Curioso análisis de The Economist sobre la relación entre “los videojuegos y el aumento de los beneficios de una empresa”:
As the Democratic National Convention got underway in
Part of an initiative to boost youth participation in this year’s election, Microsoft’s move shows how gaming technology can have an impact far beyond the narrow confines of a display screen. In a forthcoming book called “Changing the Game”, David Edery and Ethan Mollick argue that many skills and lessons from the gaming world are applicable in the business world. The smartest firms, the authors argue, will not only allow game-playing in the workplace, but will actively encourage it.
To CEOs who throw a tantrum every time they catch someone playing solitaire on an office PC, or who consider video games to be the exclusive preserve of pasty-faced teens, that may sound like daft advice. It may also smack of bias coming from Mr Edery, who happens to be in charge of game planning for Xbox’s Live Arcade online-gaming system. (Mr Mollick is an academic at MIT’s Sloan School of Management). But there are good reasons to think that he’s right.
Much (electronic) ink has already been spilt about boosting sales through online promotional games. These “advergames” have become a staple of viral marketing campaigns for firms such as Burger King and Intel. Intel’s “Silicon Commander”, for instance, lets users manoeuvre a fleet of robots through a host of IT-related dangers. Players advance more easily by upgrading their fleet to “Pro” models—which happens to be the name of a processing technology developed by Intel.
Admittedly, game-based marketing has had its downs as well as ups. Many marketing efforts in virtual worlds such as Second Life have flopped. But to judge the potential value of gaming to business solely on the basis of its ability to promote products is to miss the bigger picture. According to Messrs Edery and Mollick, by making work more fun and by allowing firms to tap into wisdom beyond their walls, game playing can dramatically improve both productivity and bottom lines.
To see why, consider one of the things it takes to become an ace at, say, World of Warcraft, a hugely popular online fantasy game inhabited by griffins, trolls and other mythical creatures. To make progress inside the game, players must engage in “grinding”—gamer-speak for performing a repetitive task, such as slaying a monster, many times over.
What makes people, both young and old, want to sit for hours in front of a screen, clicking away on their consoles? The answer, say the authors, is status and friendly competition. Games that track players’ progress against their previous achievements, or against those of others, can make grinding seem like—well—less of a grind.
Staging in-house competitions to boost productivity is hardly novel. But gaming technology can make competition more enjoyable. Take Microsoft’s own experience. Before it releases a new version of its Windows operating system, it asks staff to help debug the software by installing and running the system. In the past, project managers had to spend a great deal of time and effort persuading busy Microsoftees to help them with this boring task. So for Windows Vista, the system’s latest incarnation, Microsoft created a game that awarded points for bug-testing and prizes such as wristbands for achieving certain goals. Participation quadrupled.
Gaming also promotes community building. Popular games can attract hundreds of thousands of user-group members, who swap notes and develop their own modifications (or “mods”). In many cases, such as The Sims—the most popular computer game of all time (in terms of copies sold), which allows players to control a household full of people with very human attributes—these mods have deepened customers’ attachment to the product.
The authors argue that firms in other industries should look to video-gaming companies for inspiration when it comes to managing their own communities. They point out that good gaming firms must learn the language and rules of different customer groups, appointing staff to engage with them. They also offer prizes that encourage creativity, as well as tools and support that make it easier for users to come up with mods, while discouraging unwanted innovation. The resulting software can help predict what future products might succeed.
The gaming industry also offers examples of what not to do. In 2006 CCP, an Icelandic company that makes EVE Online, a game that lets teams of players fight epic online battles over virtual star systems, got a rocket from its users when it emerged that an employee had been giving special help to a particularly powerful team.
Mods can have cons too, notably when hackers exploit them. Sometimes mischief-makers can go a step further, creating new contents from scratch. Spammers have created an online game to get around CAPTCHA, the bot-catching test that requires people to read then type weirdly distorted letters when, say, registering for a free online account or other service. Their game involved a scantily clad virtual model removing an article of clothing each time a user identified a distorted word—which, unbeknown to the player, was a CAPTCHA from another website. Thanks to this, the spammers got others to help them create new e-mail accounts from which to send their junk.
Such hiccups aside, the evolution of gaming technology has definitely given companies the ability to create virtual sandboxes that can provide a competitive edge. So executives who still insist on all work and no game play won’t just be running dull workplaces; they will also be running less profitable ones too.