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The hobby shared by CEOs of billion-dollar companies

Can playing video games (and board games) bring your business success? Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman and Anna Malmhake say yes. Here’s why.

From video to table-tops, games of all kinds are played by the kids who didn’t sit at the cool table. While a popular pastime, it’s not often subjected to the same level of social acceptance as sports or public speaking. Instead, gaming is often toted to be a negative influence, encouraging violent behaviour and anti-social tendencies.

However, many of today’s leaders and CEOs are avid gamers, spending their childhoods (and adulthoods) immersed in different worlds. Now, they share the lessons they’ve learned from this hobby.

Elon Musk, CEO and Founder of Tesla and SpaceX, is an avid gamer – here are his favourites:
  1. Civilization
  2. Overwatch
  3. BioShock
  4. Mass Effect
  5. Fallout
  6. Saint’s Row IV
  7. Kerbal Space Program
  8. Warcraft

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg credits video games for getting him into programming, and he believes they could help other kids too. The Facebook Founder and CEO says his favourite video game is Civilization, a series of turn-based strategy video games where a society is built on a macro-scale from prehistory up to the near future. “I made a lot of games for myself and they were terrible,” Mark says of his childhood. “I definitely would not have gotten into programming if I hadn’t played games as a kid.

“If you’re a parent and you don’t let your children use technology, but also want them … to be open to [a career in programming] … giving people the opportunity to play around with different stuff is one of the best things you can do,” says Mark.

Anna Malmhake, CEO of The Absolut Company

According to Anna Malmhake, the time she’s spent gaming since her teenage years has drastically influenced her business mentality. From World of Warcraft, Anna has learned that “one negative, energy-draining person can single-handedly kill the performance of a team of 25 people”.

Anna Malmhake, CEO of The Absolut Company
Anna Malmhake, Chairman and CEO of The Absolut Company (The Absolut Company/Mynewsdesk)

“One negative, energy-draining person can single-handedly kill the performance of a team of 25 people.” – Anna Malmhake

By playing Destiny, Anna learned that stress is your scariest enemy. From Civilization, she learned to not be sucked into what requires ‘immediate attention’ and, every day, you must do “the things that are important for tomorrow, and the things that are important for the future, perhaps a year or three from now.”

You can read more on what gaming taught Anna about business here.

Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Chairman of LinkedIn

Reid Hoffman is known for having developed incredible strategic abilities as an entrepreneur, eventually becoming known as ‘the Oracle of Silicon Valley’ thanks to early investments in Facebook and Airbnb. He credits Avalon Hill board games, with their complex set of rules and circumstances, for the development of his strategic sense. Currently, he is a fan of Settlers of Catan.

Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Chairman of LinkedIn
Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Chairman of LinkedIn

“People say, ‘Where do I get my business strategy?’ It’s from game playing,” he says. “How much do you build for yourself, how much do you position against other people? Settlers of Catan is the game that is closest of all the board games to entrepreneurship.”

Bonus: Play the game that 12-year-old Elon Musk coded.

Management? Economics? Business? Why Gates, Musk, Zuckerberg and today’s leaders study this one subject.

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