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Serious Games At Work: Harnessing Skills And Familiarity With Virtual Environments

Via: BBC NEWS - When Work Becomes A Game

On my prior posting Serious Games: The Work Model Of The Future, I had already addressed the reason why some companies were kicking around the idea of turning the desktop into a game where employees interact in a game format all day.

Video-gaming on the job makes sense to John Beck, co-author of "The Kids Are Alright: How the Gamer Generation™ is Changing the Workplace". In the book , he shows how growing up playing video games actually helps kids be more sociable, have a greater understanding of strategic thinking and will help them become better leaders later in life.

Now, BBC NEWs has published a good article on the subject - "When work becomes a game." Here are a few highlights and cross-references:


All of a sudden, say academics and researchers, companies have realized that all the time employees spend gaming in virtual worlds is changing them.

Ian Hughes, IBM's metaverse evangelist, said many organisations were considering ways of harnessing the skills and familiarity their employees have with virtual environments.

This familiarity has driven many organisations to consider virtual worlds as places where employees can meet, mix and get on with the job.

"A lot of people are more accepting of that way of working just because of games," he said.

"It's about harnessing that ability to play to get work done."

The formidable organizational skills needed to run a game team or guild, organize raids involving perhaps 40 people and co-ordinate their different abilities to defeat a game's strongest foes are all relevant to work, said Mr Hughes.

Game gear

But it is not just the skills that gamers hone in futuristic or fantasy worlds that businesses want to co-opt. Some are taking their inspiration directly from the way that online games are structured.

Dr Byron Reeves, a professor of education at Stanford University, said some firms were taking elements from games to overcome the difficulties of working life in the 21st Century.

Dr Reeves has founded a company called Seriosity that applies game elements to workplaces.

It was working with five or six unnamed Fortune 500 companies to harness the efficiencies of those game mechanics, said Dr Reeve.

One of the programs developed by Seriosity adds a virtual currency element to e-mail in a bid to help people cope with information overload (please find my previous post Serious Games Tackle Corporate Email Overload: Seriosity - Changing The Game For Enterprise Software). .

Some companies were starting to adopt even more of the elements familiar from games.

"There are people right now trying to map it one-to-one," said Dr Reeves.

Level playing field

Convinced that games can help them thrive some companies have turned work groups into guilds, rewarded staff with experience points when they complete tasks, giving out titles and badges when a guild finished a project and portraying objectives as quests.

Some were also considering using a virtual currency as a reward system allowing workers to cash in their savings for benefits or extras for their office space. The top performing guilds also get to do the best projects.
None, so far, he said, were tying wages to how people performed in the quests and against other guilds.

"Mapping levels and points on to wages is the most extreme application," he said.

Companies were adopting game mechanics for several reasons, said Dr Reeves.

Partly because workers were so familiar with this structure, he said, and because people become powerfully motivated when they know how they compare to their contemporaries.

The main reason was for the transparency it gave to the way workplaces were organised and for revealing who got things done.

"It exposes those that do and do not play well," said Dr Reeves. "There is a leader board and you know the rules."

It had the potential to turn workplaces into meritocracies where the most accomplished are easy to spot because they have racked up all rewards, achievements and levels required for a particular post.