Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Or, how playing RPGs shaped my view of Corporate Life

When I was younger, I was introduced to the game Diablo II. This is the game that kept me from playing World of Warcraft, because it helped me realize that I'm an RPG addict. As you may or may not know, once you're an addict you're always an addict, and my social and academic life suffered enough during my Diablo stint. If you're not familiar with RPGs, this Wikipedia article may be enlightening.

The thing that RPGs hook you with is control. You control everything about your character(s), including what skills they acquire and what their specialties will be. As you earn the experience and find or buy items to help your character, you decide what skills your character will develop. Experience points get you a lot further a lot quicker at the beginning of your character's "life" than they do after the character has become well established. This is what provides the addictive nature to the game. You very quickly become addicted to the rush of "leveling", or getting your character to the next level. In Diablo, for example, I could get a character from level 1 to level 5 in a single day, no problem. However, getting that same character from level 41 to 45 or, worse, 91 to 95, is a considerable feat. Why do people do it? Because they're already addicted.

Now, how does this affect my view of Corporate Life? Simple. Corporate Life IS an RPG! I just started out at the lowest position offered at the IT division of the company I work for. I've been there almost 3 months and expect a promotion to the real foundation position of the division. My next several promotions will likely come every 18-30 months, depending on how quickly I'm able to develop the right skills - or gain experience. The higher the position I get, the more time will pass between promotions.

This puts me in an interesting position. Here I am, an RPG addict in the "Real World" trying to map my game play throughout the life span of my character - who just happens to actually be me. I'm setting goals for what positions I want to acquire, when I want to acquire them, and what courses of action will get me there on time or early. I'm looking at corporate and continuing education opportunities, high visibility projects, and "A List" connections. I'm not sure if this is a bad thing or not, but I definitely get the impression that not everyone sees their career like this. I'm really interested to hear what other people think. Please respond with your thoughts, and please include whether or not you play or used to play RPGs, electronic or otherwise.