10 Lessons Startups Can Learn from Gamers


10 Lessons Startups Can Learn from Gamers

By Lucas and Glen Dalakian. My brother and I decided to write a post together to highlight 10 business principles and lessons we learned while gaming.

When we were younger, our father often came downstairs where we were playing video games and would say, “Stop playing those games, they’ll turn your brain to mush.” We’d retort with all sorts of excuses like, “we’re socializing,” “we trade things so we’re learning about the economy,” “we’re saving innocent civilians, do you want them to die?”

He would shrug it off and make us come upstairs for dinner anyway. But recently, after hearing Joi Ito say something that struck a chord with me at Wamda’s Mix n’ Mentor Dubai event, I thought, maybe some other gamers could use a set of lessons to hand to their parents when their gaming is questioned.

Thus, my brother and I decided to write this post to highlight 10 business lessons we learned while playing video games. This is for you, Dad.

  1. Timing is everything. In business, as in Mario Kart, timing is everything. Being the first one out of the gate does not always mean you’ll win. In Mario Kart, the dreaded blue shell always targets the player in first place. By maintaining a close second, you can capitalize on that opportune time when first place takes a hit and you can zoom to the finish line. Before breaking out, make sure you have calculated the right time to enter a new market or launch a new product.

  2. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. A commander should never go into battle unprepared. An old version of the PC game Command and Conquer that we used to play requires players to build solid defenses and an adequate offense to successfully win a skirmish. Securing allies, building an adequate force and supplying your base are essential to any campaign. Make sure you are fully prepared to enter a new market after carefully considering the right tools and partners to increase your chances for success and make sure your product is solid before launching.

  3. Know when to lead and follow. In many Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), players must join forces to fight through dungeons, or instances, and defeat a major boss to claim some mighty loot. But a free-for-all can be disastrous for the party and, more often than not, leads to failure. It’s important to know how to lead and motivate a team, but it’s equally important to know when to step back and follow.

  4. Build a complementary team. In MMORPGs like World of Warcraft (WoW) and Guild Wars 2 (GW2) among others, players of different classes must work together to complement each other and fill in gaps in the team’s skills. Warriors rely on healers in the background, just as casters (damage dealers) rely on tanks (damage-takers) to keep them away from trouble. Some characters provide defense, others offense and each has a weakness balanced by another’s strength. When building your team, make sure you find talent that can fill all the gaps and needs in your model.

  5. Share your successes. When players reach the higher levels in an MMORPG, it’s nice to look back and occasionally help lower level players out by either running them through dungeons to gain experience, or helping them when under attack. In turn, these characters can grow in level and return the favor down the road. Likewise, established businesses can gain a great deal by building others up, producing a stronger ecosystem and potential future customers and partners.

  6. Have a simple but functional model. The classic Nintendo 64 title GoldenEye calls to us every few years to dust off our old N64, clean the game cartridge, and experience the same gameplay we once enjoyed as kids. This game has no frills, has pretty blocky graphics, and two-dimensional surroundings, but it never disappoints. Like a good startup, GoldenEye has a simple design, always delivers on what matters, and keeps you coming back for more. A simple model and reliable service, especially in e-commerce, will attract users over and over again to come back for the experience they’ve been missing.

  7. Know your niche. It may seem boring to play the same character for a long period of time, revisiting similar quests and reusing the same spells. But straying from your character’s purpose can have disastrous consequences in battle. When a mage decides that sitting back and raining fire from the sky is no longer of interest and charges headlong into a skirmish, their end generally comes swiftly. With weak armor, and low defenses, this class is better suited to deal damage from afar. If your startup is successful in its niche, it may be best to focus on what you’re good at instead of trying to do it all.  

  8. Success is hard work. Pushing your character in an MMORPG to the next level often requires a great deal of time, defeating hundreds of enemies to gain experience (often called grinding) and completing sometimes monotonous quests. Being an entrepreneur is not always fun. Eventually you’ll have to get through some work or processes you may not want to. But in the end, the rewards and privileges can far outweigh the struggles to get there.

  9. Networking can provide unexpected benefits. Nintendo’s Zelda franchise has a very distinctive gameplay, immersing players in the world of Hyrule to save it from the evil Ganondorf. But Link, the main character, never saves princess Zelda alone. Throughout each story, Link relies on others and a continued relationship with several characters to gain new skills, tools, and weapons to ultimately defeat evil. Sometimes the most miniscule of characters, even the ones you may not like, can provide a huge bonus later in the game. Similarly, building up a strong network and maintaining your relationships may have unexpected benefits down the road.

  10. Learn from failure. Another theme in the Zelda games is the similar enemies, challenges, and puzzles which are revisited and made harder as the game goes on. By learning from past mistakes and adapting to evolving challenges with new tools, startups, much like Link, will be able to anticipate problems they have already faced and make a more focused and experienced effort to avoid failure in the future. Failure is always the most immediate way we learn, whether in the real or virtual world. Don’t dwell on failure; learn from it and move on.
We only included some of our favorites here; let us know in the comments section if there are other games you've learned something from.

NOTE: Photos sourced from World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, Command and Conquer, and Nintendo websites and forums.

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