Gray cyborgs at DragonCon in Atlanta. (c) E. Forrest Christian

Role-Playing Games as a Metaphor for Your Work History

Forrest Christian Careers, Underachievers Leave a Comment

I spent months of my life working on this, bringing to full realization the many and varied lands, peoples and beasts of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth!

And I did not — not — do this so that five minutes into the game some players could, and I quote, “Open an evil can of hobbit butt-whup on those Rivendell pretty boys.”

John Kovalic, Dork Tower

Did you ever think that your work history is a lot like a role-playing game gone mad? I got to thinking about this over the weekend. It was the annual geek conflagration called DragonCon, which I once again didn’t get down there. But I started musing over role-playing games, things like TSR’s classic Dungeons & Dragons, and realized something.

It’s a great lens through which to understand hidden high potentials’ job history.

You started out doing one thing. You worked at it for awhile, maybe a good several years.

And then something happened.

So you reinvented yourself as something else. You started again, trying to leverage what you had left from the career path that failed, but pretty much doing something completely different. It seemed like it was a good thing: you had what looked like relevant skillsets and were willing to work diligently.

But something happened. Again. And you had to start over.

Once more you reinvent your work self. You get what looks like a decent set of skills together for it, and you’re leveraging the experiences you’ve had and the knowledge you’ve continued to amass.

And that falls apart.

So, you start again. Again.

How is like a role-playing game? It’s as if you keep rolling up player characters that have good stats but which somehow are never the right ones for the scenarios that your character gets into. You roll-up invisibility only to be caught by an heat sensing Masgathian bone chewer. You get a spear of might that protects you from spells (roll a six on a D6) only to thrown over a waterfall because your paddles broke.

It’s almost as if the Game Master had it in for you. Or your other players.

And then there’s the times when you’ve spent all your time and money on the game, only to be sideswiped by the “necessary” Second Edition. Or Third. Or Fourth. Or just a bunch of supplements that totally ruin everything you’ve put together.

The problem is that because your player characters (your careers) never last, you never amass the experience points necessary to get ahead in your career. You are stuck in low-end jobs that because of your age, aren’t likely to go anywhere.

So how in the world do you get out of this vicious cycle?

Stop playing the game.

© E. Forrest Christian

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