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March 07, 2006



I'm sorry, I'm not quite sure which businesses aren't run this way.

At least, I hear a distinct 'ding' whenever someone gets promoted around *our* way. ;)

Question is: who gets to act as in-game GM?


Well that's my point - *explicitly* like a game. Sorry, wasn't being clear was I? I've just assumed everyone can hear me thinking out loud.

What if you actuallly designed your business to be gameable, instead of letting your employees game your system?

OK, I'm not sure that's even clearer.

ren reynolds

This sort of assumes that people don’t already treat business like this or that MMOs are not based on what many of us do day-to-day. So I think the question becomes, what in business could be made more MMO like. To be heavy duty about it, Pat Kane’s Play Ethic is a bit of a treaties on how more knowing integration of play into socieity would make life better.

ren reynolds

Blimey synco post. Can one legitimately ‘game’ business. That’s an interesting one. Gets us into questions like what’s the difference between game and non-game, are the magic circles etc. One thing that makes games games is a certain stance in respect of values, games often stan in for, or in relation to a base value set. In gaming something, we have to have something which we then game, but in doing that what do we do to the values. Say you are bidding for some new business, you could game that by having two bid teams compete – what would they win though, would it be a token prize to make it more game-like or would it be a bonus – if so, that’s just like using competing team in normal work. There certainly is something to adding playfulness to work, but I wonder if explicitly gaming it would lead to odd consequences as values that one thought were core get gamed to the cost of individuals. Hmm, that sounds more negative than it’s meant to.


Ender's Game FTW!

But seriously, I think it would be a grand experiment and possibly one that is particularly motivating to some employees.

I'd love to see it.

Somehow, it conjures up images of the Terry Gilliam classic, "Brazil," which seems to alternate between dreamlike pseudo-game-reality and reality until the two merge into this indistiguishable mix.

Go out and rent Brazil!



Of course, the levelling process would end up being really slow, so the entire scheme might backfire and demotivate employees instead...

Chef Booyadee

Ugh. I'm still stuck as a Level 5 Intern in the Mail Room. Dammit, how many rats do I have to kill before I level up to "Lackey" status? This job sucks.


Yeah! I've thought about the whole "business as an RPG" thing.

I think it could totally work, as long as there are unlockables!


Naughty Alice! Haven't been studying your Book of Koster, have you?

And I quoteth: "Fun only exists in contexts where there are no real consequences."

A game about avoiding a T-Rex is fun. Avoiding one in real life, were they not extinct, would be terribly frightening, and probably NOT fun.

So while you certainly could draw all these analogies & metaphors in the setup of your business, at the end of the day, it's real life. You get promoted or you don't, you succeed or you don't, the company goes belly up or doesn't. All fun and games until someone loses a job, as mum used to say, (I think).

So you could set it up like a game, but it wouldn't be fun like a game.


It would work so long as the office experience had pretty, pretty graphics... and you had a way of dealing with the employees who spent all their time exploring the building, trying to find interesting new areas.

The workplace as "Brazil"esque dystopian sci-fi actually sounds like fun, but then, I'm perverse.


I'm pretty sure my office works as an MMO already. There's a load of l33t dudez making life hell for people, plenty of griefing, "kill"-stealing (Idea stealing anyway) and the grind is soul destroying.

Duncan Gough

So long as it's not one of those free-to-play MMO's, of course :)


The grind is killing me already!

Frank T.

I'm not sure who thinks businesses are run this way. They should be, but they are not. Who runs a group, who gets ranked up, etc. is determined by HR groups and those that can talk the best game.

Don't get me wrong, I have moved up to the top in the tech industry with a major public company, but often the best people to lead or the best in a role are not the ones that are given the opportunity. Too often, I find some guy/gal that is uber-good but it is a huge fight with HR because they are not from school XYZ or they don't have an MBA. Everyone in the group knows they are the best and would vote them up, but....

I would love to see a company really run like a MMOG.


What I'd really like to see is teams that get to "vote" (put in quotes because you could use a variety of systems. Doesn't necissarily have to be an straight up democratic vote) on their leadership. Rather than having some doof appointed by HR to lead the team you can get someone from within the team who is knowledgable about the project and already has relationships with the other members.

Of course, this only works if your team works well together, but if they don't then there are most likely bigger problems to address first.


I just got a job working for Jagex, who publish RuneScape, and during the trial process my team had to give a (not entirely serious) presentation on a topic of our choice - with some connection to RuneScape.

We decided to design a RuneScape Personal Organiser - a piece of PDA software which would run your life as if it were a giant game of RuneScape. Your diary reminders would become Quest Challenges: "Brave adventurer, it is 0730. Time to embark upon the Going To Work Quest!" etc.

It would have GPS functionality, so you could program in key locations and it would trigger quest alerts accordingly. We were also going to have it do traffic alerts whilst you're riding your mighty steed to work. "You must take a detour at the approcahing junction, as the road ahead is blocked by marauding goblins!"

There would be an inventory page (ie a checklist of things for you to remember to bring with you) and this would be tied into the quests too. "It is 1900, time for you to face the Dog Walking Challenge! You will require:
- Coat of Weatherproofing
- Boots of Walking
- Leash of Restraint
- Keys of your Abode
- Your dog."

And it would have had a RL friends-list, so your friends could IM you and even challenge you to duels. "Your friend has challenged you to a Drinking Quest! You must make your way to the Pub immediately."

We even worked out that, just like the real game, it would have both a subscription version, which would be ad-free, and a free-to-use version, which would be supported by adverts. "It is 1300, time for the Luncheon Quest. A mighty warrior such as yourself would find hearty sustenance at McDonald's!"

We role-played all this out (with silly voices) in front of the increasingly-incredulous training bod. There was much corpsing. I'm frankly amazed that any of us got a job there after that ;-)


I recently pitched to a God-awful business that was run very much like a game. It was a double glazing company - and the motivational techniques and strategies employed to get staff selling stuff was very 'gaming' - daily hierchies and incentives, a very fluid sales structure and even a form of 'identity' management that seemed quite playful on the part of the staff. It wasn't of course 'total' gaming - in that the 'constitution' was in the hands of the board.

It was also a demoralising, highly immoral and unpleasant 'reality'. So, it was a game, a bad one. The moral: not all 'gaming' qualities make for fun environments or good businesses.


I think possibly the root of why a gaming type business model WON'T work in the real world is that our society is now COMPLETELY based on capitolism. This causes us to have far too much on the line than in a game. If we mess up financially or 'physically' in a game we might 'die' in the game or go bankrupt.

But, Games allow us to make decisions and in the worst case scenario you either Reset OR create another character or account. In real life you make decisions (and not even necessarily bad ones), and you can go bankrupt, like I did). At least to die is much less likely in real life, unless you really choose poorly. But even that can happen brutally by chance.

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