Gaming and work.

For most of us, who don’t live the dream of working in a game studio, it’s  still quite rare that you hear those two subjects mentioned in the same sentence.

Although – little by little, the little ninja that is  gaming culture is slowly but surely creeping its way into the workplace.

There looks to be an increasing subset of the brave and the bold that bestride both gaming and corporate culture  who see value in mixing the two together.  And so they have identified those practices that are used in gaming to keep players coming back and wanting to do better –  (particularly in competitive on-line gaming) and are applying them to motivating employees in the work place.

And so the term ‘gamification’ has started to be heard more and more and sometimes even spoken by those who have no interest in gaming at all.

Some of the ways this has manifested, has been in the reward structures applied to the workplace and to problem solving. So for example – if you are pivotal to supporting the members of an online technical community – you may find you ‘rank up’ and are rewarded with very visible kudos. This of course is a powerful motivator, as it means that you are recognised across your industry for being an expert among your peers.

And who doesnt want that?

You will see an example of this in the very awesome http://www.Stackoverflow.com site.

Here’s the thing though.  Kudos is typically a very individual thing. ‘Look what I’ve done’ – as opposed to  ‘Look what we achieved together’. Which despite a fair amount of evidence to the contrary – isnt something that is openly encouraged by enlightened corporate culture. Often the corporate mantra is ‘you can achieve more as a team – than you can alone’.

True.

But does the current model of gamification support team work – as opposed to individual success?

Do we see much in the way of team kudos applied to anything in the workplace within the scope of gamification?

Are we looking at the wrong games for our inspiration?

Take a peek at a recent iteration of Call of Duty

Here a player (in a team) individually dominates the game – and is rewarded (at an individual level) for his success by perk upon perk – ending in being rewarded with a very large plane descending upon his enemies, obliterating them and resulting in him winning the game and being the boss of everything.

– p.s I like COD im just making the point it can place a lot of emphasis on individual achievement as opposed to encouraging teamwork.

Ok so that was a prime example of typical gamification – 1 person does well – is rewarded and rewarded some more at an individual level. He will doubtless rank up and be regarded by his peers as a legend.  But its not an outstanding example of teamwork.

Now have a look at this Battlefront 3 clip

If you can forgive the orgy of destruction, what you are looking for starts around the 40 sec mark.  The clip consists of two people working together – one as the pilot of the helicopter and one as the gunner. At about 40 secs, the gunner removes an incoming threat in possibly the best example of teamplay I have ever witnessed in a game…worth viewing simply to appreciate the ability of the players.

The cool thing about this – although its not evident from the video, is that both players, the pilot and gunner are rewarded for their achievements, no matter who actually takes the final shot.  Compare that to traditional competitive FPS, where you will often be left shaking a fist at a team mate for ‘stealing’ your kill (and your points).

So whats the moral of the story? Apart from leaping out of attack helicopters and taking out jets with a rocket launcher is a really cool thing to do.

Is it possible that the next evolution of gamification in the workplace follows a similar path? That rather than only rewarding individual performance we change the game  to reward team achievements in the workplace. We find a way to recognise the skill and commitment of the individual, but we realise it in the context of the team achievement in completing the overall goal successfully.

Battlefront 3 has done this remarkably well in the extremely competitive arena of online fps. Can we apply the same model to the workplace?

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