May 5, 2011

Game Time in the Work Place

Games are everywhere. Just about every PC comes shipped with a few simple games, and virtually every mobile communication device including mobile phones, Blackberries and other PDAs have games preloaded. To some office managers and small business owners this might sound like a nightmare. These games give employees reason to goof off and be less productive.
In truth, a few minutes of gaming can let you clear your head after a stressful meeting or as a reward for accomplishing a task. While it remains far too easy to press the “new game” button on most mobile phone games, a little self control should go a long way to keeping Bubble Burst from being a total time suck.

The most notable rising trend to watch right now is with mobile gaming. Last summer PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that by 2011 games would overtake music in terms of sales on mobile handsets. Additionally, for some parts of the world mobile gaming will be the only game in town.

This will be especially true in markets where many consumers will never own a computer, or seldom even have a TV. “In most emerging markets, including Africa, China and India, mobile phones are the only game platform for most people,” said Billy Pidgeon, industry analyst for research firm IDC, when I spoke to him on this subject earlier this year. He added that while PC penetration will improve throughout the developing world, those PCs would likely be used for education and business. Will workers in these developing regions find mobile games to be huge time sucks?

Back in America we’re seeing even more gamer-friendly mobile phones, with larger screens and more built-in memory, while handsets offer easy connection for affordable software downloads, with many titles that have a mass appeal. And again this could sound like bad news to those who need to keep their workers working. But should an office manager worry?

In truth, embracing some office gameplay might be a course of action. It wasn’t that long ago that many PC games included network options—and before Internet gaming took off in the late 1990s, the only option was to play Doom and later Quake after hours at the office. Instead of running out the door on Friday at 5 p.m. many gamers found they’d stay late to get in a few kills in these virtual environments.

Gaming can even help productivity, as workers might try harder to get their tasks completed so that they can get to the fun stuff. Likewise, competition in multiplayer games can help build team camaraderie—and even a past episode of NBC’s “The Office” featured a storyline where one branch of the fictional paper company took on another branch in a game of “Call of Duty,” a World War II PC shooter.

So instead of banning games, perhaps suggested game time or amount of games played could be provided. There would be rules without sounding like rules. Gaming might even lose some of its appeal if it is authorized or encouraged as a break activity, rather than being shunned at all costs.

And if workers are getting on each other’s nerves letting them blow off some steam by gaming might just make the real-world office stay a little more peaceful



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