing who your boss is so that you can become better friends with them and therefore advance your career. To be clear, I’m not just talking about kissing butt or being ingratiating, but forming genuine bonds.

In all the jobs I’ve held in the past, I was friendly with at least my immediate supervisor, and generally anyone who could conceivably have direct influence over my professional destiny. I wouldn’t say I always went out of my way to make certain this was the case, but it was definitely something I thought about. And my thoughts about relationship-building are similar to the multistaged approach of The Sims 3. Thinking of a supervisor or manager as an “Acquaintance, Friend, Good Friend, Best Friend, etc.” is a simple way of assessing what kind of action on your part would or wouldn’t be deemed appropriate.

A Successful Sim Does Not a Successful Person Make

I can talk all day about how the career metaphors found in The Sims 3 can be helpful in thinking about your real-life profession, but it doesn’t change the fact that my Pop Icon Sim had a far easier ride to success than I have. There is danger in drawing too close a parallel between EA’s amusing distraction, and the working life we engage in every waking day. Maybe most notably, I can “Save & Exit” The Sims 3 with relative ease. Not so with the daily grind.

Can you draw parallels between gaming experience and your professional life?