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World of Warcraft may soon be a job-related skill

Aaron Pressman

This story has been updated to reflect the news on Amazon's deal to buy Twitch.

It’s been perfectly acceptable for years to list certain leisure activities on a resume, such as golf, bridge or even poker. But what about some of the more modern and digital pursuits  say World of Warcraft, Minecraft or fantasy baseball?

As the Wall Street Journal recently noted, some avid video gamers are starting to include their gaming prowess on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. After all, many young people enjoy video gaming instead of traditional leisure pursuits including golf and tennis, which have seen their popularity take a dive.

Catering to this audience, YouTube recently agreed to pay $1 billion for the game-oriented video service twitch TV, which claims to have more than 55 million visitors per month. [Note: On August 25 Amazon (AMZN) announced it had agreed to buy Twitch for almost $1 billion, surprising many who assumed a Google/Twitch partnership was a done deal.] And to succeed at a multi-player game like World of Warcraft requires skills that are also relevant in many business jobs in fields such as finance and IT.

Still, excluding people who work at video game companies, less than 2,000 have mentioned World of Warcraft on their resumes on LinkedIn. More than 250,000 people list chess on their LinkedIn profile, mostly in the fields of IT, computer software and finance. That beats the 116,000 who list golfing skills, mainly in the fields of finance, real estate and marketing and advertising. Poker is less common, listed on only 43,000 profiles, and about half are people who work in the gaming industry. The rest, about 22,000, are concentrated in IT, advertising, and marketing and finance.

MIT researcher Michael Schrage says a whole bunch of modern, digital pursuits such as fantasy baseball and Minecraft should eventually become appealing to hiring companies, since they signify modern skills. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett made playing bridge “cool” in the business world. Maybe it will take a top tech CEO from Facebook (FB), Apple (AAPL) or Google (GOOGL) to make video games acceptable as a future business skill.

“If a Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page or Sheryl Sandberg were to be quoted saying that they've found that their best coders and project managers tend to do very well in WOW and/or fantasy leagues, then we'll be on our way to creating new 'norms' for knowledge worker assessment,” Schrage says.

There are two ways that those skills can come into play, so to speak. On the one hand, succeeding at video games can require some of the same teamwork, real time analytics and composure under pressure that many jobs also require. Reigning supreme in a fantasy sports league requires statistical analysis, trading acumen and focus.

But there’s also the business leisure aspect — sales people who bond with customers over golf or drinks might add some new pursuits. It’s even more likely to become common as a team-building exercise in fields that are closely related to digital play, such as IT or finance.

Both reasons resonate with people who list card games on their profiles. “Poker and Bridge are two card games many people associate with as mathematical, strategic and intelligent,” says Paul Howe, head of quantitative research at Oxbridge Capital who lists both on his LinkedIn profile. “Moreover, I have played poker and bridge for a few years and consider them as a sports, much like my other interests in baseball (and) golf.”

For now, though, most video game players may have to just wait until the millennials start taking control as hiring managers — winning your fantasy football league will be worth that much more.