I recently wrote an article about serious games that will appear in the first volume of WE , a new Internet magazine. By games I mean the type of high-tech online and console-based interactivity represented by World of Warcraft or Nintendo’s highly-popular Wii.
By “serious” games, I mean these same types of games, but intended for purposes other than pure entertainment—for training, for instance, or for addressing a social issue, like the online game Darfur is Dying does. Really, organizations need to be taking both of these types of games seriously.
While I would not describe myself as an avid gamer – you won’t catch me leading raids in World of Warcraft on Saturday afternoons – I am nonetheless intrigued by the educational possibilities that games offer as well as how they fit into our overall conception of the social Web. That certainly includes leveraging games for marketing purposes, but it also cuts right to the core of how organizations are managed and led going forward.
A recent Harvard Business Review article, for instance, references World of Warcraft (more than 10 million players and counting) in suggesting that:
The best sign that someone’s qualified to run an internet startup may not be an MBA degree, but level 70 guild leader status. [As quoted in a very good, highly-recommended article by Tom Chatfield in Prospect Magazine. Also see the post on this over at Educational Games Research.]
Guilds are central to WOW, as are social relationships in general. For one thing, you are unlikely to conduct a successful raid against an enemy without strong relationships. And, of course, defeating the enemy is among the more obvious goals of the game.
Parallels can be drawn, of course, to the daily activities of less belligerent organizations. John Seely Brown, in collaboration with Douglas Thomas (aside: Seely Brown must be among the truly great intellectual collaborators of our age) has suggested that there is a “gamer disposition” that is of great value to organizations. “The gamer disposition has five key attributes,” write Seely Brown and Thomas on a Harvard Business Publishing Conversation Starter posting.
More than attitudes or beliefs, these attributes are character traits that players bring into game worlds and that those worlds reinforce. We believe that gamers who embody this disposition are better able than their nongamer counterparts to thrive in the twenty-first-century workplace.
The five specific attributes are:
- They are bottom-line oriented.
- They understand the power of diversity.
- They thrive on change.
- They see learning as fun.
- They marinate on the “edge.”
I’ll leave it to the Seely Brown and Thomas article to fill in the details on these attributes, and I’ll also point you to an excellent (but longer and significantly more challenging) piece by these two titled Why Virtual Worlds Can Matter which covers similar points and many others in much more detail.
No offense to the fine folks at Harvard Business Publishing, but when these kinds of thoughts hit the HBSP site, they have generally moved beyond the cutting edge. Nonetheless, I have a hunch that few organizations are putting serious thought into what the games phenomenon means for their future—internally, or out in the market. If the “social” side of the Web has been relegated to younger generations, in spite of evidence to the contrary, then one can only imagine the place that games occupy in the mind of the average executive.
But games are a growing force, a pervasive one that is beginning to overtake more traditional media like movies and television. Here are a few recent statistics via the Educational Games Research blog:
- 65% of US households play videogames
- 38% of US households own a console
- Women over 18 make up a larger percentage of gamers than boys under 17 (33% to 18%)
Age, too, is not the factor that many would make it out to be. The average age of a gamer is 35, and it is telling that AARP, of all organizations, recently launched a games portal (with a focus, naturally, on “brain games”).
If any readers out there work for organizations that are doing interesting things with games, whether for training, marketing, or other purposes, it would be great to hear from you. In any event, it is a topic you may want to start raising from time to time around the water cooler – and the executive suite.