Game talkMMOG play as a barrier to getting a job

 Posted by (Visited 20844 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Dec 152008
 

Spotted this on the f13 forums:

I met with a recruiter recently (online media industry) and in conversation I happened to mention I’d spent way too much time in the early 2000s playing online games, which I described as “the ones before World of Warcraft” (I went nuts for EQ1, SWG and the start of WoW, but since 2006 I have only put a handful of days into MMOG playing – as opposed to discussing them – I’ve obsessed over bicycles and cycling instead).

He replied that employers specifically instruct him not to send them World of Warcraft players. He said there is a belief that WoW players cannot give 100% because their focus is elsewhere, their sleeping patterns are often not great, etc. I mentioned that some people have written about MMOG leadership experience as a career positive or a way to learn project management skills, and he shook his head. He has been specifically asked to avoid WoW players.

— f13.net forums – Recruiter told not to hire WoW players.

I think the funniest bit is all the MMOG players in the thread agreeing with the recruiter…

  96 Responses to “MMOG play as a barrier to getting a job”

  1. What’s next: employers filtering out candidates who are overqualified? Wait, they already do that…

    I see colleagues on LinkedIn joining groups like “World of Warcraft players” and calling attention to their game-playing habits in status updates—and I shake my head. That might be beneficial in this business, but the affiliation is career-limiting everywhere else. I don’t know how many times people in the defense industry have asked me about so-and-so’s resume because they’re not sure if the candidate’s game development experience means anything substantial.

  2. So am I going to start getting bumped up in the eyes of employers because I deliberately avoid WoW so it doesn’t impact the rest of my life?

    Because that would be awesome.

  3. I’ll consider this to be an example of arbitrary application of disparate standards. Until they include “fantasy football players” on this “to be avoided” list I consider it unfair. Fantasy football players spend far too much time on company machines and using company bandwidth to manage their rosters and trades, it divides their focus up, bla bla bla bla bla bla.

  4. and in a completely unrelated to gaming note, I’m getting more and more sick of this ‘obedient workers’ mentality…the paycheck I receive does not include any assumption that a company may dictate how I spend my personal time. This is more bureaucratic ‘one size fits all’ solutions imposed on the masses by a(n often) clueless minority.

  5. I think solely passing judgment on if a person plays a game is stupid. Similar to passing judgment on somebody who is Asian, Black, Hispanic.

    Focus on what the individual has actually done with their life. An employer should be focusing on the finer details of a person than if they play a game. Look at their GPA. Look at their prior work history. Look at their independent project work.

    Yes, MMO gamers are often thought of the ones who spend 24/7 on the game, but that case doesn’t fit everybody, and I doubt it applies to over half of the population.

    *note: I don’t play WoW. Hire me! ;\

  6. I’ll add, quickly, that discriminating based on the type of entertainment one enjoys sounds unconstitutional. I can imagine the Supreme Court ruling that such discrimination would have a chilling effect on First Amendment rights.

  7. There’s probably already case law, too. I hope someone smacks that employer with a lawsuit and then the recruiter for negligence in not advising their client that such discrimination is unlawful.

  8. This is almost certainly illegal. It’s no more relevant than asking a woman if she’s pregnant during an interview.

  9. While they’re blithely discriminating against people based on free time activities, I think that they should definitely take a long, hard look at television. The average American watches 14 hours of TV a week. There can’t possibly be more than 14 hours of television worth watching per week. What the hell is that upper 50% watching? The possibilities are all a bit scary, when you think about it.

    While they’re at it, how about golf? You can’t have golfers. They sneak out during the day to go to the driving range. And sports fans! They spend all day playing fantasy football on the web. And water-drinkers. They might lollygag about at the water cooler, having conversations, or something. YOU MUST THIRST ONLY FOR THE COMPANY’S SUCCESS!

  10. Absolutely agree with #s 6 and 7. Employers and employment agencies will engage in these types of discriminatory behavior up to the precise moment that a lawsuit is filed against them. And then it will all fade away, to be replaced by the next inane policy. But, really, until the lawsuit’s filed, corporate entities will get away with everything they can- and they can get away with a lot, because they have all the rights of you and I, yet their only, singular responsibility is to their shareholders, not society at large. Thus the inherent danger of “corporate personhood.”

  11. Don’t forget people who can take breaks whenever they want simply by saying the words “nic fit”. Gotta avoid hiring smokers, people! Productivity goes to hell. Not only that, they travel in packs (no pun). If one has a nic fit, they bring the rest of them along with regardless of their respective nic status.

  12. I’m seeing a whole lot of snark but not enough people asking themselves is it actually true? Are MMO players, specifically heavy MMO players less productive during work hours? If it’s true then it’s hard for me to be pissed about the “discrimination”. I’m sorry but with 6.7 billion plus people and counting need to ask what’s “right” a little less and what’s correct a little more.

  13. Chris:

    Absolutely agree with #s 6 and 7. [...] [Y]et their only, singular responsibility is to their shareholders, not society at large. Thus the inherent danger of “corporate personhood.”

    You might agree with me, but I don’t agree with you! :) Of course, I’m an entrepreneur from the Drucker school of thought, where entrepreneurship means creating social value, where “big business” refers to the size of a firm’s contribution to society, and where success is defined not by accounting but by the pursuit of meaningful enterprise.

    Tess:

    YOU MUST THIRST ONLY FOR THE COMPANY’S SUCCESS!

    That and “you must have passion for our products” are two pet peeves of mine. You can’t have passion for things, but you can have passion for activities. I love marketing, but if an employer asks me whether I’m passionate about their products, the Honest Abe in me must tell no lie: no. There’s this idea that passionate people have to actually care about your company, your products, and your people in order to perform well. That’s nonsense. Passionate people care deeply about what their practice and they’re going to make certain that they perform beyond their own high expectations.

  14. Makaze:

    Are MMO players, specifically heavy MMO players less productive during work hours?

    John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade wrote a book about the subject called The Kids are Alright: How the Gamer Generation is Changing the Workplace. There is compelling evidence that people who regularly play games outperform their colleagues who do not. There are also a ton of other books on the subject of video games and literacy, video games and education, and video games and health. David Edery and Ethan Mollick recently published their book Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business, which according to Henry Jenkins, “explores how computer and video games are transforming business and marketing practices.”

  15. Makaze,

    I’m seeing a whole lot of snark but not enough people asking themselves is it actually true? Are MMO players, specifically heavy MMO players less productive during work hours?

    I’m not sure you understand that the snark is precisely the result of people asking themselves this question. They’re pointing to perfectly analogous cases that show why this is a stupid call. I can tell you that, more than once, I’ve had coworkers realize they’ve been slacking off working on their fantasy football team. The one coworker who plays WoW also happen to be one of the most productive; he’s no longer with us, because he married, bought a house and went on to freelance.

    If someone is playing WoW at work, then they should be fired. If they’re not, then it’s none of your business what they spend their time on during non-work hours. If they meet milestones and other deadlines, then you have no cause for complaint, other than personal prejudice. That’s what discrimination is about. If someone claims to be able to devote a full work day, five days a week, during an interview, and then turns around and fails because they’re playing golf in the afternoon, then you fire them and explain this to their next potential employer who wants to know if they’re any good.

    Personally, what I suspect is happening is that people are taking Joi Ito seriously and trying to use WoW on their resumes, and then are subsequently unable to perform as promised. But I’ve got nothing to back that up with, since we don’t have the employer on the line.

  16. @Morgan,

    Of course, I’m an entrepreneur from the Drucker school of thought, where entrepreneurship means creating social value, where “big business” refers to the size of a firm’s contribution to society, and where success is defined not by accounting but by the pursuit of meaningful enterprise.

    So what you’re trying to say is that you’re an idealist that prefers not to pay attention to how business tends to work, instead focusing on how it should work? ;P

    I mean, that’d be great and all. More people in those positions should try doing that, we’d be a lot better off I think. heh.

    But the truth of it is that so few people seem to actually go there.

  17. While it is discriminatory (obviously), it’s probably not illegal. Employers have always been able to legally fire (or not hire) people for activities outside of work. Somebody brought up smoking, and that’s as good a case as any. People have been terminated for not complying with a company smoking ban, even if they don’t smoke at work, and the courts have so far upheld those firings.

    It’s the golden rule: those that have the gold make the rules.

    At least Obama is still appointing gamers to positions of authority. MMOFTW!

  18. Yukon Sam:

    Somebody brought up smoking, and that’s as good a case as any.

    Smoking is not constitutionally protected.

  19. Interesting that no one has mentioned how the current economy has really changed how employers look for employees. I have noticed for the past few years, during the downturn, that employers will discriminate on anything they choose – WoW is the one that we notice. This is the employers market – and those who can’t spell for a driving job can potentially lose a position.

    Gaming habits, golf, fantasy football, excessive online use of any sort, smoking or anything else can and probably will be a reason not to hire a candidate for a position because they have more choices on who to hire. I have seen many city employees lose positions due to “personalizing” their computers, and thus introducing viruses and trojan horses into the system.

    When the economy is booming, none of this will matter. Employers will take anyone with a pulse.

  20. [...] it seems that it may be best to keep your playing a secret when looking for other lines of work. Raph Koster picked up on a thread at the f13 forums in which we learn that a recruiter in the online media industry has been told by [...]

  21. I’m not sure you understand that the snark is precisely the result of people asking themselves this question.

    No the snark is from people’s kneejerk reaction to immediately internally say “I’m not a slacker” and bring up anecdotal experiences and individuals as rebuttals. I’m not interested if your friend Fred is a total WoW freak but also a totally hard worker. I’m interested in whether or not from a broad statistical sense if it is true or not. And frankly neither you nor I nor anyone else here has the data to answer that question.

    Our daily lives outside of work certainly affect our performance at work. As an example if both candidate A and B are equally qualified in terms of talent and experience but A plays WoW and so has a 65% chance of getting 2 less hours of sleep a night than B then sorry but B is the better candidate. Statistically B will be more awake, alert, and able during his 8 hours at work. You may not like it, you may not think it’s fair but when you’re making hiring policies for 1000s of people you’re essentially talking about statistics.

    And yes if A was already on the payroll and hitting his deadlines then no problem. But we’re talking about hiring here which if A doesn’t work out basically boils down to hiring, trying, firing, and finding a new guy to repeat the process on, very time consuming and expensive.

  22. I have seen many city employees lose positions due to “personalizing” their computers, and thus introducing viruses and trojan horses into the system.

    Yeah, honestly, someone who drags a virus to work because of unauthorized activities involving their work pc should be fired. And perhaps sued for damages. There’s hardly any excuse for that.

    Also, that is totally different from playing WoW in your free time.

    About the original article: It’s dumb and maybe illegal, but good luck proving it. Either way there are companies you do not want to work for, and this recruiter represents one. I have this personal habit of being totally, absolutely loyal to the company that I work for… as long as the company treats me well and is loyal to me. If they are not, I will leave in a heartbeat. If they do not treat me with fairness during the hiring process, I will not sign up with them.

    A lot of employers – and employees, for that matter – seem to forget that hiring someone is an act that is supposed to be beneficial to both sides. If you try to tip the scales too much, it’ll hurt your bottom line in the long run.

  23. @Morgan
    Those two books you mention are really talking about the games and gamers of GenX. Also assuming for the moment that I agree with them (and to some degree I do) they’re speaking to cognitive development, thought patterns, and other things effected by game playing within the context of how it effects someones talent. I think the recruiter in question is more concerned how MMOs specifically effect someones readiness and willingness to actually perform their work on a day to day basis as it is effected by their game playing on a day to day basis.

    If one were to assume that both premises are correct then your best hire would be a former gamer.

  24. Morgan:

    Smoking is not constitutionally protected.

    True. But neither is gaming, explicitly.

    And the constitutional argument is moot. Sadly, you don’t have any constitutional rights in the workplace beyond what your employer chooses to grant you. There ARE anti-discrimination laws, but none of them offer protection on the basis of WOW account status.

  25. True. But neither is gaming, explicitly.

    And the constitutional argument is moot. Sadly, you don’t have any constitutional rights in the workplace beyond what your employer chooses to grant you. There ARE anti-discrimination laws, but none of them offer protection on the basis of WOW account status.

    Smoking is the wrong reason for firing someone. If their smoking habit is disturbing others, then you can fire them for disturbing others, same as you would if they were bringing feces into work and throwing them at people. If their smoking habit is hampering their productivity, then you can fire them for failing to meet milestones. And if their smoking habit is specifically forbidden by law, then that’s a pretty clear case of hey, don’t hire them in the first place.

  26. I dream of the day that ROWE is a reality for all workplaces.

  27. I’ll add, quickly, that discriminating based on the type of entertainment one enjoys sounds unconstitutional. I can imagine the Supreme Court ruling that such discrimination would have a chilling effect on First Amendment rights.

    The First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . .”

    The discretion of a private employer to hire or fire whom it chooses has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

  28. Smoking is the wrong reason for firing someone

    No one is talking about firing, only not hiring. And someone who smokes is more likely to get sick and miss work, possibly on critical days, and will also drive the employers health insurance costs up. Valid reasons in my mind to not hire a hypothetical smoker vs. an otherwise identical non-smoker.

    The discretion of a private employer to hire or fire whom it chooses has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

    The argument can be made that certain forms of entertainment constitute speech, specifically protected speech, and by discriminating against someone for participating in said protected speech it’s a 1st amendment issue. I’m not saying I agree or that it would hold up but the argument could be made.

  29. I’d just rather I knew who the employers were upfront. Even if they don’t know about my MMOG hobbies, I’d not want to work for an organization with that sort of approach.

    The free market goes both ways.

  30. The free market goes both ways

    Best thing said so far.

  31. I wouldn’t even bother to interview a guy who thinks that his WoW experience is so important that he tries to pass it off as some kind of relevant job experience for his resume. On the other hand, I have no problem with someone saying they play WoW if it comes up in conversation. It is a matter of priorities. If WoW is that important to them that they put it on their resume, I’m going to assume that they think of it like a job, and that it could take precedent over their real job responsibilities.

    Their WoW experience is not something I want to see on a resume, nor do I care if they have won their fantasy football league 3 years running, nor if their dog won the puppy fashion show. Unless the specific job qualifications suggest otherwise, it is not relevant, it doesn’t help your cause, and it might even hurt it.

    How do you know you aren’t being interviewed to replace someone who was fired for playing too much WoW on the job? Or is that discrimination too?

  32. I guess that makes this report more or less interesting

  33. [...] reports just in (from f13.net forums, via Raph Koster’s blog) of recruiters being told to AVOID applicants that mention WoW on their CV’s: [...]

  34. Are WoW players less productive in the workplace. Look, I’ll be honest, in the case of myself and my two WoW-playing workmates, yes, we are. We spend a heap of time talking about WoW rather than working. We spend a heap of time on forums, Wowhead, looking up loot, twiddling with talent builds etc.

    But that’s no excuse to discriminate against a potential employee because of his gaming habits. It just means that our manager needs to be more aware of what’s happening in his department and needs to curb our egregious slackness a little better.

  35. Kyle, yeah that works as long as there’s an employer that doesn’t do that in the field you’re interested in, that needs your skill set, and that ends up wanting to hire you in the end. While this is probably often the case it isn’t necessarily *always* the case.

    Truth of the matter is there are more potential employees than there are potential employers. This means that the employers hold more of the cards at the table, since it’s easier for them to pass over a potential employee than it is for the employee to find a similar employer. Free markets are only really valid if bargaining power is roughly equal on both sides, and this is rarely ever the case. When you’ve got an imbalance of bargaining power the free market ideology only benefits the people with more power.

    And that’s why anti-discrimination laws are hugely important. They act as a method to balance out the fact that the employer has more power by restricting how they can use it.

  36. Makaze:

    The argument can be made that certain forms of entertainment constitute speech, specifically protected speech, and by discriminating against someone for participating in said protected speech it’s a 1st amendment issue.

    It’s not just that. The term “chilling effect” refers to undue burdens a law or even a policy places on civil rights. Whether Congress made the law is irrelevant. In this case, we’re probably looking at how at-will doctrine has the capacity to have such a chilling effect. At-will employment is not laissez-faire, as Jon seems to think. There are many exceptions to at-will employment. I foresee lifestyle, how we live our lives and make use of our rights, becoming one of those exceptions.

    This Washington Post article points out that our personal lives are now public more than ever. How public do you think our personal lives will be 10 years from now? 20? You can find out a lot about me by just reading through my Twitter feed archive or spidering Raph’s blog for all of my comments. In this increasingly connected society, I think the courts will eventually have to curb lifestyle discrimination in order to protect the civil rights we hold dear.

    I don’t know when that will happen, but now is a good time to get things moving. Someone contact the ACLU.

  37. Makaze, my snark was an attempt at using humor to point out that people engage in all sorts of time-consuming activities that may affect their work. Singling out gaming is unfair and counterproductive. I used to work with a guy who disappeared from work for hours at a time because he was building a new house. Yet, I don’t see any recruiters discriminating against people who are building houses. If you require the sort of dedication that might be impeded by a 20-hour-a-week hobby, then you need a more rigorous approach to screening your candidates than simply tossing out the WoW players.

    You asked, “Are MMO players, specifically heavy MMO players less productive during work hours?” But, you’re missing the point. Even if some — or even many MMO players suffer productivity loss, that’s not reason to discriminate against all MMO players. Either an individual is able to do the job, or an individual is not able to do the job. The names of his or her specific hobbies are probably irrelevant.

    Is there something about MMO playing that inherently precludes high-productivity and workplace dedication?

    WoW players spend, on the average, around 20 hours a week playing WoW (http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/000891.php). While I don’t recommend this, you could sleep 8 hours every night, work 60 hours, play WoW for 20 hours a week, and still have 32 hours left over per week for eating, showering, networking, dating, spending quality time with your kids, web surfing, posting on blogs, watching TV, or anything else you want. So, I don’t see how moderate amounts of MMO playing can’t fit into a healthy lifestyle.

    That said, it is worth looking at how we design the MMO experience, and make sure that we are not encouraging people to stay up past 2AM, camping for a pair of stupid boots. Yes, people are responsible for their own lives, and yes, it’s their own damn fault if they stay up past 2AM, doing something boring and stupid. However, I don’t think we need to be encouraging them.

    But what about all those scary players who turn into Gollum — pale and miserable in their basements, fingertips stained orange from Cheetos?

    There are definitely some individuals who play MMOs in a way which interferes with their lives, or is otherwise unhealthy. Heck, a lot of people go through a brief period of that, while honeymooning with a new game. However, when it persists, this is usually — in my experience — a symptom of depression, stress, or some other psychological problem. Even if MMOs had never been invented, these same individuals would probably still be exhibiting productivity problems.

  38. Tess:

    WoW players spend, on the average, around 20 hours a week playing WoW

    According to Nielsen, the average American watches around 4 hours of television per day, 20 hours in a work week, and 28 hours in a 7-day week. The average American college student watches less television at around 3.5 hours per day, 17.5 hours in a work week, and 24.5 hours in a 7-day week. I’d bet that there’s both crossover and substitution here. People who play as much World of Warcraft probably don’t watch as much television.

    About half of American television viewers also say they watch too much television, so it’s not really surprising that all of these gamers would agree that playing World of Warcraft less than 3 hours per day is excessive.

  39. I’d bet that there’s both crossover and substitution here.

    There’s also “watching TV while playing WoW”, but I don’t entirely understand the term “crossover” at the moment and think that maybe that’s what you meant.

    For Makaze:

    Bringing Up Baby

    Tiny’d it because the domain name would probably trip a profanity filter and make WordPress think I’m being some kind of naughty again.

  40. Another sign of how grossly uninformed people are about the ‘horrors’ of gaming. Based on this lets be sure to cover other groups that might have things going on in their lives that act as distractions. For starters anyone with children….

    Its about time the workplace got it into its head that just because you employ someone dosn’t mean they own you.

  41. Singling out gaming is unfair and counterproductive. I used to work with a guy who disappeared from work for hours at a time because he was building a new house

    That’s exactly what I mean though, you worked with 1 guy. So what? All you’ve done is offer an example of other hobbies that are bad for workplace productivity. 1 guy with a hobby unusual enough that there is no possibility for screening for it. MMO gaming on the other hand is prevalent enough that it is possible to establish a statistical correlation between lower workplace productivity vs. participation and reasonably screen for it. I’m not saying such correlation exists mind you, only that it’s possible to prove or disprove.

    But, you’re missing the point. Even if some — or even many MMO players suffer productivity loss, that’s not reason to discriminate against all MMO players. Either an individual is able to do the job, or an individual is not able to do the job. The names of his or her specific hobbies are probably irrelevant.

    And I think you’re missing the point. The question is not whether a given individual who plays MMOs is more or less capable. It’s whether as a group they are more or less capable. If many MMO players are less productive then that is the perfect reason to discriminate against them, at least when deciding to exchange wages for production. With no discovery process other than resumes and interviews it’s difficult to judge people beyond shallow surface characteristics, so we extrapolate an estimate of an individuals competence from those factors. We’re all just statistics, like it or not.

    Its about time the workplace got it into its head that just because you employ someone dosn’t mean they own you.

    They own only as much as you’re willing to sell.

  42. [...] cv de candidats jouant à World of Warcraft. Le message découvert par Raph Koster et repris sur son blog, cite un recruteur travaillant dans les médias online indiquant que “les employeurs ne [...]

  43. Makaze:

    The argument can be made that certain forms of entertainment constitute speech, specifically protected speech, and by discriminating against someone for participating in said protected speech it’s a 1st amendment issue. I’m not saying I agree or that it would hold up but the argument could be made.

    Yes, certain forms of entertainment are speech. And if [b]the government[/b] discriminates against people for engaging in that speech, it’s a first amendment issue. If any private entity discriminates against people for engaging in that speech, it’s not a First Amendment issue. It may violate other laws, but it’s not a First Amendment issue. Period.

    Morgan Ramsay:

    It’s not just that. The term “chilling effect” refers to undue burdens a law or even a policy places on civil rights.

    Here’s the thing: I know what a “chilling effect on speech” means. We did that in my Con Law class, and then again in my First Amendment class. And related issues come up occasionally in my current legal job.

    Whether Congress made the law is irrelevant.

    If the question is as between Congress and some other government actor, like a regulatory agency, or a state legislature, then yes, it’s irrelevant, because the Supreme Court has read the term “Congress,” in the First Amendment context, to mean “government actors, both state and federal.”

    If the question is between a government actor and a private entity, like a private employer, then no, it’s absolutely relevant. The First Amendment only protects your free speech rights from infringement by the government. The government may not arrest you for wearing a jacket that says “Fuck the war” written on it, because it’s a free speech violation. Your employer may certainly fire you for wearing that jacket to work, and there is absolutely no First Amendment issue in play.

    In this case, we’re probably looking at how at-will doctrine has the capacity to have such a chilling effect.

    The terms of your employment certainly may have a chilling effect on your private activity. If I really, really dig my “fuck the war” jacket and want to wear it everywhere I go, then my desire to not get escorted out of my office by a large security guard has a chilling effect on my ability to rock my awesome jacket. That’s not a First Amendment issue.

    At-will employment is not laissez-faire, as Jon seems to think.

    No, it’s not, and I never said it was. Governments, municipal, state, and federal, have all placed considerable legal restrictions on the ability of private employers to hire and fire at will. You can’t deny someone a job because of their race, or fire them because of the same. Ditto gender, religion, country of origin (assuming legal working status), sexual orientation (in many states), or a slew of other things.

    None of these things are First Amendment issues.

  44. “Governments, municipal, state, and federal, have all placed considerable legal restrictions on the ability of private employers to hire and fire at will.”

    Actually, that trend is reversing as the foreign companies now investing the money we shipped to them in trucks for container ships full of cheap disposable goods are locating plants in non-unionized at-will work states such as the South while the heavily unionized penalty bearing states are going the US Congress for bailout money.

    Expect things to get tighter and more restictive not less. When I started in my career, we had bullpen rooms with drafting boards and a guy sitting at a tall desk watching all to ensure every moment on the job was used for the job. On the other hand, it was in at 8 out at 5 and no one worked overtime. Then came the computers on the desks and the age of work until the job was done without any overtime compensation expected because the 70s had introduced us all to the concept of not having a job and the 80s introduced us to the concept of He Who Works Longest Gets Promoted Fastest.

    Frankly, if you put gaming on a resume as an incentive for me to hire you, I’d be rather unimpressed. If you put ‘plays piano for children’s choir at church’, I am a little more impressed. If you put, ‘writes shaders for an open sim project’, I’m a lot interested.

  45. After doing a bit more homework, I’ve found that there are two states that ban “lifestyle discrimination” in hiring (mostly targeting factors such as smoking and obesity, but probably applicable to gaming as well). Twenty-one other states have partial protections of this sort. My earlier statement was outdated.

    It appears these laws have overwhelming public support, but are nontheless under constant attack by employers who believe that they have the absolute right to hire and retain whomever they please with no regulation whatsoever.

  46. [...] Raph Koster at Massively picked up on a thread at the f13 forums in which we learn that a recruiter in the online media industry has been told by employers numerous times to straight-up avoid World of Warcraft players as potential hires. [...]

  47. Makaze said:

    If many MMO players are less productive then that is the perfect reason to discriminate against them, at least when deciding to exchange wages for production.

    By discriminating against any individual, based on some shortcoming of a normative group (unless some property of that group makes them directly less capable of doing the job efficiently — e.g. paraplegic firefighters), you are both failing to weed out other individuals who may be inappropriate for the job, and also potentially neglecting perfectly good candidates who are exceptional for their group. In other words, you may not ultimately be choosing the best candidate for the job.

    In general, women are not as strong as men. However, a given individual athletic woman may yet perform better in the military than the average American man would. Ergo, if it is your intention to hire the best candidates you can, it would be illogical to exclude women, as a group, from military service.

    However, this is an even stranger decision, because there has, to date, been no statistical evidence to support the hypothesis that MMO players are less productive than other workers. Discriminating against individuals based on anecdotal evidence about a group is nothing more than rank voodoo.

  48. With no discovery process other than resumes and interviews it’s difficult to judge people beyond shallow surface characteristics, so we extrapolate an estimate of an individuals competence from those factors.

    This is true. However, that doesn’t make it any more reasonable to blanket reject candidates because they have a particular hobby. The reason I keep pointing out cases for firing is because that’s where you do have reason. Where does such a criterion stop?

    “Ever play WoW?”
    “Oh, sure. I haven’t played in a while, but my friends are telling me to pick it up again.”
    “And will you?”
    “I don’t know. I might.”
    “I don’t think we can hire you.”
    “Why?”
    “Because we can’t put it into the contract that you’re not allowed to play WoW at home.”

    And that’s perfectly okay, right?

  49. I played WoW for a few years and quit, but during those few years I played I kept it most in moderation and it in means impacted my work or ability to work. Discriminating against people because of their hobbies is simply wrong.

  50. Oh I actually agree that a blanket ban is rather stupid. You’ll notice that in my examples I made sure to mention that there was an otherwise equally qualified candidate therefore the only deciding factor between them was MMO participation. Although naturally depending on how strongly you fweight it you could make it more of a deciding factor.

    You’re also perfectly right that an organization that judges applicants on the basis of groups they belong may not always choose the best candidate for the job, and they know it. The idea though is to pick, on average, better candidates for a great many jobs and expend less resources in choosing them.

    I also agree that there is no proven statistical link, or disproven. Believe me I’m not arguing for specifically turning away MMO playing job applicants. I’m arguing that if any easily quantifiable trait such as participation in a particular activity is shown to contribute to lower average productivity then it is perfectly logical to discriminate against it in hiring.

    You can think of not hiring someone as preemptive probabilistic firing if that helps. Like Schrodinger’s job :) You’re rejecting them not on the basis of something they did but rather something they are likely to do. And the criterion is whatever the employer wants it to be so long as it’s legal and subject to harsh correction from the free market.

  51. [...] it seems that it may be best to keep your playing a secret when looking for other lines of work. Raph Koster picked up on a thread at the f13 forums in which we learn that a recruiter in the online media industry has been told by [...]

  52. Quick point, since I’m at work:

    When you’ve got an imbalance of bargaining power the free market ideology only benefits the people with more power.

    It’s not true that only the side with more power benefits. The side with more power tends to benefit more, to an extent that tends to correlate with the level of imbalance, which tends to compound over time/transactions. So there is a general point that agrees with there being shortcomings to pure capitalism, but I think stating the above as an absolute isn’t right.

    On the general discussion topic, no first amendment issue, but definitely a discrimination issue for which there is plenty of case law (on both sides of the issue).

  53. It appears these laws have overwhelming public support, but are nontheless under constant attack by employers who believe that they have the absolute right to hire and retain whomever they please with no regulation whatsoever.

    Just because something has overwhelming public support, doesn’t make it right. If there was a law that suggested that 2% of people had to give all their money to the other 98%, it would probably have overwhelming support. That doesn’t automatically make it right.

    Look at it from the employer’s standpoint. Why should they be forced to pay a salary to someone they felt was ill-suited for the job? If I don’t think a person with a certain degree is qualified for the job, is that education discrimination? Is it fair if I only want to interview people with experience even though maybe there is someone really really smart who would be just as good? Do I have to interview friggin everybody regardless? And then I guess I have to use first-come-first-served to select one because any other criteria would be unfair.

    Is it discrimination when professional athletes are required to sign a contract stating that they will not engage in certain activities that might be prone to bodily injury?

  54. Mike Weldon:

    Look at it from the employer’s standpoint.

    I think you’re forgetting that some of us are employers…

    If I don’t think a person with a certain degree is qualified for the job, is that education discrimination? Is it fair if I only want to interview people with experience even though maybe there is someone really really smart who would be just as good?

    Those aren’t even legitimate comparisons. We’re talking about a leisure activity in which you engage in the privacy of your home. We’re not talking about things that are relevant to your job.

  55. Exactly the reason I have never told a single person at work I play MMORPGs, and I can’t even begin to imagine telling a recruiter this. The fact that he brought this up is grounds to be immediately dismissed from the interview process. (Unless we were hiring him to be one of the tech helpdesk geeks that work the night shift or something.)

  56. len:

    Frankly, if you put gaming on a resume as an incentive for me to hire you, I’d be rather unimpressed. If you put ‘plays piano for children’s choir at church’, I am a little more impressed. If you put, ‘writes shaders for an open sim project’, I’m a lot interested.

    The issue is a bit more complex than that. Let’s say you’re happily employed. You’re doing great work. Then, suddenly, someone flies in and says, “We’ve discovered that you play Metaplace from your blog postings. You’re fired.”

    Or, “We’ve found that you frequent so-and-so’s gay bar from your Twitter feed. You’re fired.”

    Or, “We’ve found that you enjoy Menthols from your MySpace page. You’re fired.”

    Or, “We’ve found that you practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from so-and-so’s dojo tournament announcements. You’re fired.”

    Or, “Our private investigators followed you to F Street where you bought adult magazines and lubricants. You’re fired.”

    From the comments I’ve read at Boing Boing, Kotaku, and Reddit, a lot of people don’t seem to be able to understand this issue beyond “yeah, my friend plays World of Warcraft, and he’s a loser.” That World of Warcraft is the subject of lifestyle discrimination in this case does not mean that MapleStory or football is not the subject of discrimination in other cases.

    Our private lives are becoming more and more public thanks to the web, social networks, and our overall increasing connectedness. At what point do we say, “Enough is enough. Okay, employers, you can’t discriminate in your hiring and firing practices based on what people do when they’re not on the clock.” When we do we get angry at employers who want to dictate how their employees live and make use of their civil rights? When do we say, “If the government shouldn’t infringe on our civil rights, why should private corporations be able to do so?” (Private corporations are made of people just like us. This isn’t us-versus-them. This is us-versus-us. Would you be okay with your next-door neighbor telling you what activities in which you’re allowed to participate if you want to continue to live where you do? I don’t think so.)

  57. @morgan: I’ve got neighbors that got upset when I put up signs for Democratic candidates, don’t mow my lawn, do mulch my leaves, and so on. It doesn’t affect my employer. I did work for a company that made it clear that voting democratic was a career limiter even though that IS illegal. Did it affect my performance? No. Did it bother me? Yes. Did I quit? No. Did they fire me? No. I’m just as concerned as you are about the invasion of privacy if they use a snitch, but the truth is, I blog the topic and the blogs are public. It’s a risk I take willingly and really, without a lot of fear. “Find the cost of freedom….” as Stills said.

    But my comment was about hiring based on informaton given freely, iow, what the person put on the resume for me to notice in the section of hobbies. That they play games doesn’t bother me. That they think that is a job plus is unimpressive. That is my point because in my opinion, playing WoW in no way strengthens their qualifications. Playing for church children’s choir tells me a bit about their patience. If they write shaders for fun, that tells me they work on software for fun, and something relevant.

    But if the question is should we consider their fit in the organization, here is one for you: your employer is an Indian family and your interviewee is clearly a devout Muslim? Should you consider that if you have another applicant as qualified? IMO, yes you should. And never tell a soul. Legal? Maybe not. Smart? Definitely.

  58. len, but the original post said that the recruiter specifically was avoiding people who he found out played WoW, not that they were putting it on their resume. I’m not sure how we got into that tangent, but it’s completely irrelevant to what the thread was about.

  59. @Peter, fair enough. The point’s still valid though, even if the extent is less than my rhetoric implies.

    Since the employer holds most of the cards, especially in the current economy, anti-discrimination laws are hugely important and this sort of nonsense shouldn’t be tolerated.

  60. We’re not talking about things that are relevant to your job.

    And that’s the fundamental difference of opinion we have on the subject. You believe that if it doesn’t happen at work it is not relevant. I believe that our entire lives are interconnected and anything and everything that effects performance is relevant.

  61. len:

    But if the question is should we consider their fit in the organization, here is one for you: your employer is an Indian family and your interviewee is clearly a devout Muslim? Should you consider that if you have another applicant as qualified? IMO, yes you should.

    I spoke with HR professonals at length as part of a workshop awhile back about this issue. We had HR managers coming out of the woodworks with anecdotes about how open-minded and intelligent people actually are in religious communities. A temple would willingly hire Muslim workers. A mosque would willingly hire Christian workers. A church would willingly hire Jewish workers. I’m sure there are counterexamples, but if these distinct and traditionally opposed groups can look beyond religion and recognize that, in the context of work, performance supersedes faith, so can the people in your example. The HR professionals said that they were ready to handle faith-based conflicts but such conflicts never came about. In fact, they said, having such a diverse workforce in these seemingly narrowly focused environments actually served to strengthen relationships between employees as they became more appreciative of their differing religious and spiritual perspectives.

  62. And that’s the fundamental difference of opinion we have on the subject. You believe that if it doesn’t happen at work it is not relevant. I believe that our entire lives are interconnected and anything and everything that effects performance is relevant.

    I agree with this and I would add that the person paying the salary is the one who should get to decide what is relevant. We don’t need any more limits on the kinds of things that can be used as hiring criteria. It is a slippery slope.

  63. Un joueur de WOW "discriminé" à l’embauche…

    On connaissait l’histoire du chef de guilde recruté pour ses talents in-game, maintenant, on varie le thème, et on obtient celle du postulant refoulé à un entretien d’embauche, car il était joueur de Wow. Sur le forum f13, un post assez intéres…

  64. Makaze:

    You believe that if it doesn’t happen at work it is not relevant.

    Mike Weldon:

    We don’t need any more limits on the kinds of things that can be used as hiring criteria. It is a slippery slope.

    I would be embarassed to be that naive. ::|

    Lifestyle Discrimination in the Workplace: Your Right to Privacy Under Attack (12/31/1998) (ACLU)

    “Lifestyle” Discrimination in Employment (Berkeley Journal of Employment & Labor Law)

    Report: Lifestyle Discrimination: Employer Control of Legal Off Duty Employee Activities (The National Workrights Institute)

    Think, please. Think hard. Both of you need to ask yourselves whether you want to work to live or live to work. If you want to be a wage slave, just another cog in the machine, there are more “attractive” opportunities outside the United States. Here, liberty is the dominant lifestyle.

    “It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.” (excerpt, Scottish Declaration of Arbroath, upon which the American Declaration of Independence was based)

  65. Well, I think we shloud not focus on the discrimination issue or privacy issues that are moral issues (even if I do not want this particular fact to be generalized).

    Why and how do they believe MMO’s players should not be able to work there?

    According to labour sociology (especially french research), the integration can be measured on labour satisfaction (dealing with the material and social conditions) and employment stability (against precarity and exogeneous labour maket issues). A good integration ca produce efficient work.

    For me, this fact reveals that this enterprise is not able to offer a minimum welfare for their employees, it cannot integrate them in the group. Tis is a defensive strategy in order to normalize the social composition of the group (the same as in every association).

    So, the integration issue in the team revaeals that all speeches about videogames, dealing with the effects (positive as education, training, or negative as violence or addiciton) are performative beliefs and can produce exclusion in order to maintain a weak group non-fully satisfied and not-united.

    These are only hypotesis, but according to Durkheim or Weber, work is a socializing institution, less deterministic than family, but is a way to integrate individual in social system, because it reflects socialisation’s logics and moral values. SO as MMO according to researches.

    Then in a supermodern point of view (Balandier or Augé, Fench anthrpologists), we can witness here a kind of competition between the normative systems (beliefs and rationality). The thing is that the belief is produced here by non in-game instances. Insofar, the magic circle is under attacks (cf. Castronova and his public policies study, The end of magic circle, QUaderni n°67). But it not the game which is here invading reality, it is reality that tries to contol and to define the game (plus interculturality issues. This exclusion process is typical from a defensive policy by a stigmatisation process (cf Howard Becker in Outsiders, he shows how jazzmen and pot smokers are defined as deviant by the society, the moral decision-makers).

    If I were this guy, I would be thankful as I would not like to work in a social environnement where everyone is suspicious about my private activities!!!

  66. I developp this issue on a post on my bog, but it is unfortunatly in French (^^)

  67. Okay, let me throw some hypotheticals out there. Let’s say that I’m starting up Yukon Sam’s Comic Store, Game Design Studio and Yogurt Shop. And I’m drafting some hiring policies:

    * I know fair-skinned people are prone to melanoma, and I want to keep my health care costs down, so I’m screening out anyone with light skin… or maybe just require them to sign a contract that they will never leave the house without wearing sunblock.

    * It’s a well-established fact that golfers are more prone that the general public to be struck by lightning, which tends to have negative impacts on their productivity. Golfers need not apply.

    * I hired a Christian at one point and he seemed to have problems remembering to stock “The New Gods”, “Devil Dinosaur” and “Witchblade”. No more Christians, and for good measure I’ll exclude Jews and Muslims too.

    * I’ll give no money to those who wish to drown their souls in demon rum! There’ll be a pre-employment drug test, and nobody with alcohol in their system will be hired.

    * I will hire WOW players, but only Alliance. The Horde smells funny.

    * I’m reviewing blog posts, and if you were in favor of the Spiderman reboot, I’m not hiring you, because obviously you’re a moron. MJFTW!

    * My customers like cute young girls with large craniums. So do I. They go to the top of the list.

    May I assume that the laissez-faire enthusiasts among us would whole-heartedly support my right to impose these criteria, without government interference? Because I’m fairly certain that this isn’t a very ethical list.

  68. I think that in this specific case, it’s the employer’s shortsightedness which comes into question. Any life habit whether it be drinking, playing games, taking care of children or socializing can have a negative impact on our work. The only question that should matters is whether the individual has those activities under control or not. Enjoying a glass of wine does not make a person a constant drunk after all so neither should enjoying an MMO make someone a delinquent.

    On the other hand, mentioning that you’re playing MMOs during a job interview in a non-gaming industry probably makes as much sense as mentioning it on a first date with someone you don’t know. Personally, I would advise against it. Interviews are about first impressions after all ;)

  69. I would be embarassed to be that naive. ::|

    I feel just fine, but thanks for asking. I am thankful for the freedom to be able to hire the best person for the job without lawyers or unions telling me otherwise. But you keep fighting the good fight if it makes you happy.

  70. Dotswarlock:

    On the other hand, mentioning that you’re playing MMOs during a job interview in a non-gaming industry probably makes as much sense as mentioning it on a first date with someone you don’t know.

    That the candidate mentioned his lifestyle choice in an interview is irrelevant. The recruiter confirmed a glass ceiling.

    What we have here is an employer who excludes candidates based on their lifestyle choices. These lifestyle choices can be found out through an interview or by searching the web for the candidate’s name. Do you have a blog? Do you participate in blogs? Do you use Twitter? Do you mention your lifestyle choices? Employers can find out.

    Next, we’ll have an employer who prevents employees from advancement based on their lifestyle choices.

    And then, an employer who fires employees based on their lifestyle choices.

    There’s no way to tell whether these things are already happening at the employer’s workplace in this case.

    While federal employment discrimination law prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of things that candidates can’t change, such as race, sex, and national origin, there is precedent for laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of things that candidates can change, including pregnancy, religion, marital status, and political affiliation.

    Despite Weldon’s insistence that employers should have carte blanche hiring and firing powers (he doesn’t realize that he’s an employee, too), the United States is a nation of laws. We have armies of lawyers who fight to install and reinforce anti-discrimination laws. This isn’t a matter of choosing the best candidate for a job; this is a matter of preventing employers from excluding people from jobs based on nonrelevant criteria. Whether you play paintball or Dungeons & Dragons on weekends or after work is completely irrelevant to whether you can perform as warehouse personnel.

    Ironically, even the U.S. military recognizes that their employees need downtime and allows them lesiurely activities. The idea that what legitimate activities people engage in outside of work matters to their candidacy, to their advancement, or to their continued employment flies in the face of both conventional wisdom and law. But corporations are free to fail, unless they’re located on Wall Street or they mass produce vehicles…

  71. you need to ask yourselves whether you want to work to live or live to work. If you want to be a wage slave, just another cog in the machine

    I work to live. From my own personal perspective I think of myself as more than a mere cog. However, I also recognize that from the perspective of an employer or potential employer I am nothing more than a cog whose purpose is to generate maximum profit, just like the next guy in the stack of resumes, just like you.

    May I assume that the laissez-faire enthusiasts among us would whole-heartedly support my right to impose these criteria, without government interference? Because I’m fairly certain that this isn’t a very ethical list.

    You may indeed make that assumption. I whole heartedly wish your hypothetical company the best of luck in finding qualified applicants from the minuscule pool of candidates you haven’t eliminated. Chances are that endeavor would fail but then that’s your right, just like your right to succeed by making better choices.Personally I find bringing ethics into any discussion immediately polarizes and muddles it beyond hope since invariably everyone has different definitions of what is or is not ethical thus making it a meaningless and arbitrary construct.

    Next, we’ll have an employer who prevents employees from advancement based on their lifestyle choices. And then, an employer who fires employees based on their lifestyle choices.

    You honestly think they’re not already? That they haven’t been since the entire concept of employer and employee has been established?

    This isn’t a matter of choosing the best candidate for a job; this is a matter of preventing employers from excluding people from jobs based on nonrelevant criteria

    Who defines “best” and “relevant”? In my mind the employer and indirectly the free market, in yours the federal government.

    We have armies of lawyers who fight to install and reinforce anti-discrimination laws.

    And in my view that’s a bad thing and should not be used as a justification for your views but rather an example of their results.

    Despite Weldon’s insistence that employers should have carte blanche hiring and firing powers (he doesn’t realize that he’s an employee, too)

    Actually I imagine he does, even if he’s an apex employer then he’s indirectly employed by the consumer and resents interference in his ability to do the best job he can the way he sees fit.

  72. Mike, as an employer, I suppose you could hold that view point, even if I’d have to call you incredibly selfish for doing so. The reason we have those things are because employers (as an aggregate) have systematically abused their positions of power in the past. They continue to do so as much as possible (again, as an aggregate), and the looser you make the restrictions the more room they have to abuse the system. Workers are people. They have rights too. Ignoring those righs because they’re not inconcencing you is either selfish or short sighted or both, and making the assumption that the system will correct itself is delusional. The system has historically demonstrated that it does not self-correct without government intervention or unionization. So you need government intervention and unionization. You don’t necessarily want to go too restrictive granted, but this is an area where you’re crossing a line that does not need to, nor should be, crossed.

    As an employee, if you hold that view point, you’re just being silly though. Being pro-discrimination while not being able to take advantage of the discriminary acts means you’re basically cutting of your nose to spite your face. Eventually some one does it to you. And then you have no recourse at all.

  73. wow, that should be inconvenience.

  74. You may indeed make that assumption. I whole heartedly wish your hypothetical company the best of luck in finding qualified applicants from the minuscule pool of candidates you haven’t eliminated.

    Oh I don’t know… many businesses were quite successful in only hiring whites. We’ve got laws that stop that sort of nonsense. Yukon’s list would never be applied in it’s entirety in one place. But partially in many different places. If there’s enough overlap in various sectors, you end up with it becoming very difficult for certain people to find work. Though, of Yukon’s list, only the no light skinned or religious people is likely to diminish the job pool that much.

    That’s not relevant though; the point is that they’re all highly discriminatory with no relevance to anything other than the preferences of the employer. This is not an attempt to maximize value but to exclude certain types of people. The employer has decided that certain people are a lesser class of people that he would rather not hire based on things that have nothing to do with their qualifications or ability to work.

    There’s no muddying of the waters by calling this unethical. It’s extremely straightforward. The core basis that we’re preceeding from is extremely easy to agree to. Workers should be judged by the quality of their work and the ability to function at the work place and nothing else.

    To disagree with that statement is basically to say that the worker, on account of being a worker, does not have any personal rights, because that is the net result of the impact of making lifestyle open game for employer discrimination. If you can be fired for doing X, and you need to work to live, then you cannot do X. When x has nothing to do with work, the employer exerts control over the employee’s private life. When there’s complete freedom for the employer to do this without consequence, the employee is forced to either leave the company or to live their personal lives in accordance to the employer’s wishes. The former is not always an option, at least if the employee wishes to be able to eat, which is why this is not something that should be allowed.

    You honestly think they’re not already? That they haven’t been since the entire concept of employer and employee has been established?

    Should you make it easier or harder just because they’re already doing it? It’s wrong. That it continues to be done regardless of that fact does not change this.

    Who defines “best” and “relevant”?

    Oh but this is so simple. Best and relevant are defined by objective measures and work related goals. They’re defined solely by the ability to carry out the job description. That I collect stamps has no bearing on my ability to be a truck driver. It should therefore have no bearing on my ability to be hired an keep a job as a truck driver. It’s not relevant, it has no bearing on whether I’m the best truck driver ever. It has nothing to do with truck driving at all. And you’d feel that it’s completely okay for me to be denied the ability to get that job on account of my stamp collecting habit.

    There is something very wrong with that.

    Actually I imagine he does, even if he’s an apex employer then he’s indirectly employed by the consumer and resents interference in his ability to do the best job he can the way he sees fit.

    How is he impeeded in doing the best job possible? He’s solely impeeded from abusing his employees or potential employees. No one is saying that he cannot refuse to hire unqualified employees or fire ones that end up being incompetent or that cause work related issues, only that he cannot deny people are qualified and capable a job on account of something that has nothing to do with their qualifications or competency. The worker that’s being excluded could even make his business function better, were it not for the fact that they do something on their own time that’s being found questionable. This is where things break down. It’s simply not justifiable; it has no impact on his ability to do business. It’s discriminatory, and nothing else.

  75. That’s not relevant though; the point is that they’re all highly discriminatory with no relevance to anything other than the preferences of the employer

    While I’d agree with you that those policies are likely not relevant it’s not my call to make, nor yours, and I certainly don’t want it to be the government’s. There is simply no way to establish a comprehensive, updated, remotely correct index of various personal lifestyle choices and the specific job performance factors they do or do not impact for each job. Without that you’ve got some bureaucrat making completely arbitrary blanket decisions on what is relevant or not relevant to all jobs.

    There’s no muddying of the waters by calling this unethical. It’s extremely straightforward. The core basis that we’re preceeding from is extremely easy to agree to

    Ease of agreement is not a measure of correctness. Ethics has no right or wrong answers, only each persons own purely subjective opinion. Using it as a justification in a discussion virtually ensures that no accord can be reached as it is by it’s very nature only an effective argument if someone already agrees with you.

    Workers should be judged by the quality of their work and the ability to function at the work place and nothing else.

    I agree, we merely differ in what we believe affect workplace performance and who gets to decide that. Also remember we’re not talking about current employees that can be judged directly on their accomplishments but rather potential employees whose potential fitness can only be judged through the superficial lens of resumes and interviews.

    Oh but this is so simple. Best and relevant are defined by objective measures and work related goals. They’re defined solely by the ability to carry out the job description.

    And if it were that simple I’d agree with you, but it’s not. If there were a purely objective standard to determine job fitness and our job descriptions were sufficiently detailed and every facet enumerated then we could simply have a computer decide the best candidate. But we have neither of those things, not even close. Ironically by making corporate policies to reject applicants based on lifestyle choices, which is the heart of the discussion, rather than simply relying on the subjective opinion of the interviewer we’re moving towards a more objective system. It’s simply the factors that are being considered that you have a problem with.

    And you’d feel that it’s completely okay for me to be denied the ability to get that job on account of my stamp collecting habit.

    There is something very wrong with that.

    I think it’s stupid, really stupid. I also think it’s a strawman. We both agree that it shouldn’t happen, the disagreement we have is in how to enforce it and why. I believe that anyone doing so would be financially hurting their company and be punished by the market for making an incorrect decision. You believe that the government should step in and stop it because it’s not ethical.

    No one is saying that he cannot refuse to hire unqualified employees or fire ones that end up being incompetent or that cause work related issues, only that he cannot deny people are qualified and capable a job on account of something that has nothing to do with their qualifications or competency

    But indirectly you are. You are redefining the terms relevant and by extension unqualified. You may not see the relevance in how a particular activity makes someone unqualified, but then it’s not your money so it’s none of your business.

    The worker that’s being excluded could even make his business function better

    He could also make it worse. The difference between those two things is the essential component in whether to hire or not hire someone.You want to take the ability to make that decision, with the exception of purely objective and often meaningless resume info, away from the employer and put it into the hands of the government, one of the least capable entities ever to grace this earth.

  76. Makaze:

    I also recognize that from the perspective of an employer or potential employer I am nothing more than a cog whose purpose is to generate maximum profit

    You’re conflating big business and small business. In large organizations, which are usually accounting-driven, sure, there is a significant profit motivation because the numbers are what accountants care about. Marketing? Pfft, who cares about satisfying the needs and wants of consumers? Slash. Cut. Burn. Too expensive.

    With small business, where I’ve spent the majority of my career, employees are usually not seen as simply a “human resource.” In small business, you’ll find engineering/development or marketing to be dominant. Sales will always, of course, be dominant in retail. This is where people see other people as valuable, not just to the bottom line of a financial statement, but to the top and only line of a mission statement. Small business is highly competitive, frantic, and every entrepreneur has a dream of changing the world for the better.

    Note that I’m also including social ventures, such as charities and trade associations, under small business. Granted, the distinctions I’ve made are not always true, but in my experience, they are true most of the time. I’ve written about profit vs. value several times. You might want to check out my article Capitalist Philanthropy.

    You honestly think they’re not already? That they haven’t been since the entire concept of employer and employee has been established?

    I was referring to the publication of such cases and widespread attention to them.

    It’s simply the factors that are being considered that you have a problem with.

    That 80-90% of employees have a problem with, not just Eolirin and myself.

    There is simply no way to establish a comprehensive, updated, remotely correct index of various personal lifestyle choices and the specific job performance factors they do or do not impact for each job.

    Sure, there is, but an index isn’t needed. The State Constitution of California states:

    A person may not be disqualified from entering or pursuing a business, profession, vocation, or employment because of sex, race, creed, color, or national or ethnic origin.

    (Other traits are codified elsewhere. There is also no list of religions, which are plentiful.)

    Solution:

    A person may not be disqualified from entering or pursuing a business, profession, vocation, or employment because of sex, race, creed, color, national or ethnic origin, or lifestyle.

    We are a nation of laws. One of our favorite pastimes is litigation. Litigation is how we find exceptions to rules. If a certain lifestyle choice impedes on the operation of a business, let that employer make the case, but employers should not be any more free to engage in general prohibitions than federal and state governments.

  77. You’re conflating big business and small business.

    Actually I’m talking almost exclusively about big business. Small business often does not have to comply with the more stringent hiring practices that companies with greater than 50 employees are required to. Also big businesses are likely the only ones to institute codified objective statistics driven hiring practices as the benefits for doing so only show at larger scales. And in the case of small business the owner or one layer down is responsible for the interviewing and hiring and so applies their own subjective opinions about a candidates lifestyle choices. It’s simply never written down so it’s difficult to enumerate or litigate on.

    You’re free to argue all you want about how things “should” be, I’m more interested in how things are and extrapolating how they are likely to be in the future. Like it or not we will always take the path of least resistance and most efficiency in the long run, or someone else will and replace us.

    One of our favorite pastimes is litigation

    Which I find to be an exceeding bad thing. The excess of litigation in this country is a plague, spawned in part by the feelings of entitlement and the constant imagining of new rights (but never new responsibilities…)

    If a certain lifestyle choice impedes on the operation of a business, let that employer make the case

    So what you’re suggesting is to have said index of traits contained within a sprawl of incomprehensible and sometimes conflicting case law ensuring it is always out of date and provoking a tidal wave of litigation that makes HR departments even more risk adverse thus ensuring fairness and mediocrity for all? Check

  78. Makaze:

    Which I find to be an exceeding bad thing. The excess of litigation in this country is a plague, spawned in part by the feelings of entitlement and the constant imagining of new rights (but never new responsibilities…)

    There’s litigation and then there’s overlawyered. Heh, the United States was founded as a nation of laws. Is it not logical to assume that change happens in a nation of laws because of people who fight to enact, amend, revise, and repeal laws? You know there are three branches of government, right? Just checking.

    You’re free to argue all you want about how things “should” be, I’m more interested in how things are and extrapolating how they are likely to be in the future.

    Change occurs when a) people effect change or when b) people let change happen. People who effect change are leaders. People who do not are followers. There is no overriding predestiny. Are you a follower? Or are you a leader?

    that makes HR departments even more risk adverse

    You know what would make HR department less adverse to risk? More education, more training, and less promoting the administrative assistant who has only a high-school diploma to one of the most important roles in the corporation.

  79. [...] you enjoy playing golf? How about video games? Do you frequently smoke Menthols? Do you practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Or do you visit a certain [...]

  80. (but never new responsibilities…)

    Uh, nobody is denying the responsibility to perform your job functions as defined. What is the concern here is, why is it so objectionable that a corporation, identified legally as a person, is assumed to be free of responsibilities themselves (or those operating in service to it). Responsibilities like, say, hiring or firing based on applicable metrics and not someone’s ignorant whims.

    I consider it just as much ‘entitlement’ for corporations to consider themselves free of oversight while demanding oversight of the lives of those they employ.

  81. There’s litigation and then there’s overlawyered

    Which is only a difference in scale.

    the United States was founded as a nation of laws. Is it not logical to assume that change happens in a nation of laws because of people who fight to enact, amend, revise, and repeal laws?

    Which has what exactly to do with this discussion? We’re not arguing about the concept of laws in general, we’re arguing about the particular content of an individual hypothetical law, which last time I checked was supposed to be part of the process.

    You know there are three branches of government, right?

    Well aware, thank you. The issue I have with your suggestion of letting employers carve out exceptions to a blanket ban on considering any lifestyle elements in hiring is that it’s using the judicial branch to essentially make new legislation by overriding existing legislation on the subjective grounds that a particular job/activity do not mix, not on purely legal grounds. That is time consuming, expensive, inefficient, and potentially just as discriminatory on a large scale. Additionally it often produces unfavorable results as each case is decided in a vacuum rather than considering a larger picture, that result is then binding precedence.

    Are you a follower? Or are you a leader?

    Neither for the purposes of this discussion, I’m simply someone debating whether there is or is not merit in screening applicants based on lifestyle choices. How are we supposed to lead or choose who to follow without examining the state of things and things to come?

    You know what would make HR department less adverse to risk? More education, more training, and less promoting the administrative assistant who has only a high-school diploma to one of the most important roles in the corporation.

    Nothing other than the lessening of the threat of massive amounts, both in magnitude and quantity, of litigation is likely to accomplish that. Not filling HR with the secretarial pool rejects would certainly help but not getting sued is at least half of HRs job, which is really sad since it should be all about finding new people and taking care of the existing ones. I’d also argue that HR shouldn’t be one of the most important roles in the company, more hiring power should be placed in the hands of the direct manager and even those who will be working directly along side a candidate.

    Responsibilities like, say, hiring or firing based on applicable metrics and not someone’s ignorant whims.

    Corporations do have a responsibility to do just that, a responsibility to the shareholders to maximize their profits which indirectly means doing their best to hire the best people.

    And what if there was a rigorous scientific study that proved that a particular lifestyle choice was detrimental to job performance in an overwhelming majority of participants? Suddenly it is, at least in my mind, an applicable metric and not an ignorant whim. Take it one step back and say it’s data gathered by a companies HR department over the course of several years, no control groups, no peer review but the data is pretty definitive. Again take it one step back and say its informal observations that are simply common sense and on average true. Where do you draw the line and why? And don’t mistake me, I do think there is a line to be drawn. I just think it’s unique to each situation and cannot possibly be drawn by the government in an efficient and fair fashion. Better to let a system with constant feedback like the market handle it since I and those in the world that actually make these decisions are by and large only concerned with getting the best person in a position for the least cost. And I think that line should be drawn because it’s the most effective point, not for ethical reasons.

    I consider it just as much ‘entitlement’ for corporations to consider themselves free of oversight while demanding oversight of the lives of those they employ.

    The employee has an equal power, the ability to not work somewhere, free of oversight in making that decision.

  82. The market will NOT correct for discrimination, unless the labor pool is so constricted and a particular skill set in such demand that narrowing the field of candidates for a position arbitrarily represents a significant competitive disadvantage to the company.

    The sad fact of the matter is this; unless you slam the free market over the head with a two-by-four and wrap it in chains, it will morph into oligarchy. We saw this happening in the latter half of the nineteenth century, as the robber barons consolidated their monopolies and power, and it took a heroic effort by social activists, labor unions, and trust-busting public officials to bring them to heel.

    Litigation and legislation are merely tools to bring the “externalities” discounted by the market forcibly onto the balance sheet… one of those externalities being the social cost of arbitrary discrimination against WOW players or any other group.

  83. Hey everyone,
    I am currently in my Senior year of High School, and I have played WoW since the release of The Burning Crusade, and now into Wrath of the Lich King (Yes I have reached level 80). I know that sometimes I will skip on doing homework for a while some nights because my Guild wants me to help out, but I realize that this just means I will have to work that much harder later when I actually do the homework. Most people think MMO players will do anything they possible can to play play play! This is not true, if I have a lot of work then the work comes first. If I am tired, well obviously, I go to sleep. Even with going to school, and sometimes having to work until 2-3AM on weekdays I still get my homework in and find time to enjoy a little WoW now and then.
    The fact that I play WoW has changed how I live my life (but only in the aspect of my entertainment), it has also given me the opportunity to make connections with people all over the US, and the world for that matter.
    Playing World of Warcraft, OR ANY MMO FOR THAT MATTER, is also a way to relieve stress (unless you are getting ‘ganked’ over and over :D).
    I know a few of my friends who play WoW way more than me, and they still get their work in.
    MMOs are a hobby, like building model cars (I know some people who are very good at this), or painting, or writing, or coding, or talking to people on MSN (since a lot of the time I just go on to talk to my online friends).
    I used to have a friend who played Rock Band at least 6 hours a night, he has since graduated and went on to a successful web designing career.
    Yes there are those who play too much, and are ‘addicted’, and these are the ones who have given the gaming community a bad name. This includes only 5% or less of the World.
    Well thank you all for your time, and I hope my input has helped at least a little.

  84. “What we have here is an employer who excludes candidates based on their lifestyle choices.

    And that is wrong. This comes down to belief and access to information.

    If there is an equally qualified candidate (eg, both can perform the work equally well but one has a lifestyle that the interviewer ‘believes’ will conflict with performance), is the employer at liberty to choose either one based on that ‘belief’? In fact, there is no way to know they did that unless they do it consistently and that can be proven.

    On the other hand, if the employer is forced to choose against their will, and over time the employee performs sub-par, in an at-will work state, they don’t have to prove anything. In a right-to-work state, they have to prove sub-par performance. What is interesting is that if a person resigns, they have the burden of proof that it was for a reasonable cause or they won’t collect unemployment.

    As I said, I won’t consider game play at all. It isn’t relevant. If they sleep at the desk a lot and they don’t have a medical condition or current life issue (eg, death in the family, sick wife; IOW, the normal life events that cause sleeplessness), I will inquire.

    When I first took an office job, it was after years of being a nightclub musician in school and afterwards. As a result, my circadian rhythms were backward to the 8 to 5. My teachers in college were tolerant because they knew that was how I was getting by. My first day employers had a secretary stop by and wake me up until I turned it around. It didn’t look good on my first job evaluation, but tolerance prevailed.

    The reason was simple. Whereas most employers wouldn’t have hired me precisely because I had been a nightclub musician, CSC did because they needed a meaner leathery form of a tech writer for the particular job at that time and they were willing to wake me up to get that.

    Form, fit and function….

  85. As another quick response, just to see if the discussion goes anywhere else, there’s a parallel here between an employer wanting to make a safe bet and an insurer wanting to make a safe bet. Similar motivations with similar perils and pitfalls.

    It continually interesting how much risk-taking is praised in word and fled in deed by modern businesses.

    Also, asking honestly as someone who does not know, is unemployment insurance really that bad? I understand the other costs of bringing a new hire up to speed that are lost of they’re released, but this is the one element that (in my limited experience) employers go to the greatest lengths to avoid.

  86. It IS continually interesting. Gah. :P

  87. Makaze:

    Which has what exactly to do with this discussion?

    You dismissed the importance of litigation to legislation in this country. I just thought I’d remind you that litigation is vital to our system of government.

    using the judicial branch to essentially make new legislation by overriding existing legislation on the subjective grounds that a particular job/activity do not mix, not on purely legal grounds.

    The role of the judiciary is to interpret laws, which means setting precedent through case law, which in turn attorneys use to advise their clients on what cases they can win or lose in court, which thus serves to deter wrongful conduct. Clients can still go to court with unfavorable cases, and they can win. That’s the system.

    That is time consuming, expensive, inefficient, and potentially just as discriminatory on a large scale.

    Congratulations! You’ve discovered what our government was designed to be, sparing the last bit.

    but not getting sued is at least half of HRs job

    Right, and that’s where more education and training comes into play.

  88. Cognitive dissonance here.

    First, WoW and similar MMOs aren’t mere games. So let’s not go down that alley. They’re a particularly addictive sub-set of games.

    Second, if doing something in your personal life – like cocaine, alcohol, whatever – is destructive to your work life, then your employer has every right to discriminate.

    Lastly, let’s get off the moral high horse here (as if you even are on any high horse). The reactions on these boards are like flat out, classic alcoholic’s denial. These games are destructive. Why? Simple. Grind.

  89. They’re a particularly addictive sub-set of games.

    In 2007, the American Psychological Association considered adding “videogame addiction” to the next edition of the diagnostic manual as a psychological disorder. The proposal was rejected. There is not enough credible scientific evidence that games present any more of an addictive hook than any other activity upon which a person may become fixated, be it model railroading, stamp collecting, golf or church choir.

    Second, if doing something in your personal life – like cocaine, alcohol, whatever – is destructive to your work life

    That’s not the question at hand, is it? Should you disqualify all applicants who drink alcohol out of fear that one of them may be an alcoholic? It’s not alcohol that’s the problem, it’s addiction. It’s not games that are a problem, it’s the compulsive behavior. We’re talking about a small subset of players with a prexisting mental illness (obsessive/compulsive), not an activity that causes maladaptive behavior.

    These games are destructive. Why? Simple. Grind.

    Golf is destructive. Why? Simple. Par.

    There are valid game design reasons to retool “grind” mechanics… but reducing the feel of “grind” tends to make the game world more compelling and immersive (and perhaps more attractive to a compulsive personality).

    It’s the widespread myths, misconceptions and outright lies about gaming that fuel the discrimination outlined in the original post. It’s “Dark Dungeons” for the 21st century, only without Jack Chick’s artistic subtlety.*

    *Note for the irony impaired: Yukon Sam does not find Jack Chick artistic or subtle.

  90. I have to say it seems to me that the original conversation seems to have been taken out of context.
    It seems more likely that the employer is asking the agent to not send them potential employees who claim “Organised WoW guild raids” as management experience.
    Not hiring someone because they play WoW is so daft as to be scary. I can’t think of any reason that would make sense. Making up examples such as WoW players “having a 65% chance to get 2 hours sleep per night” implies vastly more data collection than has ever been done. It would actually be slightly more meaningful to simple ask potential employees how many hours they sleep per night, regardless of what keeps them up.

    What next? Requiring vows of celibacy from all potential employees, as they’ll have more energy, be less distracted at work, and less likely to go through disruptive relationship breakups?

  91. Zagzyg:

    I have to say it seems to me that the original conversation seems to have been taken out of context.

    Nope.

    Not hiring someone because they play WoW is so daft as to be scary. I can’t think of any reason that would make sense.

    Exactly.

  92. “What next? Requiring vows of celibacy from all potential employees…”

    Only during the eight hours they are work. :-)

  93. [...] so many editors when it was, in some cases, wholly inaccurate? Well, the source seems to have been this blog post by game designer Raph Koster. Raph just quoted Tale’s original f13 post, made a quick comment [...]

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