Game On!

August 5 2007

One of the areas I am very interested in is how "gaming culture" can (and will) effect the future of business oriented collaboration.   There are many attributes of the on-line gaming community that are more advanced than those found in the various IT systems we use in the business world today.    Here are some of the areas I enjoy discussing:

Finding people with similar interests
When you play online games, either via a computer, Playstation, XBox, Wii, etc... it is normally quite a simple process to get up and running.   Often in just a few clicks you are able to join a game that matches your skill level, and in mere moments you are up and running and enjoying the experience.  As a player you have little need to know who is hosting the game, where they are in the world, or anything else about them.  You don't need to know server names or URLs, it is all very graphical, and very intuitive.  So why is accessing systems in the business world so much more complicated, and often such a hair pulling experience?

Forming teams, clans, guilds, tribes
Most on-line multi-player games require that you work with others in order to succed.  Your task may be to slay a dragon, save the Earth from aliens, destroy the opposing army's forces, or score the most points in a sports game.   The various members of your team (whom often you don't know, have never met, speak different languages, live in different parts of the world, etc) each have a critical role to play in order for the task to be completed.   One person may be a soldier, another a medic, another a pilot.   Or perhaps one is knight, one a wizard, one a dwarf.   In any case, the task requires that everyone use their unique skills in order to "win".    That is very similar to the business world, where multiple people, each with their own unique role is required to succeed.   Whether it is various members of an assembly line each doing their part, or when an Account Rep, a Support Expert, and a Product Manager all must work together when presenting to a customer, the formation of teams in the business world is often not as organized nor as simple as it is in the gaming world.   This ties into...

One of the most important attributes in gaming is your reputation.   Have you slain the most dragons?   Saved the most princesses?   Shot the lowest golf score?   Killed the most aliens?   These are all things easily recorded, tracked, and discovered by other players.  New members are invited to teams (clans, tribes, guilds, etc) as their reputation grows.  Challenges are issued against specific people because of who they are or what they have accomplished.  To move from level to level you often need to "beat" someone of higher rank than yourself.   Members of teams are very proud of their associations, often having logos proudly displayed for all to see.  Can you say the same in the business world?   How is one's reputation gained, recorded, tracked, and discovered?    Is the person with the most knowledge easy to find, such as the person who knows the most about a specific system administration problem, or the coder know knows the most about a specific language?  Can you quickly find your company's top expert on Subject X?  What if they are not there, who is the second most skilled, or the third?  Is the person who authors the most documents or blog posts the expert, or the person who created just a few but was read by a much larger audience?   These are the types of situations which can be improved in the business world.

Finally, the amount of data one can consume when playing a game is enormous.   While you are focused on the task at hand (usually in the center of the screen), you are also processing so many things that are going on around the peripheries of your screen.  Many of you have heard me (and IBM in general) discuss virtual worlds (like Second Life) as a future business tool, and while we are just at the beginnings in this space, I have little doubt that in the future "immersive interfaces" will play a role in creating/finding/sharing documents, processing large amounts of email or information feeds, running effective on-line meetings, and more.

There you have it,  there is a lot we can learn from playing games.   For many of these things we are already starting to deliver early versions of solutions.  Expertise location in Lotus Connections, document sharing in Lotus Quickr, information aggregation in the Sidebar and toolbars of Notes 8.  This is an exciting area, and users are going to benefit greatly as we move forward.  So, off to "work" I go, the princess needs saving.

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