Gamification of work: a pointed critique

As you’re probably aware, there’s been a lot of interest over the past couple of years in ‘gamification’ – the application of gaming principles to work or any activity where the objective is greater participation. We reviewed one of the tomes dedicated to it last year – the arguments for the concept are appealing to say the least.

That said, I was just as engaged with the argument against gamification from Ian Bogost. He essentially argues that by trying to incorporate gaming into a workplace, you are killing the fundamental magic that makes games appealing. Have a read for yourself.

For what it’s worth, I think things fall somewhere in the middle. There’s no doubt some companies will latch onto the concept of ‘gamification’ (and I agree with Bogost that the term sucks), purely because it’s the latest ‘cool’ strategy and then implement it poorly. That said, I think the opportunity exists to do it right – have a look through these slides (linked by a commenter on Bogost’s post) for one powerful argument on how that could be achieved:

Like any emergent area there’s plenty of debate and until there are numerous engaging and effective examples of gaming applied to work, there will thankfully be sceptics questioning it and pushing the boundaries.

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Large businesses in Second Life: they still exist

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked (after “Is Second Life still around?”), is what large businesses are still actively involved in Second Life. I noticed this afternoon while reading my RSS feeds that Daniel Voyager has compiled a list of those at the big end of town still involved.

They include Air France, Cisco Systems, Dell, IBM and Siemens (pictured). All businesses featured on Daniel’s list have SLURLs so you can have a look for yourself.

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Opportunity cost: not to be underestimated

Here’s a true story: Like a lot of players, I have a Level 2 character in World of Warcraft that exists purely as a banking / auction house conduit (bank alt). I have another character that is leveling one of their professions and they needed a particular item sold for a measly one silver, 18 copper from one of the vendors right across from the auction house where my bank alt hangs out. 42 virtual steps in fact (yes I counted). It occurred to me to check the auction house to see if anyone was entrepreneurial enough to be selling that same item on the auction house for a mark-up. Sure enough, someone was, at 200 times its cost if bought from the vendor (around 2 gold). Not to be outdone, since that time I’ve sold a couple of the items each day for the same 20,000% markup. I’ve also started selling other items from the vendor at 1000-2000% markups.

For the regular MMO player, this is nothing new, and there’s screeds of research and opinion on MMO economies and player behaviour. I just hadn’t realised how endemic the issue of laziness is. Laziness is probably too negative a term in some respects, as for some people it’s probably just time efficient to buy everything from the auction house. If you’ve got 20,000 gold sitting in your bag and the item is 2 gold, then even at a huge markup it’s a no-brainer compared to trying to remember which vendor has it, let alone the time spent getting to them. It’s a simple example of the concept of opportunity cost (here’s one gamers perspective on it).

This issue has some obvious applicability to virtual worlds more broadly. In Second Life, I will quite often just go browsing at clothing stores that I’ve landmarked rather than try to find something new via the search function – few will argue that the Second Life viewer’s search function is a time sink. Social virtual worlds from Habbo to Frontierville have this concept down pat, making it as easy as possible to provide variety without excessive time expense. It’s a lesson that the more mature worlds are absorbing – it’s the speed of learning that will determine who succeeds and who doesn’t. At this stage, platforms like Second Life, Twinity and Blue Mars are walking the fine line between innovation and an opportunity cost too big for a critical mass of people to bear.

Over to you: what aspects of virtual worlds do you avoid because the time / expense isn’t worth it for you?

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Virtual worlds and business: 2010 overview

A little over a year ago we created a short discussion paper on the potential impact of virtual worlds on business. Since that time literally hundreds of people have downloaded the paper, so we thought it was worth updating it.

It remains a fairly succinct overview of the opportunities presented by virtual environments in the enterprise, as well as identifying some of the misconceptions around. The updated version now contains some discussion on trends for the coming 12-months (partly based on our 2010 predictions post) as well as a wrap-up of the major platforms to watch.

You can download Virtual Worlds and business: 2010 overview for free by going to this page.

As always, if there’s omissions or alterations needed, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

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Immersive environments and the enterprise: new report

Erica and Sam Driver from ThinkBalm have released a new report. Titled The Enterprise Immersive Software Decision-Making Guide, the focus is obviously virtual environments suitable for business applications. For those not aware of ThinkBalm, they have a growing stable of reports on the state of play in virtual worlds industry, particularly from a business perspective.

Aside from detailing nineteen vendors out there, the guide provides some useful strategies to assist in choosing a virtual environment for an enterprise. It’s pretty standard project governance and needs analysis stuff, but tailored well to the topic.

One of the key points from the guide for me revolves around the regular question of “which platform is best?”:

The vendors come from a variety of backgrounds and have different specializations and strengths and weaknesses. They are not all targeting the same use cases. Just as office productivity suites today now include separate-yet-integrated applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and more, immersive software product suites will evolve to focus on groups of related business problems. Eventually, we envision an immersion layer developing that will integrate with multiple enterprise systems and applications. But this is years away.

I’m a little more bullish on the ‘years away’ aspect. Two to three years, sure, but I’d be surprised if more widespread adoption took longer than that.

Overall, the guide appears to be a rigourous, well-researched piece of work that should provide a useful base for enterprises looking at integrating immersive environments into their operations.

You can view the full report here

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World of Warcraft, your boss and succeeding at work

For a lot of people, politics, corporate strategy and philosophy are the sort of topics that lead to thoughts of using a cheese-grater on an inner thigh. If you’re a cubicle jockey in an office, or someone questioning their existence in the meatspace, then WoW may be able to help. When I say help, I don’t mean in the ‘yep I’ll call in sick and play WoW for three days straight to show those idiots’ sort of way. I’m talking about the real-world opportunities that WoW can provide you as far as leadership development, strategic thinking, political nous or plain old perspective on the important things in life.

And no, winning 100 Wintergrasp battles for your achievement is not ‘important’ in this context. I’m talking about improved work performance or perhaps (don’t laugh) improved relationships at work or home. It’s not Mana oil I’m trying to sell you, it’s more telling you some stuff you probably already know, but hadn’t thought about in this way. So onto the first instalment: talking about WoW at work, legitimately.

Chances are you’ve talked about WoW at work. In order of likelihood, you’ll have talked to a fellow player, a good friend who humors your WoW passion, or a vague acquaintance that is your only conversation option on a particular day at lunch (the same person that will avoid you the following lunchtime). Unless your colleague plays and has the odd Level 80 or two, the reality is they can’t understand why you’re passionate about WoW, let alone being able to see any real-world outcomes. This is where a change of tack is required. Let’s cross to a typical office lunch room:

Colleague: I’m not sure what to say to my boss in my performance review tomorrow.

You: (deciding colleague would be a ranged DPS if they played) Are you happy with your performance?

Colleague: Yeah pretty much, I haven’t had any complaints.

You: (knowing how a sucky ranged DPS can hide in a big raid) Well, have you ever had people say you have been doing a good job?

Colleague: Not really.

You: (having used the ‘Gear Score is crap as a raid effectiveness measure’ argument many times yourself) Well, there’s your strategy for the performance review. Tell your boss you’re happy with your performance to date, but that you’re really interested in getting better job definition so you can improve further. It’s not reasonable for you to be penalised if the ground rules haven’t been clearly laid out.

Colleague: Yeah that might work. Is that what you did?

You: (Being a leet melee DPS) Nope – I had plenty of positive feedback from people that I was able to show my boss. I actually applied some of the teamwork stuff I’ve learnt in World of Warcraft to my job, and it seems to have helped a bit.

Colleague: Really? What are you doing for lunch tomorrow / can I marry you / omfg I’m signing up for WoW tonight.

It may sound cheesy, but conversations similar to the one above happen all the time. Sure, your chances of getting hitched by providing some WoW-based advice is pretty low, but the odds are better than embarking on a 25-minute discussion with same colleague, of how the well-geared but stupid tank you had to heal in the Pit of Saron wiped your 5-man run three times. All that will lead to is you being tied to your desk and pelted with staplers. Plus, those sort of discussions need to be saved for work friends who actually play and may even laugh at your WoW anecdotes. Maybe.

Over to you: have you ever discussed WoW in the workplace, and if so, did it work for you?

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The reverse argument for virtual worlds in the enterprise

With thanks to Tateru Nino for the heads up, this machinima just about perfectly encapsulates the tug-of-war within the enterprise in regards to adoption of virtual worlds as a collaborative tool. It’s an incisive piece that strips bare some of the stereotypes and barriers put forward by business as ‘arguments’ against utilising virtual worlds in their operations.

It’s the sort of piece that may be useful after some initial discussions have been had within an enterprise. It would probably make some people defensive if used up front, but its power is likely to be found after the stereotypical arguments have been made by those less convinced of the opportunities virtual worlds provide.

Watch and enjoy:

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