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.


Game Academy is a new tech service devoted to enabling gamers to maximise on their in-game talent out of game. The venture is supported by the UK Department for Education and Nesta through the CareerTech Challenge, in support of the National Retraining Scheme. You’ll find more at the Game Academy website. Also, do join our community on Discord.


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