Levelling up! Six lessons about professional development from the world of role playing games…

It’s 9pm. I’m alone. This was a busy supermarket. Was. The air is filled with the smell of long rotten food and the sound of silence. A can falls loudly to the floor. A feral zombie like creature darts towards me. My heart quickens as I raise my AER9 laser rifle…

No, this is not Dr Puddle’s usual trip to the local Tesco Metro to pick up a ready meal after evening clinic. I’m playing a game. My old student penchant for computer role playing games, RPGs, has not entirely left me. I should probably be doing something more productive, like preparing for my appraisal next month. But then again, isn’t it important to unwind from time to time?

It would be nice to think that all those hours exploring dungeons and slaying orcs were not wasted. And, perhaps they weren’t.

RPG Sketch Pic

Continuing Professional Development, CPD, is an essential part of life as a modern professional. Here in the UK, demonstrating ongoing development is a compulsory part of all doctor’s revalidation process. Over 50 hours of development activity must be demonstrated every year in order for us to be allowed to continue to practice medicine. As I reflect on how I plan to improve myself as a professional, it strikes me that RPGs have some powerful lessons to teach us about personal and professional development.

That RPGs incorporate elements relevant to CPD is not surprising. A big appeal of the RPG genre is the experience of improving your character’s skills and abilities as you engage with increasingly difficult but rewarding stories and quests within the game world.

All RPGs incorporate a system to model the accumulation of experience, skills and abilities. For example, the Fallout series quantifies a player’s abilities using the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system. Player “stats” are rated 1 to 10 in the attributes of Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. Your character starts the game weak and ordinary, but experience points earned through playing the game are spent improving your basic stats, and training in special abilities. Currency can be earned and exchanged for equipment and clothing, which further enhance “stats” and abilities.  

So what can RPGs teach us about improving ourselves in the real world?
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