Using serious games within the business environment is increasingly becoming more popular. However, implementing and using serious games have also incited quite a bit of misunderstanding and in some cases even harsh criticism. As a serious games developer I was interviewing recently quickly pointed out that before one starts to discuss the implementation of serious games, one would be wise to take some initial resistance from the client into account. Just as “Why would I allow my employees to play a game when they should be working” is a frequently heard response among management team members.
And that isn’t that strange of course. When confronted with the word “gaming” an image arises of employees who are getting paid to play games while the work slowly piles up on their desks. Combine this with the predominant negative attention for first-person shooter games and the high starting fee for the development of games, and most companies quickly retreat to their familiar surroundings.
However, one would also be best served to compare this stance to the facts stemming from recent research on the topic. For instance, recent statistics show that the average age of a gamer lies around 33 years old and that in Europe alone 95 million people have indicated to regularly play video games (source). In short, chance is more than likely that the average employee of your company is familiar with playing games and also plays them regularly. This brings us to a more important point of discussion namely, the general perception of an employer of his/her employees.
In the current knowledge economy much is asked of the (cognitive) abilities of an employee. In order to cope with this demand many employees, whether knowing or unknowingly, take short breaks. Examples of these short breaks are a coffee/smoke break, chatting up with co-workers at the water cooler, surfing the internet and…playing games!
I am afraid that any manager who thinks his/her employees work tirelessly for 8 hours a day, only to go home and update their Farmville on Facebook just before going to bed at night, can consider them out of touch with reality. Why? Because most employees do this in between their regular work duties at the office! And the more important question is: Do you think that your employees would become more or less happy if you would block the internet to prevent such activities?
I would encourage you to see this as a challenge, the business opportunity: why not use serious gaming as a valuable addition to your company culture! Why not use serious gaming to increase the impact of your company training courses or to support and emphasize the experience and application of the core values of your company?
That way it won’t be game over for your company but game on instead!