Elon Musk and videogames

When not working, does the world’s greatest innovator sit in a cardigan reading books, à la Jimmy Carter or Bill Gates? Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson:

One key to understanding Musk—his intensity, focus, competitiveness, die-hard attitudes, and love of strategy—is through his passion for video games. Hours of immersion became the way he let off (or built up) steam and honed his tactical skills and strategic thinking for business.

Musk had enjoyed all types of video games as a teenager in South Africa, including first-person shooters and adventure quests, but at college he became more focused on the genre known as strategy games, ones that involve two or more players competing to build an empire using high-level strategy, resource management, supply-chain logistics, and tactical thinking.

His only indulgence was allowing breaks for intense video-game binges. The Zip2 team won second place in a national Quake competition.

In 2021, he became obsessed with a new multiplayer strategy game on his iPhone, Polytopia. In it, players choose to be one of sixteen characters, known as tribes, and compete to develop technologies, corner resources, and wage battles in order to build an empire. He became so good he was able to beat the game’s Swedish developer, Felix Ekenstam. What did his passion for the game say about him? “I am just wired for war, basically,” he answers.

This seems like a good time to drag out a TED talk by a neuroscientist, Daphne Bavelier. This was sent to me by a neuroscientist who hates video games and has spent years trying to prevent his son from playing them. He admits that there is no scientific basis for his hatred and cites Prof. Bavelier.

What is the rationale for telling kids to get off their Xboxes if Elon Musk thrived on shooter games and #Science says that games are beneficial?


4 thoughts on “Elon Musk and videogames

  1. Related: read post in audiophile forum by an installer claiming he built the sound system for Elon’s gaming rig. It was a huge open room in a basement, with a projector tv using a hanging sheets as a screen (?) surrounded by 5 Sonus Faber Aida speakers. All the work and purchases were handled by an assistant who didn’t see the need for expensive amps to power the $400k worth of speakers, so cheap high-power class D amps were purchased. The installer was back the next week because the speakers were blown from being cranked during Elon’s gaming sessions. The speaker transducers were replaced and the amps upgraded.

  2. Always found it amusing that he berated his employees for being lazy & touted his own work ethic only minutes later to be found playing games & of course saying it’s for research, demonstrating starlink latency, or something. Then, after a game he said he was playing to demo the superiority of X streaming, X streaming looked like shit.

    Lions see the only benefit of games being learning how to program them, learning how to program graphics, 3D transformations. In the old days, it was a good way to learn how optimize software, but most games now are written in python.

    • Don’t forget the “honed his tactical skills and strategic thinking for business” part.

      Rare to see a single line that made me think so much less about an author.

  3. While reading the Isaacson book I got hooked on that darned Polytopia game, the free version where you play against the computer. I’d never really played these before. I can see how they are sort of an IQ test. There is a lot of mental juggling where you balance harvesting resources, building out infrastructure, and developing defense and military capability.

    Good performance in this game could indicate intelligence, but too much game playing would be a sign of poor “time preference”/future orientation and poor self control, things you also need to have to succeed in many jobs.

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