Back in 2016, the current Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed that his interest in the managerial aspect of the beautiful game came from a video game. Having led an illustrious career as a United striker, famously the super-sub who scored the winning goal in the 1999 Champion’s League final, it was Solksjaer’s experience with team sim Football Manager that encouraged him to continue a football career after he hung up his boots.
He’s not the only gamer who ever discovered a real-world passion through playing. Games can often offer a window on to other careers as well as other worlds, and sometimes inspire people to explore options they’d never considered before. Here, three video-game fans explain how their favourite games guided their real-life careers.
Nick Culligan, emergency medical technician
I got Battlefield 3 for Christmas in 2011, after deciding to boycott Call of Duty in favour of what looked to be a more realistic shooter to a 13 year old. Squad-based combat was uncharted territory for me, and it was a steep learning curve. Eventually, in my squad of classmates, I found my place: the Assault Class (Squad Medic).
The medic could keep two squads of machine-gunners operational for an hour-long game, constantly reviving teammates and throwing medkits. “Stop returning fire, you have a job to do – the game is at stake!” Coming to the end of my school career, in which I struggled academically, I had to make these big life choices. What will I be studying and where will I be studying it? And I needed work experience.
Since I was always the medic on my Battlefield squad, I thought, let’s see where that takes me. After finishing school, I applied to the Emergency Services Training Institute and continued my training. I’m now an emergency medical technician with a basic tactical emergency care qualification (specifically for the battlefield). And just like virtual Battlefield, you’re not there to be MVP, you’re not there for a thank you. You have a job to do; lives are at stake.
Ginny Woo, lawyer
It was no secret that I hated school. I hated career days, I hated maths, and most of all, I hated having to think about what I wanted to do when I reached adulthood. As a break from all that, I was a kid that spent way too much time on video games.
If I wasn’t gallivanting around Azeroth in World of Warcraft, then I was straining my eyes at the screen of whichever Gameboy I had conned a well-meaning relative into getting for me. Then I discovered Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney [a Japanese game about a rookie lawyer solving and arguing cases].
I can’t quite pin down exactly what it was that charmed me. Maybe it was the ruffled shirts, the campy prosecution lawyers, or being able to yell “Objection” at someone that was trying to put you down. All I knew was that the courtroom energy that Phoenix Wright created was infectious. The back and forth between the judge and counsel, the mind games played between plaintiff and defendant, the kooky characters who often set themselves up for failure – Ace Attorney made me feel like a mastermind and as soon as I could take up legal studies in school, I did.
Fast-forward almost a decade and I’m now a lawyer myself. I don’t ever get to yell “Objection!” at people because that’s not how my jurisdiction works, but I do get to litigate my way out of tricky situations and wear a ruffled shirt. The courtroom rush is even better in person.
Justin Reeve, pilot and archaeologist
Both aviation and archaeology were part of my childhood dreams, but gaming definitely had a bigger impact on my becoming a pilot than on my becoming an archaeologist. I got my pilot’s licence in Canada shortly after graduating from college. I flew for a couple of years, but left the industry when I started graduate school. These days I mostly fly for fun, but I do some freelance work, too. Now I’m primarily a professional field archaeologist and consultant.
I remember playing tons of flight simulators when I was growing up. Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe was probably my entry into the genre, but I played lots of games in the Combat Flight Simulator, Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane, and Digital Combat Simulator series later on. IL2: Sturmovik and Falcon 4.0 have been installed on my PC for many, many years. I’ve also logged a few dozen hours in those government-approved flight training simulators. While I still play these games quite a bit, there’s a vast gulf between even the best simulators and real aviation which has slowly turned me away from them since I started flying. The flight simulator genre definitely had a big impact on me while I was growing up. It’s hard to say if my interest in aircraft would have lasted so long without it.
Games really helped to foster and support the interests I developed as a child. When it comes to archaeology, I’d say the main influences on me were Total War and Assassin’s Creed. I came to realise how problematic these both are from an historical perspective later on in life, but they certainly pushed me to pursue my lifelong interest in the past. I can remember picking up a copy of Shogun: Total War when I was 10 years old and playing through Assassin’s Creed 2 at around 20. Both franchises really brought history to life for me in a way I had never seen before. They were a constant presence in my life as I started studying history in high school, went on to become a Classics major in college, enrolled as an archaeology student in graduate school, and started working as a professional field archaeologist almost 20 years later.