Turning Work into Play with Online Games

· January 13, 2010

For many, work is a daily grind. We procrastinate and avoid doing tasks we’d rather not do, and often find it difficult to get excited about tasks and projects assigned to us. While it’s great to have a job in difficult economic times, jobs can be boring, hard, repetitive, and stressful.

Dr. Byron Reeves — professor of communications at Stanford University and researcher into the psychology of media — has a prescription for boredom, repetition, and stress at work: turn work into play with online games. He makes his case in his newest book Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete, published by Harvard Business School. Here’s a video of one of his recent presentations entitled “Work Sucks — Games are great”:

With increased global competition, employee productivity and engagement have become more critical to businesses. Reeves argues that the user experience provided by game technology offers a “tantalizing solution” for business. This goes beyond online training tools. He advocates implementing elements of games such as World of Warcraft or virtual worlds such as Second Life to solve a host of business problems with “morale, communication, and alignment all while honing skills like data analysis, teamwork, recruitment, leadership, and more.”

The G-20 council for international economic cooperation is made up of the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 important industrial and emerging-market countries (plus the European Union). Google CEO Eric Schmidt made news at the recent G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, suggesting that multiplayer video games provide good career training — particularly in technology — where workplace collaboration stimulates innovation. “The game world is good training for a career in tech,” he said. “It teaches players to build a network, to use interactive skills and thinking.”

Dr. Byron Reeves. Photo: metanomics.net

“Everything in the future online is going to look like a multiplayer game,” said Schmidt to this international audience. “If I were 15 years old, that’s what I would be doing right now.”

What is it about online games that makes leaders? For one thing, there are many opportunities to lead. “Online games are very iterative,” states a recent IBM report entitled “Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders.” “Leadership happens quickly and easily in online games, often undertaken by otherwise reserved players, who surprise even themselves with their capabilities.” Online games such as World of Warcraft can involve an overriding goal for a team of players — there are a series of raids or missions that make up the journey, each of which requires leadership of player groups of varying size. This gives many players the opportunity to “try on” leadership roles. The study asserts that there is no reason to think that the same cannot be done in corporate settings of various sizes, missions, and markets.

Playing online digital games is proving to be an effective and engaging way for employees of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) to get trained on some pretty serious topics. At a recent show-and-tell event in Toronto, CSA unveiled several online interactive modules that harness the power of digital gaming to make workplace e-learning come alive. “The interactive CSA e-learning tools you’re experiencing today are the culmination of two years spent in development,” says Lance Novak, vice-president of sales at CSA.

Byron Reeves’ research suggests that online gaming can provide workplace benefits well beyond e-learning. He took the form of an avatar recently for Professor Robert Bloomfield’s popular Metanomics series in Second Life to talk about game design and corporate pain points, the use of virtual currencies to help employees set goals, participant-driven communication skills to facilitate team-building, and leadership:

Does Dr. Reeves recommend putting online gaming and virtual world activities on a résumé? “I think I could imagine things that I could put on my résumé that, even right today, would be useful in applying to a job at Accenture or at IBM, at very substantial places,” he commented during the Metanomics presentation. “That would probably come from both of the worlds of games and Virtual Worlds. So if you say, ‘I’m a guild leader, and have been for the last nine months, of a 200-person guild that spans three continents,’ you’ve said, ‘I know how to make a website. I know how to motivate people. I know how to arbitrate a lot of foolishness with respect to who gets what when they do this.’ I mean you’ve actually communicated a lot to people that I know, because I’ve met them, who also play in those Worlds, who would share that recognition, share the knowledge of what went into that kind of recognition. So I don’t think that’s for next year or next decade. I think that could actually be useful now.”

Is the corporate world ready for legions of dwarves, gnomes, night elves, orcs, and trolls competing for leadership roles?

He points out that the same thing can be true for a virtual world. Your resume might say, “I run a business in a virtual world, that has this revenue and this number of employees, and I negotiate independent contractor deals. There’s just so much that gets done [in a virtual world] that’s just right on target with what happens in real business.”

Is the corporate world beyond Google and IBM ready for legions of dwarves, gnomes, night elves, orcs, and trolls competing for leadership roles or cooperating to win guild gold? Given universal broadband communications and ever-faster network computers, perhaps even competition itself among the G-20 nations may start to happen in 3D virtual space.

29 Responses

  1. Bart Simas says:

    Thanks very a lot for this flawless submit;this is the words that retains me on monitor by means of out the day. I have been trying around to your site after I heard about them from a buddy and was thrilled once I was able to find it after trying to find lengthy time. Being a avid blogger, I’m glad to see others taking initivative and contributing to the community. Just wanted to comment to show my appreciation to your website as it is very challenging to do, and lots of writers don’t get credit score they deserve. I’m sure I’ll visit again and can unfold the word to my friends.

  2. online games says:

    Yap I also play some online game during my work to burn the stress and I think this is good to play video games everyday for sometimes, it can get the mind fresh.

  3. GeorgeLu says:

    I like the presentation and discussion in that video.
    This is a good article, it can help freshen up your mind.

  4. SHAWNLEE says:

    The kind of thinking required varies greatly, like one playing a hybrid class. In some cases both roles (WoW vs RL) seems identical, in the type of career that one does. (Our brilliant raid leader.. is probably a good example of this, considering his real life career of solving difficult physics theories with… solving wonderful world of warcraft raids with pois

  5. Oh my goodness! a tremendous article dude. Thanks Nevertheless I am experiencing difficulty with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting an identical rss drawback? Anybody who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

  6. An fascinating dialogue is value comment. I think that it’s best to write extra on this topic, it might not be a taboo topic but generally persons are not sufficient to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers

  7. Apple’s servers seems to be overloaded so you might not be able to see it right away. Why didn’t they ask Google to serve it instead of doing it themselves?

  8. R. Datta says:

    “Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete” is a great book. A must read for any body who needs some new way to encourage his employees.
    thanks for the great post.yohimbine powder
    Datta

  9. düzce haber says:

    The kind of thinking required varies greatly, like one playing a hybrid class. In some cases both roles (WoW vs RL) seems identical, in the type of career that one does. (Our brilliant raid leader.. is probably a good example of this, considering his real life career of solving difficult physics theories with… solving wonderful world of warcraft raids with pois…

  10. fun games says:

    World would be certainly better place to live, whenever I play it’s like reset of the day, games can really put stress of our back.

  11. i agree and this was a nice site and best.

  12. Craig says:

    One of my professors told me to read this book (Total engagement), and to tell the truth it was really cool, I even made a presentation about it. I think in 10 years, virtual worlds will be a lot more important than they’re now.

    Craig

  13. My Blogpost says:

    The G-20 council for international economic cooperation is made up of the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 important industrial and emerging-market countries (plus the European Union).

  14. anne's life says:

    That’s a marvelous quote. “Work Sucks — Games are great”. Becoz, nowadays people are fighting with the work in IT industry. So, it is great to spend some time with online games and I do so..!! cheer up with games!!

  15. sandara's world says:

    Another example that is really cool is something called the Visible Body (see Resources), which somebody has described as a Google Earth for the body. It’s an amazing product, from a company out of New York (Argosy Publishing). They put a very high-res, detailed model of the body into Unity and very good tools to kind of peel off the layers and see different bones and nerves and blood vessels. They’re licensing that as a tool for medical professionals.

  16. Crash Zone says:

    I would love the crazy colors in that video…

  17. art-entertainment gives off turning-work-play-online-games is really a nice idea….all ll like this to refresh minds

  18. Alan says:

    Yap I also play some online game during my work to burn the stress and I think this is good to play video games everyday for sometimes, it can get the mind fresh. смесители

  19. Dmitry says:

    I often play online game during my work))

  20. Anonymous says:

    This would be a great idea…

  21. games online says:

    I also play some online game during my work to burn the stress and I think this is good to play video games everyday for sometimes, it can get the mind fresh.

  22. Myst44 says:

    in world of warcraft i play a druid, which is a form of hybrid multitasker… which performs quite a variety of roles… with completely different requirements (time, knowledge and execution)…

    in real life i perform the duties of a sales engineer, performing duties involving … understanding the requirements of a customer, proposal of equipments and layouts, to engineering design, costing, drafting, procurement. The kind of thinking required varies greatly, like one playing a hybrid class. In some cases both roles (WoW vs RL) seems identical, in the type of career that one does. (Our brilliant raid leader.. is probably a good example of this, considering his real life career of solving difficult physics theories with… solving wonderful world of warcraft raids with poise…)

    Its even more challenging to carry out both successfully and make sure it works out.

    Lastly, i do note that office politics and game politics are one and the same, people exhibit similar behavior, which can be associated to gain better understanding of the situation at times.. (favorism even….)

    Eitherway, lets put this druid’s armory into my resume one day. :) 1 up for this article..

  23. online games says:

    Yap I also play some online game during my work to burn the stress and I think this is good to play video games everyday for sometimes, it can get the mind fresh.

  24. my work to burn the stress and I think this is good to play video games everyday for sometimes, it can get the mind fresh.

  25. Dan says:

    This is so true. For 4 years I can a corporation in the game ‘Eve Online’ – I had to manage 200 members, and this including organising campaigns, controlling and authorising in game financial accounts, structuring departments and managerial roles, negotiating business deals with other corporations as well as hiring and firing. The skills one develops doing all this should not be underestimated.
    meditation music

  26. Zam says:

    Yes this This is so true. For 4 years I can a corporation in the game ‘Eve Online’ – I had to manage 200 members, and this including organising campaigns, controlling and authorising in game financial accounts, structuring departments and managerial roles, negotiating business deals with other corporations as well as hiring and firing. The skills one develops doing all this should not be underestimated. mcts

  27. tinggi badan says:

    The kind of thinking required varies greatly, like one playing a hybrid class. In some cases both roles (WoW vs RL) seems identical, in the type of career that one does. (Our brilliant raid leader.. is probably a good example of this, considering his real life career of solving difficult physics theories with… solving wonderful world of warcraft raids with pois

  28. Marcus Everding says:

    The kind of thinking required varies greatly, like one playing a hybrid class. In some cases both roles (WoW vs RL) seems identical, in the type of career that one does. (Our brilliant raid leader.. is probably a good example of this, considering his real life career of solving difficult physics theories with… solving wonderful world of warcraft raids with pois

    Marcus
    Copy Wii Games

  1. May 11, 2011

    [...] by erecting game-like structures inside elements of everyday life. This includes everything from employee training programs to personal health management to user-based web development. But this works the other way, too: [...]

Share Your Thoughts