In Game, In Life #4: Piloting a new career by playing commercial video games

For people in some professions making decisions — and good decisions — is of special importance.

Mike is a civilian airline pilot based in Austria, who flies all over the world. Alongside his aviation job, Mike raced cars for 15 years and also runs two companies. He is a gamer and collector of games & consoles.

Game Academy talked to Mike about his passion and talent for games and decision-making skills demanded by a job where safety and professionalism is paramount.

GA: Mike, what games do you play?

M: As far as new games are concerned, I prefer FPS, RPG, turn-based strategy games and VR. But I am also a collector of video games and consoles — I have many physical releases, as well as retro.

GA: What made you decide to become a pilot?

M: I studied as an engineer and was working for a few years. Good money, good job. But at some point it became too stable. I started to miss a challenge. A daily challenge. I knew flying was cool, but didn’t know how to become a pilot. But I set a goal and retrained. It wasn’t easy - but you know, I enjoy difficulties both in-game and in life.

Mike’s collection of video games

GA: Have you have learned skills from playing games?

M: Yes, very much so. Hand-eye coordination, problem solving, decision-making, systems understanding, logic and fast learning.

GA: Have playing games helped you in your job?

M: Flying is about safety and professionalism . Hand-eye co-ordination is essential, also system thinking — planes are complex systems. You have to understand all of the sensors and train for every situation. Pilots I teach who are not gamers find all of these things harder.

GA: What about decision-making? What are the toughest decisions that you have to make in your job?

M: Too many…for example, around landing. A critical challenge is when sensors behave in a way that is not described in instructions when you’re landing. The decisions to be made are: land straight away, continue flying or turn back. You have to consider many factors, for example if you are above the Atlantic Ocean or flying somewhere in Europe.

GA: How do you make such decisions?

I first assess how much time I have to decide. Then I check instructions, ask the second pilot — I can ask flight attendants — and then decide. My main priority as a pilot is to protect and save lives. This is the criteria I measure on. Making a mistake is not an option. There’s a parallel in games actually, when you need to gather all the information possible.

GA: Can you explain more?

In game, I take some decisions very seriously, because I don’t want to stick to a scenario I don’t like. So I gather all the information possible, research it outside of the game, complete all of the side-quests, and only then decide.

His collection includes consoles and retro games

GA: The media says that gamers want instant reward. In your career, you’ve maintained a firm commitment to a goal, and it’s been slow, steady progress.

M: Games are not about fast reward. Many games are complex and difficult. I enjoy the challenge itself and the process — in-game and at work.

GA: Finally, what advice would you give to gamers thinking about new opportunities in life?

M: I’d say gaming gives you amazing skills and capabilities but it is critically important to transfer and translate them in to real life. Not everyone will be a pro-player. Only a few can earn a living at that. However, many game skills can be applied to the real world, and real world work like mine. So my advice: build on your life-long skills, balance your gaming, but never forget the excitement that it brings.

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