Future of Work is Gaming

For years my 12 year old son has expressed over and over again how he wants to be in the video game space. He’s stayed on campus at the UofMN for two years with ID Tech Camp’s summer programs in video game design and is immersed in gaming and virtual worlds.

At first, my bride and I were concerned by his rabid and passionate embrace of games. “Hey…go outside and ride your bike or something” was our constant refrain on beautiful summer days when he was opting to be inside gaming with a buddy or a team online. As a parent, the key to successful launching of a kid is to find and fuel their passion — whatever it may be and regardless of how we might feel about it — so we’re fueling his gaming passion (and still ensuring he is balanced and in the fresh air!).

I’ve been skimming articles for a few years now on the examinations of gaming theory on learning, collaboration, team building and educational process. Great minds are examining the power of video games — a power which even was being looked at as a possible psychiatric addiction…but the American Medical Association recently eliminated it from inclusion in a widely used diagnostic manual of psychiatric illnesses.

Now IBM has been seriously exploring the future of work and gaming (by way of 3PointD) with the firm Seriosity.

Figuring out the importance, the best practices and zero’ing in on the most powerful aspects of virtual work — and creating software systems and processes that are effective — make perfect sense for an organization like IBM and this study and their initiative is highly interesting. But I’m more interested in the fact that IBM is even looking at this category as I join other strategists and visionaries in determining what it means when business, education, social ties and human consciousness are connected and increasingly virtual.

How do we come together in teams virtually? What software can we use that is instantly intuitive and fosters collaboration and, especially, creativity and innovation? What are the protocols and behaviors we need to exhibit in order to make virtual connections trustworthy, meaningful and productive? How can coming together virtually be really fun and delightful so it will be attractive rather than a burden to participants?

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  1. PXLated on June 28, 2007 at 11:12 am

    I have a friend who’s son was just like yours, gaming, gaming, gaming, and more gaming. You couldn’t tear him away from gaming with his friends. He’ll be a junior this next year and all gaming is now off. He and his friends discovered girls, the outdoors and fishing. They are now as fanatical about those as they were for gaming.

  2. Nathan Zeldes on July 1, 2007 at 12:37 am

    Getting Virtual teams to interact well is a challenge, but we find it’s feasible if the members take a positive attitude and develop the required trust. Once they do, it’s even possible to have fun together. At Intel we once did a “Virtual fun day” event in a team spread across the globe, and it worked so well that we documented how we did it and shared the materials – check http://www.itsharenet.org/ and search there for “IT Virtual Fun Day”.

  3. Kelly Christopherson on July 2, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Steve, one of my last posts on my blog discussed gaming and education. As a gamer, who doesn’t have the time I want to game, I’ve been looking at such a thing for some time. I think that games can be educational as long as we don’t get caught up in “doing education” and remember that games need to be entertaining. Students can have fun and learn. As I mentioned in my blog, I worked with student on the Horizon Project and believe that there is room to explore this avenue in many areas. Take a look at the blog and then contact me if you want to talk further.

  4. kristin wolff on July 3, 2007 at 3:45 pm


    Very interested in same. I’m not a gamer but when I stumbled into Second Life, I had the classic “aha” moment–if we can’t find or accelerate what we need/want in the out-world, why not just build it in here? The power of these virtual spaces to change not just how we learn and work but what work is–how we think about school and jobs at all–is mindblowing. There’s an SL list I sort of stalk that is a melange of things (educators@lists.secondlife.com), but a frequent thread of conversation is about getting the people talking to each other in SL through this list to better collaborate within their own organizations/institutions out-world. All sorts of crossover with university media departments, NMC, etc.

  5. Bart Pursel on July 9, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve been working with Second Life for 7 months now at Penn State University, and have toyed around with There and other virtual world platforms for learning. The MOST common mistake I find is people trying to reproduce real-world replicas in a virtual world.

    A virtual presentation in a conference room complete with overhead projector within Second Life? Doesn’t work.

    Re-creation of a large-scale building from a university campus? Doesn’t work often

    I can dig up some more examples, but I feel that people need to stop trying to re-create the real world in places like Second Life, and focus on other aspects that those environments will support better. Virtual team building, exploration, role playing, etc.

  6. Jeff Lindsay on July 12, 2007 at 4:48 am

    I’ve been studying game design, business and more recently education for quite a while. Interesting you would think to intersect all three, I’ve stated before that I want to reunite work, play, and learning as an integrated continuous life experience.

    I think all the tools we need for “virtual team building” are already here. Wikis, blogs, IM, and other various web services. However, its knowing how to use them and your processes that make a difference whether they work or not.

    Virtual worlds are very interesting but most people misunderstand their significance as a virtual physical space, when its really about a virtual ecosystem… which I don’t find very relevant to the future of work. However, I would recommend reading A Theory of Fun, which is not about virtual worlds, but is written by one of the most well-known virtual world designers, Raph Koster. In the book he argues that games are about learning abstract systems which is significant to ideas about education and gaming.

    As a sidenote, there’s a book called The Future of Work, though its about decentralization and democratization of business and the workplace.

  7. Jeff Lindsay on July 12, 2007 at 4:56 am

    Er, also I forgot to mention that the real value of games or game-like software for business will be simulations. Look at the work of Will Wright.

    I’m not very convinced this IBM and Seriosity should be taken very seriously. The only difference between what they’re talking about and what can already been done is that their virtual world would be a walled garden, although heavily instrumented for collecting data about every aspect of it. Still, the significant part of virtual worlds are the systems, which don’t necessarily need a physical world representation unless an important part of the simulation is about physical things in that only exist in that virtual world… which is not the case when it’s just a world of avatars for things in the real world.

  8. bex on July 13, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Will Wright, inventor of the video game The Sims, published a good article in Wired a while back that backs up what you’re saying here:


    There was also a great article about how girls who play with The Sims as opposed to Barbie dolls are MUCH better at money management, among other things:


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