Growing Pains

Growing Pains

Tuesday, 17 May 2011 16:23

Why start-ups are like computer games

I used to love computer games and would play them all the time. If the time I had spent playing the Civilization series was instead spent doing something constructive like learning Mandarin or the guitar, well, I would be pretty good at those other things.


I've pretty much gone off computer games in the last six months; I have no desire to play them anymore.


And I think the reason is that my business Shoes of Prey has taken the place of computer games for me.


Here's what I used to love about computer games:


  • Strategic thinking: My favourite computer games were always the strategy games. The Civilization series, Sim City, the Command and Conquer Series as well as business Sims like Theme Park and Transport and Pizza Tycoon.

    I love thinking strategically and up until starting Shoes of Prey I never really had an opportunity to do this in my work.

  • Near instant feedback and rewards: This has to be one of the best things about a computer game. You do something, you get instant feedback in a higher or lower score, moving up a level or getting more of some important resource.

    This is hard to replicate in the real world as feedback and rewards tend to take longer to achieve. The online world has reduced this feedback time, we can make a change to our Google AdWords campaign, on our Facebook page or run a YouTube promotion and see near instant feedback in Google Analytics or in our sales.

  • A release for my addictive personality: I'm pretty sure I get addicted/passionate about things more quickly and easily than most people.

    Fortunately I've managed to avoid addictions to most bad things, but I certainly used to find myself very addicted to computer games! I can now safely say that I am addicted/passionate about Shoes of Prey instead.

    I'm happy to work on the business 15 hours a day, seven days a week when it's required – about the same amount of time I was capable of spending playing Civilization II during school holidays until my parents kicked me out of the house to go do something outside.

In addition to all those things Shoes of Prey provides:


  • A positive feeling after working on it: as opposed to that awful 'My god, I just wasted 10 hours of my life today playing Civilization' feeling.

  • A potentially significant real life monetary reward: if we achieve all our goals.

  • Social interaction: I work on Shoes of Prey with other people, and people who I've never met are actually interested enough in what we're doing to read this blog.

    My nuking of the Aztecs after a big day of Civ was never of much interest to anyone except my mate Bob who happened to playing as the Aztecs.

    I still occasionally get the urge to pull out a computer game and play it, but that urge is much less than it used to be as our start-up now fulfils this role for me.

Michael Fox managed Google’s online sales and operations agency team for Australia and New Zealand before moving into entrepreneurship. He's a co-founder of Shoes of Prey, an online retail website which allows women to design their own shoes and Sneaking Duck, which sells fashionable prescription glasses online. He blogs in detail about the process of running Shoes of Prey at his blog

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