Yes, Playing Video Games Will Help You Become More Productive
In a now famous essay, Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham argues for dividing between maker and manager time.
Productive entrepreneurs use the former to attend to business and the latter for deep work, like writing or coding.
But what does this practice look like?
Enter John Romero.
He’s one of the creative talents behind video games like “Doom,” “Quake” and “Wolfenstein” and has worked in the industry for more than 30 years.
In 2015, he founded Romero Games in Galway, Ireland. The development company employs 20 people and has released titles like “Gunman Taco Truck.”
Set Aside Manager Time
Romero understands the value of structuring his time as prescribed by Graham. He starts his Irish workday by catching up on email and correspondence from the United States.
“I want to…make sure I’m caught up for whatever came in overnight,” he said. “Since we’re…ahead of the United States [in Ireland], stuff could totally come in while I’m sleeping.”
Romero also uses this time to check in with his teams.
Ensure Everyone Knows What They’re Working On
After attending to administration, Romero leads a standup with his team whereby each member explains what they’re working on and their priorities. A standup varies in size and complexity.
The company’s projects range from games developed by one person, like Romero, to bigger releases that take years and a large team to finish.
“I had a hundred people every day working on it,” Romero said about one of his larger development projects.
“That required a lot more organisation, with multiple producers per discipline; an executive producer; lots of outsourced management; multiple tiers of disciplines.”
Set Aside Maker Time
Romero doesn’t find time for creative projects until later in the day, after finishing working on his business. He oversees almost any aspect of a game in production, including programming, audio and level design.
“I try and keep the creative stuff until at least after 4 p.m.,” he said.
Many entrepreneurs might find this time of the day comes with less meetings, phone calls and other demands.
“I always work late. I mean, my best time to work is really starting at 9 p.m. until two, three in the morning.”
Allow For Play
Everyone from John Cleese to Albert Einstein cites the proven link between taking a break, play and creative work.
Even though he’s managing a thriving business, Romero still finds time to play video games like Quake, as well as more traditional games.
“At lunchtime, people just start up servers and play,” he said. “Here at the office there are so many board games, it’s just nuts. They’re everywhere. We have two Dungeons & Dragons campaigns going on that happen once a week.
“We all are living games. It’s not like we go home to some normal non-game life, because our whole career and our life is games, so we just go home and either do some more coding or play games.”
Market Your Work
Many entrepreneurs spend months or even years working on projects without considering how they will market their work and connect with fans or potential customers.
Romero has built a prosperous relationship with the gaming community. He sets aside plenty of time to talk to fans and gamers through online forums, communities and an active Instagram channel.
“There’s ‘Commander Keen’ people. There’s ‘Doom’ people, there’s ‘Wolfenstein’ fanatics, there’s ‘Quake’ nuts, there’s ‘Dangerous Dave’ fanatics, ‘Daikatana’ fanatics, ‘Heretic and Hexen.’ You name it, [and] there’s a fan base for a specific game,” he said.
“Responding to people is just common courtesy. If they email you, you answer them. We get lots and lots of emails every day about everything. The more games you publish, the more incoming [emails and comments] you’re going to get over the years.”
Find Your Middle Ground
Balancing maker and manager time requires practice and self-discipline, but it’s an ideal way of working for entrepreneurs like Romero.
If you’re struggling, consider what parts of your day demand deep focus and when you must manage. This self-reflection will help you structure your working day and become more productive.
Ready to supercharge your productivity?
I’ve created a cheat sheet that will help you FOCUS immediately. Follow this and you’ll accomplish more than you can imagine.