How many of us have fantasized about video games leading to a real-world career? Like many small business owners, the leaders at To Exceed started by recruiting family members and friends. Remarkably, one of those friendships started entirely on the game Lords Mobile. Robert Specian Jr. and Marko Janusic had never met in real life, but their collaboration on Lords Mobile was strong enough for Robert to invite Marko to work with To Exceed.
Many of us grew up with movies like The Last Starfighter (1984). More recently, Gran Turismo (2023) told the story of gamer Jann Mardenborough who earned the chance to become a formula racer in real life. The logistics company Schneider National started advertising truck driving jobs on virtual billboards in American Truck Simulator in June of 2023. Three months later, Swift Transportation was advertising on the same game. This recruiting story at To Exceed might not be quite that cinematic, but it’s definitely part of a cultural trend where in-game connections can lead to career opportunities in the real world.
Lords Mobile, where Robert and Marko met, is a massively multiplayer online game that blends city-building, role-playing, and real-time strategy mechanics in a fantasy setting with castles and magic. The game won Google Play Awards in 2016 and 2017, and it surged in popularity during the pandemic. Lords Mobile has been highly successful as a game AND a business (downloaded more than 400 million times, generating more than $2 billion in revenue). The teamwork on Lords Mobile is similar to the teamwork of remote workers in a business.
“The guild was a team, and teamwork is important there. If one person is not doing their part, then you can feel the difference. That goes the same in a working environment, where each person needs to have their part of the job covered. We all depend on that as a team.”
— Marko Janusic
In the real medieval world, guilds were the early business networks of skilled craftsmen. In Lords Mobile, guilds are massive teams of players who work together in the game. In small but significant ways, running a Lords Mobile guild is like running a business. The qualities you want in a fellow player as a guildmate are a lot like the qualities you want in a colleague or employee:
The content creator Jonathan Fermin, better known as Aevatrex, has been described as a Lords Mobile Legend for his influence on the gaming community. His video on “Top 5 tips to start and grow a guild” emphasizes the importance of finding members who are active online:
“You need to have members that are constantly logging on, that are helping each other, that are hunting monsters, et cetera.”
The same principle applies in business. Absenteeism is obvious in a traditional office, but remote workers often need to be available at flexible hours. In business and gaming, you can have teams spread across different time zones, but they need to be active online frequently.
Every experienced manager and employer owner knows the hassle of managing drama between employees. The leaders of guilds also deal with personality conflicts, as Aevatrex explains in his video.
“Drama can tear a guild apart over night. So make sure that you keep drama to a minimum, or you at least get some players that are not about that life.”
It’s not bad advice for employers. With a larger workforce, drama might be inevitable, but effective managers need to mitigate (and, if possible, prevent) those distractions.
Whether you’ve got a growing business or a leadership position in a mobile game, you need to fight the impulse to do everything yourself. A huge part of leadership is delegating authority:
“You, yourself, if you think you’re going to be able to handle everything all the time, you’re wrong. I’ve never met a leader that’s able to handle everything, all the time, no problems.”
Don’t surround yourself with “yes men” or people who automatically follow bad instructions. The advice applies to all types of leaders, in gaming, business, and even military service. “At the end of the day, who’s there to check you as a leader?” Aevatrex explained. "As a leader, you’re going to have times when you’re wrong.”
As part of a small group of Lords Moblie players on a Discord server, Robert and Marko discussed and coordinated strategies. Together, they learned the game’s unique mechanics and nuances, unlike RTS classics like Starcraft or Age of Empires. Where other RTS games have dozens of unit types to micromanage on the battlefield, Lords Mobile has a different approach. Robert explains, “With only four main types of troops, Lords Mobile has a bunch of research and different types of formations. When you can only send a set number of troops to fight, you have to learn how to find balance to make the most of those numbers.”
In the digital marketing world, you have to keep up with constant changes on different platforms. Some gamers have more patience for that type of complexity. Between the big platforms like Google, Facebook, and Indeed, marketers find the best combination for allocating a client’s limited budget. In both professional life and gaming, it’s easy to get overwhelmed without resources like Aevatrex and friendships with fellow gamers. As Robert said, “It’s the people that make the game enjoyable.”
In Marko’s case, the career opportunity with Robert and To Exceed came at a difficult time. Initially, Marko seemed to have a stable career in Petroleum Geology, but his employer went through a series of layoffs and eventually shut down. As if unemployment wasn’t enough stress, Marko was also mourning the death of his father and personally dealing with a return of melanoma. Identified in 2015 and treated, the cancer metastasized and returned in 2017. Thankfully, more recent treatments have been effective, and Marko has been cancer-free since 2020.
When he lost his job (one of the last workers let go from the company), Marko spent noticeably more time on Lords Mobile. He found odd jobs to keep the lights on, like working in an apple orchard and helping a professor with her course materials, but the tough economy made it hard to find openings in high-paying careers. If he wanted to stay in Petroleum Geology, then a new job might require moving to a different region, far from home. Robert mentioned how To Exceed needed someone to manage products like Craigslist and Google Ads. The skills wouldn’t take long to acquire, and Marko could perform the work remotely from home.
While working with To Exceed, Marko has been picking up some skills. He has personally acquired certifications in Google Search and Google Display, and more Google certifications are on the way. The field of mining and Petroleum Geology might seem pretty far removed from digital marketing, but a good work-life balance means continued growth in areas you enjoy, from mobile gaming to mineralogy. When the To Exceed team gathered in Shreveport for the annual meeting in 2023, Marko was able to visit the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum and dioramas about regional oil production and geology.
Thanks to products like Google Ads and Google Display, companies can advertise and recruit new workers directly on gaming websites and smartphone apps. The gaming world hasn’t always been taken seriously by employers, but the growing need for tech-savvy workers could mean additional recruiting on platforms oriented toward entertainment. Besides, the skills developed in gaming can have surprising applications in the real world.
Dareus “In-game Dynamic Billboards” SCS Software. June 9, 2023
Swift Marketing “American Truck Simulator Releases In-Game Billboards Amidst Partnership” SwiftTrans.com
Aevatrex “03 - Top 5 tips to start and grow a guild” @LordsMobile YouTube. Jun 19, 2018
General Pickle Gaming “Lords Mobile Legends: Aevatrex” @GeneralPickle on YouTube. Jul 15, 2022
Most of the featured quotes were taken from Fermin’s video on the Lords Mobile YouTube channel.