No, I Don't Want to Play Games at Work

I'll never forget taking Tyler on a tour of our new offices in Building 001 at Lexmark HQ.

Back in the day, 001 had been a manufacturing line that made the iconic IBM Selectric Typewriter and the Model M buckling-spring mechanical keyboard.  People still like those things today.   Suffice it to say, it was a quarter-mile long building with a floor flat as a pancake, and roughly 35 yards wide.

For a good decade after I hired-on, most of that building sat empty, home to a disused loading dock and stacks of IBM standard issue desks and chairs.  In 2012, our control-freak CFO decided we needed to do some "space consolidation" so he spent millions of dollars outfitting that area as a massive cubicle farm and moved us from our private offices and labs into that farm.

We got one concession out of that, though: A Game Room.   My second line (she'd go on to be my direct boss, and she was a hell of a good one) pushed relentlessly for the sort of gaming room that would attract and keep software talent.  So, nestled halfway down this building, behind a badge reader so only our group could get in, was a game room.

Inside you had the standard stuff:

  • 2 XBoxes with couches in front of large (50") LCD monitors
  • A foosball table
  • A ping-pong table
  • A (donated) pinball machine
  • Pop-a-shot
Anyway, I was in-the-tank for all this.  My coworker Tyler, a friend from church, came by one day to see the new area.  He looked pitifully on our cube farm (He sat in the famous "Lab" building of 032/035, a place you could hit with a tactical nuclear weapon and it'd probably look better) in private offices with fully-functioning labs.

"What's that room?" he asked.

So I took him in, past the badge reader.

He drank it all in, then I thought he was going to vomit.  "THIS IS WHAT YOU PEOPLE DO ALL DAY?" 

See, Tyler might've been young (10 years my junior), but he was a real mechanical engineer, he was going for his PE the next year, and he was cut from the old cloth.  He wasn't a workaholic, but he definitely believed in work

He adopted that smirking, disbelieving grin one only gets from real engineers, and quietly walked out of our area.

From that day on, I understood.  Tyler was right.

* * *

In essence, Tyler's attitude was: "I come to work to work, okay?"   I pretty much believe the same thing.   See, I really enjoy my job, minus the part where I sit stock-still for 8+ hours a day.  I don't come here to play boardgames, ping-pong, foosball, or FIFA.  None of those things "destress" me or "help me think."  

Indeed, my brain chemistry is such that if I have an undone task, it increases my anxiety.  Nothing fixes that except me doing the task or giving the task to someone else.  

I understand people who play games at work.  For people who aren't wired like me, it can indeed be relaxing and increase average productivity and team cohesion.  That's just not me.

I was brought up to both work and enjoy working.  In sum, no game you play with me is going to be more enjoyable than me writing, testing, and pushing code.  

That likely makes me a workaholic.  So be it.   This is how I provide for my family, and how I actually have fun.  Minus a vacation here and there, if you get in my way of working, we're going to have problems.  This dopamine isn't going to release itself, okay?

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