Trading as a high-stakes video game

June 13, 2011

This article provides a neat perspective on the seemingly satisfying life of a derivatives trader. As you can imagine, the job is intense.

He says that his attention span has shortened but that in return he's picked up two abilities: broad situational awareness, i.e., the ability to juggle lots of disparate facts in working memory; and the pre-scandal Tiger-Woodsian knack for blocking out distractions when something big is on the line. […]

Mind you, the game the traders play is nothing like Mario or Zelda or Megaman. It's not a shoot-em-up or racing game. What it is is more like Starcraft or maybe TradeWars: an intense, cerebral, massively multiplayer real-time strategy game. It's a game grounded in information: prices, mostly, but also all kinds of news and rumors and oblique signals, whether by way of balance sheets or CNBC. It's the kind of game that requires the player to immerse himself in data, distill from it a sort of strategical gestalt, and convert that high-level battle plan into a series of discrete maneuvers, in this case trades on the open market.

The difference here being, of course, that it's all real.

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