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Serious Games Bring Avatars To The Office

Via: The Wall Street Journal Online

Increasingly, businesses, particularly in the advertising and media industries, are opening virtual offices in Second Life as an internal communications device, a way to keep their fingers on the pulse of the fast-changing digital landscape -- and as a tool to recruit tech-savvy employees.

By using Second Life, agency staffers, especially older ones or those who may be uncomfortable online, can experience the virtual world first hand, making it easier to respond to clients looking to design campaigns for new media platforms.

"To explore the new world, you have to live in it," says Mark Tutssel, chief creative officer of Leo Burnett Worldwide, a unit of Publicis Groupe
New-media marketing firm Crayon has its primary office on a Second Life island called Crayonville.

Avatars of the company's nine employees -- which were created to resemble their real-life forms -- sit around a table in a brick-walled meeting room in the virtual office, complete with an agenda screen. At the same time, employees sit in front of their computers in their real-world offices, located around the U.S. and in England, talking to each other using Skype Internet-calling technology. The conference call allows employees to have voice as well as text communications with one another.

Any avatar that visits crayonville island in Second Life is free to visit crayon's meeting room, but the meetings are closed if employees are discussing private client matters.

The company also has started to rendezvous with clients in Second Life but is still figuring out whether or not a get-together in the virtual world takes double as much time. "That is part of our experimentation," says Neville Hobson, crayon's vice president for new marketing. "How does it actually work? How comfortable are we?"

Scenes from the virtual world of Second Life: a meeting for the company Crayon

A growing number of companies, especially those in media-related areas, find it makes sense to work on Second Life. Ad agencies and other media companies have come under pressure in the past few years to show they can keep pace with developments in the digital world.

As posted by Got Schwartz on January 17th, 2007, Second Life provides some of the essential building blocks that will make up the job simulation tools of the future. These include:
  • Accessibility to a wide range of individuals who are geographically dispersed, and the ability to bring these persons together on common ground.

  • The creation of virtual worlds that go beyond just simple cause-and-effect interactions (i.e., shoot a gun, kill a monster).

  • The use of avatars that represent individuals and can manifest one’s own unique personalities and tastes.

  • An increased ability for intercultural interaction and the ability to gain experience interacting with those different from oneself.

  • The ability to facilitate growth within the avatar such that their experiences accrue and can be measured.

  • The ability to share information with other members of the virtual world.

  • The ability to evaluate interactions and collect meaningful data from them.

  • The ability to create a virtual economy that is driven by many of the same laws and rules that our real economies are bound by.

  • The power of branding, using the virtual world to promote real-world experiences and products.