That said, I do believe that the Gamer demographic on average is less successful in Real Life. I have no factual evidence to back up that claim, only my own personal anecdotal evidence.
I am solid member of Corporate America. I have a good job with a large corporation. I own a home. I am not in debt up to my eyeballs. I have a wife and three kids. I'm not the wealthiest person I know, but I am well compensated enough to support my family without my wife needing to work.
And yet, I've never met a single person at my level in the corporate ladder who actively plays Games regularly. Nor have I ever met anyone "in-game" that has enjoyed the same level of work success that I've enjoyed in my Real Life.
That's not evidence that such people don't exist -- but it is at least anecdotal evidence that such persons exist only few and far between.
So do Gamers Fail at Life because they play Games? Or do people who fail at Life, choose to play Games to escape that Life?
Gamers Fail Because They Play Games
I think the core idea behind this school of thought is that that Gamers fail because they don't outgrow Games. As all of us mature, our priorities change. What was important to us as children is not as important to us as adults. In fact, many of the things we thought were direly important as children may be perceived as childish in adulthood.
Extending this idea to Games, perhaps Gamers simply place too high a priority on Games as adults. For example, a Gamer's ambition might be more directed towards downing that next raid boss than getting that next real life promotion. Essentially, poor prioritization resulting in less than optimum life choices and goals.
Whereas, other adults re-prioritized their life to include other ambitions. Once these priorities are re-established, Gaming falls to the bottom and becomes a much smaller part of their life.
Perhaps you were a "hardcore" gamer in College only to become a "casual" gamer as you re-prioritize your life in a post-college world. The Gamers who didn't re-prioritize as they got older are the ones who ended up as less successful in that adult world.
The best analogy I can think of is Partying. To say that my close friends and I were wild in our teens and mid-twenties would be an understatement. However, as we grew older and settled into professional lives, the extreme Partying slowed down.
We outgrew it as our priorities changed in life. By 26, I was married with child and by all accounts a 'settled' man intent on providing for his family.
But not everyone in my core group of friends settled. Some kept at it for years and never changed their priorities. Those are also the same friends who have been the least successful in their professional lives. My brother also took this approach and today, despite a college degree, works as a landscaper.
Failures use Games to Escape Life
At the opposite spectrum, there is this idea of escapism. That the Virtual Life is better than Real Life. Not really a new idea and I think that most people will admit it exists.
If your Real Life is too boring, depressing, or stressful, you can escape it for at least a few hours every evening in the world of your favorite game.
Games act as a temporary sanctuary from real life providing both avoidance and distraction. The root problem never real goes away, it’s just masked.
The most tragic example of this escapism is the case where the Korean couple let their baby starve to death while caring for their virtual child in Second Life.
Obviously, that’s a pretty extreme example. But I think it’s a good illustration of just how powerful a hold these games can hold over someone.
So I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that someone can use Games to escape all kinds of other more mundane real life problems. No Girlfriend. Too Fat. No Job. Bad Job. Bitchy Wife. Noisy Kids. Small Apartment. Lots of Debt. Etc.
Success is Arbitrary
This topic wouldn't be complete without at least some discussion into how we define success. Certainly, success at the workplace is not the only type of success. In fact, I’m well aware that my definition of success smacks of certain type of elitism.
My best friend growing up once told me when he was in his mid-twenties that he learned the secret to a happy life is to figure out the way to spend the least possible amount of time doing "Work".
This was right about the time when he was the Guild Master for a 200 player raiding guild in EverQuest, but I digress..
His point was that "success" is not best measured in financial terms but in how well we live our life. This is a topic that often gets discussed at my workplace as "Work-Life Balance". The idea being that Work can't be so all-consuming that you don't have time to live your life.
An idea that is best illustrated by what I call the 3:00am Email. Perhaps one of the funniest things that happens in the course of my work is when I, for whatever reason, decide to check my email late at night. Inevitably, this prompts me to send out some email in response.
Now the funny part isn't that I'm sending out emails at 3am. No, the truly funny part happens when I receive a REPLY back from someone else at 3:10am!
Comical, but also a sad reflection of the burden of work. I enjoy my life and wouldn't change it, but I can certainly see the appeal of a life that someone else might have led. One where they still live a life that is unburdened with the responsibility that comes with the type of “success” that I have in my life.