Anyone who runs a company needs a way to de-stress. For some CEOs that might mean golf or sailing. For Elon Musk, who runs or owns Tesla, SpaceX, and X (formerly Twitter), the main method is playing video games.
“It calms my mind. Killing the demons in a video game calms the demons in my mind,” Musk told podcaster Lex Fridman in an episode released Friday. He added later, “I’ve played a lot of video games because it’s my primary recreational activity.”
The world’s richest man also said, “My mind is a storm. I don’t think most people would want to be me. They may think they would want to be me, but they don’t, they don’t know, they don’t understand.”
Musk’s longtime companion Grimes, with whom he has three children, told biographer Walter Isaacson that Musk has no “hobbies or ways to relax other than video games, but he takes those so seriously that it gets very intense.”
Among his favorite titles is The Battle of Polytopia, billed as a “strategy game about building a civilization and going into battle.” Players compete to control resources and develop technologies, and they wage battles in order to build an empire. Musk’s brother Kimbal told Isaacson that his famous sibling said Polytopia “would teach me to be a CEO like he was.” The game was also fodder for a series of life and business lessons for Elon, with the first one being, “Empathy is not an asset.”
Another favorite of Musk’s is Elden Ring, centered on war and empire-building, which he told Fridman was a “candidate for the best game ever, top five for sure.” He added that it’s “incredibly creative” with “stunning” art.
“Beating hatred in the internal realm,” he added, “is the hardest boss battle in life and in the video game.”
Musk’s game-playing has also preceded some key business decisions. He pulled the trigger on buying Twitter right after playing Elden Ring until five in the morning, Grimes told Isaacson.
Mostly, Musk seems to use video games to get into a certain zone.
“If you play a tough video game, you can get into a state of flow which is very enjoyable. Admittedly it needs to be not too easy, not too hard—kind of in the Goldilocks zone,” he told Fridman.
“I guess you generally want to feel like you’re progressing in the game. And there’s also beautiful art, engaging storylines, and it’s like an amazing puzzle to solve.”