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Find out whether you can (and whether you should) use your passion for gaming to supplement your job applications and interviews.

The lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic were for many people marked only by game release dates. Whether you spent much of your time living on your Animal Crossing island, battling your way out of Hades or deceiving strangers in Among Us, chances are (if you reached this article) that you gamed your way through the apocalypse with abandon. The question we’re here to ask at TARGETjobs is: can you put all those gaming hours on your CV for a graduate job?

The short answer is ‘yes’, but keep reading the article below as we examine how you need to approach videogaming when it comes to job applications. Bear in mind while you’re reading that while you can talk about your gaming hobby with prospective employers, that doesn’t always mean that you should talk about gaming with employers.

Should you put gaming on your CV: the stigma

The videogames industry is estimated to be worth around three times that of the global commercial box office. In the UK there are an estimated 36 million gamers, according to Statista, the statistics portal (which, if accurate, is nearly 50% of the population). Yet still, there is a social stigma attached to anyone who publicly admits to a gaming ‘habit’ and it is worth being aware of this when you make the choice to mention games on your CV.

A lifetime of American television, from South Park’s obese basement-dwelling Warcraft players to The Big Bang Theory’s endless jokes about social awkwardness, has done its damage in depicting gamers as lacking in social skills, possessed of unhealthily obsessive behaviour and beholden to a huge number of other negative stereotypes. Recruiters should be looking at your skills and experience when assessing you for a role, but there is always a small risk of unconscious bias in a recruitment process. For some recruiters or senior professionals, their only experience of videogames may be the sullen teenagers that they have raised at home – children who have lurked in darkened rooms, failing to interact with the family in favour of another five hours on Fortnite.

You will need to weigh up whether you need to put gaming on your CV. If you have a wealth of experience and skills gained from internships, work placements or extracurricular activities, chances are you don’t need to dip into this particular facet of your life to boost your CV. A few words in the hobbies and interests section will be enough. You may also want to think about the type of role that you’re going for. For example, a company that is interested in online communications, gamification and tech might see a gaming example work in your favour, while a firm that specialises in tax accountancy might have a different result.

If done right, gaming on your CV could help show some personality in your applications, assist in explaining why you are a good fit for a particular workplace or demonstrate how you’ve developed ‘soft skills’ in your own time. Just make sure that you always prioritise experience and skills gained in workplaces first. One example from gaming to fill in an application gap might be interesting and novel, but three examples is starting to give you a one-note interview that suggests you’re more interested in fun and less interested in employment. If you choose to include videogames, remember that your explanation needs to be understood by recruiters of any demographic, and who may have little to no knowledge of gaming outside of popular stereotypes.

Skills not kills: what to write on your CV

There is nothing wrong with including a brief mention of videogames on your CV under the ‘further interests’ section, but, much like including ‘reading’ or ‘cooking’, it doesn’t tell the recruiter much about who you are and what you’ve learned.

Instead, it might be easier to think about the softer skills that you’re practising while you engage in the hobby. Are you playing online with people around the world in different languages? How do you communicate? Do you need to form a strategy or look for tells in other players’ behaviours as to what you need to do next? Suddenly, rather than including a throwaway reference to ‘games’ on your CV, you’ve been part of an international online community dedicated to competing to complete a goal. If you can articulate such experience properly, you’ve got evidence of skills that you might be using a in a workplace with offices overseas, for example.

So, let's imagine that you’ve been playing Overwatch with strangers on a European server. Rather than bragging about an epic killcam, you might phrase it something like this:

‘Member of an international group that plays a team-based game called Overwatch. The objective for each match is for one team to complete an objective by working together and keeping the opposing team out of a given space. I helped us to develop communication methods across language barriers in order to help the team improve and strategise more efficiently. We went on to win by three points to two.’

Sounds a bit more useful to a recruiter than ‘I like games!’ right? You’ve mentioned teamwork and communication, as well as showing that you can be focused on set objectives and strive for improvement. Remember that you need to use non-gaming language to explain the game that you’re talking about rather than assuming the reader will already have the knowledge. Just mentioning the game name wouldn’t be enough, nor would it be particularly helpful to delve into the importance of a good headshot, but the team-based aspects including communication and focus on a common objective are important to a workplace environment as much as they are in a game. If it turns out that the recruiter is aware of the title at interview, you’ve got something to use to break the ice with all those stories of clutch victories.

Check out the sections below for more on how you might be able to use different types of games to highlight softer skills that you’ve been practising at home.

Multiplayer – first person shooters (FPS) and fighting games

Doubtless there are a host of muscle memory-style processes that you are gaining and developing when you first pick up an FPS or a fighting game, but it’s difficult to articulate many of them as skills that employers would find attractive.

The online communities that accompany fighting games and FPSs are where the more obvious softer skills can be found. In the section above you can see one example using a team-based game, but the way that you communicate (interpersonal skills), establish matches and tournaments (organisation, particularly if done regularly), enforce rules (responsibility) and call shots (leadership) could all be helpful to an application.

Perhaps, if you’ve been instrumental in establishing the notoriously divisive stage and item rules for a Smash Bros tournament, you’ll be able to list several of those softer skills. In establishing the rules you may have:

  • taken on a leadership role
  • communicated and received feedback from your small community (even if it’s only your friends)
  • negotiated over what is acceptable and what is not
  • organised matches with players, particularly if it has been done during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • needed to be resilient
  • been creative with your IT skills over Discord, Twitch, YouTube or another platform

Sadly, it would be remiss if we didn’t mention that you may also have been dealing with difficult people – the typical ‘tell us of a time when’ interview question – especially after playing online with strangers for more than five or ten minutes. If you have confronted the sexist, racist, homophobic or generally offensive people that seem to be ubiquitous in online communities everywhere, then you may be able to use this as an example on an application. Did you manage to successfully challenge someone on their inappropriate views and resolve the situation for yourself or others? If so, then it might be worth mentioning to an employer (if appropriate). However, obviously, do not go looking for a fight online to try to perk up your CV, and remember that you’ll need to be absolutely certain that you were on firm ground in the points that you’ve made and that you handled the situation diplomatically. The last thing that you need is to come across as a bully or a censor of free speech if it turns out that you were mistaken, overreacted to something innocent or that your methods were aggressive or trolling. Be aware that this could backfire.

The above all requires a fair amount of interaction with an online community and assumes that you are likely regularly active on the scene. If you’d prefer to draw some inspiration from single-player games, then you might want to take a look at the other sections below.

Single player and roguelike sadists

Roguelikes have become somewhat of a plague on game storefronts over the past few years. While they’re often associated with a permadeath mechanic and increasing difficulty levels, it’s the decision-making element that makes these fit to be prime CV material. If you take a look at some fairly recent and most successful examples, such as Hades, Slay the Spire or Dead Cells, each decision affects how difficult each run will be, always trading between risk and reward in order to reach an end screen of some form.

If you need something to boost examples of decision making, then it might be worth exploring the nature of your choices in roguelikes or other single-player games (again, explaining the concept to an employer as simply as possible). There is a huge amount of information online exploring and explaining the science behind decision making and game theory. It is well documented as a desired skill in investors, traders, managers, leaders and other roles that require responsibility over money or people, or that include an element of risk.

Being able to articulate how you keep a running spreadsheet of the potential perks and pitfalls of each card and each card option in Slay the Spire might help you explain to an employer how you go about the process of making successful decisions. Likewise, being able to articulate why you – personally – choose one Boon over another in Hades, clearly weighing up the pros and cons and being aware of whether it was the right choice (and why), could supplement other experience you have of making decisions in workplaces. Granted the stakes are lower than handling a company’s money, but you will likely have had a lot more practice at getting it right (and wrong).

The only caveat to the above is that you may end up going down somewhat of a rabbit hole of psychology, science and philosophy to understand how your brain codifies decisions in order to explain this to someone else. Remember, there is nothing wrong with playing games for fun, and you may not wish to open this particular Pandora’s box if it’s likely to reduce your interaction with the Greek Gods to a series of numbers, probabilities and binaries.

Strategists

Likewise with the above, strategy and Civilisation players: think about how you approach resource management, decision making and planning. Have you got predetermined decisions? How do you react when something goes wrong?

There are too many genres to cover in one article, but you should have the picture by this stage. Take a step back and try to analyse what you are doing, how you are doing it and why that approach works best and you should find some excellent material to show off your personality and your softer skills.

The grind: how to use gaming to answer questions about repetitive tasks

The ideas above have neatly categorised a few genres of videogame to help you leverage your hobby on your CV. Once you’ve got a foot in the door, you may wish to use some examples to answer questions at interview. One of the more common examples, certainly in some entry-level jobs, is the question: how do you stay focused when given repetitive tasks?

Assuming that you’re no stranger to an exp grind of some kind or another, chances are that you have partaken in some repetitive tasks, possibly even those that have lessened your enjoyment of a game. For example: have you been grinding Anjanath in Monster Hunter? How do you keep yourself motivated to do so? We all know it’s the promise of that gem. Do you change up your weapon? Do you sustain your attention across multiple hunts solely on the promise of a dopamine hit in future? The stakes are undoubtedly lower, in the sense that you are free to control how and when you grind this particular repetitive task and are likely to be enjoying yourself in some fashion, so try to tease out and explain how monotonous the grind can become to someone who is not ‘in the know’ and look for the personal motivation that gets you through, rather than the enjoyment that the game is giving you. Again, to repeat, with all examples of gaming on your CV or at interview, always prioritise workplace or extracurricular experience if you can, but it might be handy to have an example such as the one above if you’re really in a pinch.

Building a personal brand through gaming

The last thing that you may want to think about when you’re leveraging gaming to look for a job is how you market yourself and communicate around your hobby. Perhaps the best examples of this are Esports players who, aside from being the best at what they do, tend to have active Twitter feeds, recognisable gamertags (at least within the community for their chosen game), active Discords and various other social media.

If you are active on a particular scene, think about how you’ve been working about building your own brand. It’s something that you’ll mostly see in relation to marketing roles, but if you have a distinctive name and a logo, are active on particular forums or have streaming to an audience on Twitch, perhaps you’ve already built your own ‘brand’ without really knowing it.

Obviously, there are risks that come along with being particularly active in the gaming community (if you’re not sure why, just look up ‘Gamergate’) and you will almost certainly have some experience of trolls or negativity if you’ve hosted anything public. Just be aware of what you’re sharing and what is publicly visible when people are likely to google your name or your gamertag if you choose to share it with employers.

If you want to find out more about how to boost your reputation from a pure employability standpoint, check out our feature on Social networking and graduate recruitment.

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This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

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