Dawning of video games in the workplace

A key theme discussed in the recent BVCA Funding in the Digital Age was the emergence of gaming in both work and leisure.

Futurist JP Rangaswami described how the typical worker will be faced with a dashboard of flashing status updates and feedback loops rather than an overflowing inbox over the next decade. Rather than working through to-do lists and tasks, workers will complete ‘missions’ and ‘quests’ – a subtle change in terminology yet a potential profound difference in interpretation and motivation.

Rangaswami explained how social networks are already allowing individuals to ‘life-stream’ what they are doing, where they are etc and to collaborate on shared ideas. Gaming would allow trainees to experiment and to be observed (from afar) via digital tools. Meanwhile, more experienced workers would be able to share best practice (e.g. status updates and tips via text, audio or video) and obtain realtime feedback on their progress against predetermined milestones and goals.

This concept resonates with me on a number of fronts:

1. Games have a compelling distractive quality: motivating teams to focus on the important stuff is much easier when it is perceived as a game – notice the difference in team behaviour on ‘away-day’ or ‘team-building days’ when the shared task is built around a game (quite often unrecognisable from the attitude and motivation in the workplace).

2. Games can make the mundane more interesting: getting kids to eat vegetables can be tricky (ask any parent). Since my kids have reached an age where they enjoy video games, getting them to do the right thing (like eat healthy fruit and veg) has just got a whole lot easier when we frame it in video-gaming jargon. Let me explain, we talk about the qualities of fruit and veg in terms of the boosting effect it has on their ‘Energy Bar’ (an icon usually at the top of the screen on the video game showing the energy before the character loses a life). So for example when they eat an apple we comment on how their energy bar has just shot right up. Meanwhile, junk food lowers their energy bar. Interestingly, they have now developed this ‘game’ a step further by asking about the various vitamins in each food and what ‘special powers’ and ‘weapons’ that these vitamins and minerals will bring them! Who would have thought that Vitamin C, iron etc could be so interesting and appealing to 4 – 6 year olds!

3. Games are fun – if we can make the workplace a more fun place to be then let’s do it.

What are your thoughts on introducing video gaming techniques, technologies and principles to the workplace?

Postscript – if the above is of interest you will probably enjoy the following TED talk that I recently stumbled across by Seth Priebatsch:

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