Boss by day, gamer by night: Tech leaders' favorite video games

High-tech titans from Red Hat, Adobe, Cisco and more admit: All they really need to know they learned from ... World of Goo?

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Arthur Lewis

General manager, Dell's gaming group (including Alienware)

First game, first system: OK, I'm dating myself here, but my first home video game was football on the Atari 2600. (My 2600 was quickly replaced by the Intellivision and subsequently by my ColecoVision).

My first arcade video games, at around the same time, were Space Invaders and Asteroids -- and, of course, who can forget Pole Position? My first PC game may have been Karate on the Commodore 64:J.

What you play now: I'm an MMO fanboy, and I've enjoyed playing Lord of the Rings Online MMO for the past year. Every now and again I mix in other genres -- recently, Call of Duty 5 and Fallout 3 have been a lot of fun. There are just so many games out there, and not enough time!

In terms of systems, I play on my Alienware M17 notebook, but I also have an Area-51 desktop -- for MMO fans, dual-boxing can be advantageous.

Arthur Lewis, Dell
Lewis: "Multiplayer first-person shooters ... teach you team play."

Skills and lessons that translate: Well, different game genres teach different things. Real-time strategy games teach you strategy, of course -- you have to be looking at what you're currently doing while simultaneously evaluating how your immediate actions impact future moves. In this industry, you are always battling fires in the day-to-day, but you can never forget about what needs to get accomplished over the course of the next six, 12 and 18 months. Age of Empires taught me this lesson ... many times over.

Multiplayer first-person shooters, on the other hand, such as Counter-Strike and Unreal Tournament, teach you team play. You can't win without having a sound strategy, understood by all, and the ability to execute. You also need a leader who can provide operational and strategic guidance to the team as needed.

Single-player role-playing games teach you to think and use logic to complete quests and advance in the game. And multiplayer RPGs and MMOs, my personal favorite genre, teach logic, strategy and teamwork.

You have to have a good, logical strategy and a massive amount of coordination, especially in raids of 12 to 24 people. All these principles are core to any successful business.

Rob Lacroix

Vice president of development engineering, Immersion Corp.

Rob Lacroix, Immersion
Lacroix: "Enjoy the challenge of learning to do the things that don't come easy."

First game, first system: Donkey Kong on my ColecoVision console in 1983.

What you play now: I have always been a PC gamer, building my own gaming rigs. Over the past year, I've dabbled with Crysis, but I'm enamored with Mass Effect -- the setting, style and pace really suit me.

Skills and lessons that translate: Practice, practice, practice. Take advantage of the things you do well naturally, and enjoy the challenge of learning to do the things that don't come easy.

Chris Melissinos

Chief gaming officer, Sun Microsystems Inc.

First game, first system: The first video game system I ever played was a home version of Pong in the late 1970s. The first arcade machine I remember playing was Space Invaders.

What you play now: I am a collector and have 42 game systems at home. As a lifelong gamer and father of three, we incorporate playing video games into our regular routine as a family.

Chris Melissinos, Sun
Melissinos: "It is about discovering new ways to educate, inspire and communicate."

Currently, most of our family game time is spent playing LittleBigPlanet and Rock Band on the PS3; Pokémon and Puzzle Quest on the Nintendo DS; and Mario Kart, Super Mario Galaxy and Wii Sports on the Wii.

Skills and lessons that translate: Video games have taught me the value in rapid assessment of situations, new ways of conveying information to multiple participants, working within team dynamics, and new ways of interacting with information. In a world that is ever connected and globally interactive, with online games being a lead connection point, I am able to better understand future trends for data services, greater public use of technology, adoption roadmaps, and so on.

The value of video games does not lie exclusively with the amusement of the games themselves. It is increasingly about shared experiences in environments and settings not possible in the physical world. It is about empowerment and igniting creativity. It is about discovering new ways to educate, inspire and communicate, across multiple generations, in ways that have never before been explored.

San Francisco-based Jake Widman is a frequent contributor to Computerworld.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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