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Gamers ROC: Recruiting gamers for remote operation centers

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(Image credit: Shutterstock / Song_about_summer)

Good hand-eye coordination, quick reflexes, strategizing, teamwork and problem-solving are all key to the modern gamer and form a skill set that would be valuable to roles in tech, manufacturing and engineering.

The next generation of games consoles hit the shelves last month, once again giving millions of gamers the choice between the latest PlayStation and Xbox. With the rise of the gaming communities across YouTube and Twitch, coupled with the global success of free multiplayer games such as Fortnite and Fall Guys, more people are stepping into the immersive world of gameplay than ever before, and the lockdowns implemented in response to the global pandemic have given the gaming industry another boost.

Gaming has sometimes had an image problem and historically been associated with laziness, obsession and a lack of productivity. Or, as Lord Campbell of Alloway put it during the Amusement Machines Bill debate in 1983, it is associated with “those under the age of 16 who stand like zombies before these newfound gods”.

Similar commentary on the dangers of gaming has persisted in the decades since. But what about the skills developed during all those hours of virtual running, jumping, climbing and shooting? Is it possible that, as gamers perfect their techniques with a console controller, they are sharpening tools that may one day help their future career?

Connecting players to game lobby: matching diverse skills with varied job roles

The video games of today are no longer confined to the simple joystick and button arcade set-ups against which Lord Campbell took such umbrage in the 1980s. With each new generation of games, the boundaries of imagination are stretched, and puzzles, role-play, combat, and open-world games offer unique ways to develop skills and mental fortitude.

This means that the gaming community is generating a far more valuable talent pool than many might assume. With digitalization transforming many industries, this provides an opening for many gamers to turn their hobby into a profession.

A perfect example of this is the introduction of remote working in our remote operation centers (ROCs). These ROCs are onshore hubs where we operate multiple types of vehicles offshore, from uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) to remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and offer our marine clients a range of support services, including survey data processing and remote positioning support. This new remote element of our operations has opened up more avenues for young people searching for a route into the job market. And when reviewing CVs to recruit ROC operators, gamers, in many respects, are an excellent fit. Being tech-savvy is a significant advantage for these roles, and the learning-by-doing that comes through video games means individuals who come to our attention via a less traditional route are still considered; if anything, potential employees can mark themselves as an active gamer on their CV with the confidence that it will help, rather than hinder, their chances.

New character unlocked: the complete employee

Plenty of skills fine-tuned on a console or PC translate nicely from the remote controller to remote vehicle operation and ROCs. Of course, it helps to be good with your hands when managing several platforms and multitasking across four to eight screens.

However, it is the mental agility developed through gaming that is most valuable. Video games tend to have a specific logic and set of rules that gamers follow. Similarly, in a ROC, information comes in from various sources, and the challenge is to assimilate and implement it. Ongoing tasks such as ETAs for the next waypoint or connectivity checks need ticking off as part of a continuous process, requiring a level of concentration and consistent awareness that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. To gamers though, this is second nature, transposed from various in-game missions, timings, maps, and inventory that have to be managed and maintained.

Periods of inaction when little is happening are part of the job in a ROC. Again, keeping your concentration is crucial, and gamers’ experience of spending extended periods focusing on a screen is invaluable!

Furthermore, a dated assumption of a gamer might be of a loner locking themselves away with their console. The truth is that games are an increasingly useful way to develop soft skills. The fresh popularity of battle royal games and the team aspects to some of the industry’s biggest franchises (Call of Duty, FIFA etc.) require communication, leadership and teamwork. As with so many jobs, a role in a ROC comes as part of a team, working together on projects and collaborating to ensure the successful completion of each mission. These skills are also sought in management roles across industries, meaning the core foundation developed through gaming can lead to a future leadership position.

The next level: attracting the talent

So, what can Fugro and other companies in similar positions do to make sure those transferrable skills don’t go to waste? Of course, we have to make the jobs themselves attractive to those we are trying to recruit. That means promoting how these jobs can relate to a gamer’s hobby and selling them as an exciting opportunity. At Fugro, we offer the rare chance to work at the forefront of cutting-edge technology in one of our ROCs. Being part of the new remote movement and contributing to a safe and livable world is something we want to sell to the next generation so that their skills can be part of this ambition.

It also means attracting diverse workers, providing accessibility and promoting inclusivity. Gamers come from all walks of life, and so businesses like ours should be taking advantage of this diverse talent pool. It also means generating a good company culture, which comes from an understanding of where we can find potential employees and being open to the varying skills people have to offer. When businesses are more open-minded in their recruitment and identify non-traditional skills from previously unacknowledged backgrounds such as gaming, both sides reap the benefits.

Ross Macfarlane, USV Policy and Public Affairs Advisor, Fugro

Ross graduated from the Glasgow College of Nautical Studies. His current position as USV Policy and Public Affairs Advisor within Fugro sees him leading the regulatory affairs for the company's new autonomous ships.