Gaming as a Career Choice

Growing up in an age where information is everywhere

One of the more annoying situations myself and others that work at LAN Mob have had to deal with are people - family, friends, acquaintances - who take an extremely negative view of working at a LAN Center as a career choice. We have plenty of friends and family that have been supportive, but I've also seen our work attacked and belittled, called childish, that we need to grow up, we need to go through college and get a degree and a "real" job and make a difference. They see little value in games or gaming: a time waste in their eyes.

I could say that these people are flat out wrong, but I think it's more accurate to describe them as misinformed. We at LAN Mob view the world of gaming in a completely different light. Our industry is a growing multi-billion dollar one, and it is awesome.

You'll find no other industry so celebrated that you can tune in to hundreds of events worldwide every weekend on, from the smallest of tournaments to mega-events like EVO and PAX attended by tens of thousands and watched online by millions.

We can participate in a charity like Awesome Games Done Quick, which raised nearly 3 million dollars last month for cancer research.

We're exploring PSVR and HTC Vive and all of the applications that are springing up around VR, technology in its infancy that is going to change our lives in a decades time, and an area which will play a major part in our long-term business growth.

We live daily in the real community that has grown up around our shop; real life people from all different backgrounds who pass through our doors. We know them by name, share their successes, their defeats, both in gaming and in life.

We watch the continued explosion of eSports and contemplate our future of cultivating, promoting and empowering the best local gaming talent on a national level.

We're pretty grounded in who we are and what we're about, so I would like to address the other side of the argument - the idea that success can only be found in going to college for 4 years (or more), buying a degree with thousands of dollars and life hours, and going to work in a career for the remainder of your life. Specifically I would like to address the attitude that everyone who chooses not to follow this path is to be scorned into submission.

Sometimes this scorn comes out of love and protection - for example, a protective parent who only wants what's best for their child. At it's very worst this scorn can come across in a condescending manner, with an air of superiority from the position of presuming to know what's best for you and your life. I believe this is outdated thinking that has proven folly with the last 20 years of rapid technology growth. The days of working a 9-5 for a company for 40 years and retiring into a pension are gone. We've entered a new age that's at odds with our educational systems, and those able to step back and apply some free thought and critical thinking can see this truth.

All of human knowledge at our fingertips

With smartphones widespread, each and every one of us is carrying around a device that can provide us an accurate response to practically every question. This has caused a rift at colleges, which traditionally were an exercise in learning methods & best practices, but also in absorbing and retaining massive amounts of knowledge. A doctor studying medicine in the 90s was expected to - for 8 years - study and memorize as much medical knowledge as could be retained. Today there are IBM systems like Watson that are augmenting or even replacing doctors, and crowdsourcing solutions like where hundreds of doctors can review symptoms and provide collective insight.  The Internet has harnessed human knowledge to make each of us smarter and more productive across every industry. Still colleges are trying to stuff minds full of as much knowledge as possible, with standardized testing grading us on memorizing things we can *easily* just google search once out working our first real job.

We're stuck in a 1950s way of thinking about education. We should instead be teaching the things that really matter in today's economy - critical thinking, calculated risk taking, innovation, data-driven problem solving, and the ability to properly filter all the information we're being bombarded with every day.  If you ask any person studying a higher degree they will admit that much of the work they do is jumping through hoops or not really applicable to their long-term interests. With today's technology traditional 4-year degrees can easily be consolidated into 2 years time, or even split into two separate bachelors degrees in vastly different fields of study.

This would take massive institutional change to academia that has grown cash-drunk from years of easy money granted to fresh high school graduates, but if you look online you'll find sites sprouting up which are rebuilding academic structures from the ground up. They aren't accredited and won't earn you a B.S. or M.S. degree, but will prepare you for a career in a compressed time.

Where the rubber hits the road

Those that do take the journey through college and can find a job in their chosen career field are often met with a culture shock. Much of their learning goes relatively unused while their job focuses on a very narrow focus, and often new graduates find themselves ill-equipped for facing real world challenges. They were taught that things are to be done one way, but corporations and organizations are giant unwieldy monsters that don't necessarily behave the way academia teaches. This means new graduates have a lot of real world learning to overcome - not just in acclimating their knowledge to a business, but in properly communicating in a business environment, navigating ethical decisions, or providing proper customer service.

In this new economy, solid real world experience will always trump education. As a business owner, if I have to choose between someone with a 4-year degree and zero experience, and someone with a year of real work experience under their belt / no degree / excellent references, I'm going to go with the latter. Because the truth is - people wash out and don't always make it, either due to poor culture fit, lack of talent or a sudden realization that they're not really doing what they want to be doing. Picking up fresh college graduates can be hit or miss, and often involves a lot of learning on the job, which can be costly.

New high school graduates would be smart to temper their college education plans with real world work in fields they're interested in. Even if it means volunteering to work for free while attending college, that work put in is going to get them so much further towards not just building a resume worthy of employment, but also in getting an early jump on discovering what it is they love doing.

Skyrocketing Costs

The graph above shows non-housing debt levels over time, with college debt skyrocketing to the top. This is an economic bubble - similar to the housing bubble that popped in '07 - fueled by ease of access to college loans. Banks naturally don't hand out credit cards with $50,000 limits to fresh high school graduates because - with a few exceptions - 18 year-olds are basically just big children who have very little real life experience and no way to repay.

But this is exactly what's happening with federally backed college loans. We're giving a big blank check to each and every high school graduate to go pursue whatever spoon-fed knowledge they wish - and many 18 year olds have a hard enough time getting dressed in the morning, let alone comprehending what they want to do with the rest of their life.  Nor do they fully understand the levels of debt they're taking on until that first payment comes due six months after graduating. The college industry continues to grow bloated; every year tuition goes up, last year's edition of books are slightly altered with new case studies swapped in to force all the freshman to buy new books at $250/each. If students are lucky enough to graduate, they're stuck holding the bag for the rest of their adult lives.

The changing economy

The internet is revolutionizing every industry through crowdsourcing. If I need a personal loan I no longer need to go to a traditional bank, I can instead visit websites like Prosper or Lending Club, which break up my loan into hundreds of smaller chunks and sell these to individual investors all over the world, shipping funds to my bank account in a fraction of the time. Apps like AirBnB and Uber are putting pressure on the hospitality and transportation industries by turning tech-savvy people into owner/operators. Colleges continue to turn out graduates for traditional careers as the industries they're entering are changing right under their feet.

Doing what you love

The old saying goes "do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life."  This disruptive, technically-equipped economy is making it possible to truly live that advice. Gaming is a multi-billion dollar emerging industry that touches on every field imaginable including writing, programming, psychology, art, music, physics, mathematics, acting and more. Roll the credits on any major game release and you'll see the breadth and depth needed to create just a single game. It's a blend of arts and sciences that you're hard pressed to find anywhere else, and we're discovering new applications for the technology every day. The industry sprouting up around gaming is supporting careers in event planning, social media, videography, audio recording, technical support, marketing, writing, logistics, and a hundred other applications.

So when people look at LAN Mob and shake their heads, they haven't even scratched the surface. They're just seeing a bunch of people playing video games and not much else. They don't see the potential for growth of gaming into so many verticals that are going to be life changing; avenues our business plans to explore as we continue to grow. The boots on the ground at LAN Mob know what's up, with our sleeves rolled up and elbow deep in it, and we don't know where we'll end up yet, but we know that we're doing what we love and are setting ourselves up for very successful lives in an amazing industry.

Words by Gandhi

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