Um, employment law issues, I’d reply. And then I’d say something about how I talk about things that happen at work.
Recently, they asked if I had written about their passion. (Disappointingly, when I said I had already written about the Yankees, they said that wasn’t what they were talking about.)
No, they were talking about Minecraft.
Which led me on down a strange path of asking myself why any self-respecting employment lawyer would write about a computer game in the first place? (Though I’ve written about such games before). But also asking whether employers should even care about this game.
I think I have the answers to both, but let me first fill you in on what I’m talking about.
Minecraft is a build-your-own-world computer game that allows “players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world. Other activities in the game include exploration, gathering resources, crafting, and combat.” As of June 2014, it has sold well over 50 million copies on various computer platforms.
(No less than the New Yorker magazine had this to say about Minecraft.)
If you have kids or grandkids, or know of kids, chances are they know or play Minecraft. (And let’s just say that if your last experience with video games is Pac-Man, it’s it’s probably bigger than that right now.)
For those of us of a certain age, it is a modern day version of Dungeons and Dragons without, ahem, the dungeons and dragons. But many kids find it fun to work together, to build things and to try new things. There isn’t so much a way to “win” at Minecraft, rather, it is designed to support the notion that by working together, you can build bigger and better things.
People have been making cottage industries out of it. Over the weekend, my kids were so excited to see an article in the prominent Entertainment Weekly magazine, featuring one of those “stars” — a guy who goes by Stampy Longhead. (Don’t ask.)
While I am proud of my readership here, Stampy has over 3 millions subscribers to his YouTube channel and he makes over $300,000. A month.
Which brings me to the two points I think I’ve realized about Minecraft.
One of the less understood components of how lawsuits get started is an understanding of company culture. A recent Harvard Business Review article focused what the building blocks are to a great corporate culture. A good culture can make employees feel valued and where simple slights don’t turn into major lawsuits.
A lousy culture? Well, that can lead to a whole set of problems.
Minecraft is teaching a whole generation of “kids” (and not so “kids”) about the value of teamwork in a corporate culture.
Moreover, there is now a large segment that will have this joint experience together. A generation that will come up building things and doing things online in a joint way that many of us will just not understand. At all.
So, the company that can tap into that joint experience is going to have a headstart into incorporating that experience into the company’s culture.
And the company that dismisses Minecraft as just another “game” will be viewed unfavorably in the eyes of a whole generation of workers who believe (rightly or wrongly) that what they are playing has some value to it.
How many of us dismissed social media just a few years ago as just something college kids used to post what they had for breakfast?
Now I’m not suggesting that employers go out and use Minecraft.
But I think it is important to remember that each generation coming into the workplace for the first time will bring their own perspectives. A new generation won’t know a world without social media, texting and internet gaming. Minecraft will be of the things that an up-and-coming generation can share.
Understanding that can lead to fun possibilities for corporations.
In the meantime, I’m going to build something with my kids. I hear the new version has lava pools.