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    Entries in games (9)


    The best, or at least most fun, workplace reaction to Pokémon GO

    There are two possible reactions to the current Pokémon GO craze for the owner/boss/supervisor who is concerned that their employees are wasting too much time playing the game and are subsequently shirking their workplace duties and responsibilities.

    1. Issue a ban or similar crackdown on playing the game, up to and possibly including blocking access to the app on company-issued devices

    2. Ignore the phenomenon completely, continue to manage to organizational and individual norms and expectations for performance, and treat people as adults, more or less. This approach treats and categorizes Pokémon GO as just the latest in the endless and endlessly updating list of 'shiny things that are more fun than work, and will distract our weak-minded staffs from their tasks.' 

    And like the other distractions that have come before it, (the Internet, March Madness, Facebook, fantasy football, etc.), if you and your organization finds itself having a real Pokémon GO problem, well, your problem is not really Pokémon GO, if you know what I mean. The problem is one or more of hiring the right people, giving them engaging assignments, management not up to the task, inefficient process design, or something else - Pokémon GO only helps you to realize something more fundamental is going on that won't be fixed by taking away people's Pokémon fix.

    You know, now that I think of it, there is a third possible organizational reaction to the Pokémon GO craze - make playing the game a required activity for employees.

    Check out what the folks over at The Next Web office in Amsterdam are up to:


    Sounds to me like the best, (and geekiest) workplace reaction to Pokémon GO yet.

    Have a great day and I hope you Level Up!


    When liberal hipsters turn out to be ruthless capitalists too

    It seems to be a pretty widespread and more or less accepted assumption that the next generation of folks entering the workplace are more concerned with an organization's reputation for responsibility, for doing 'good', and for acting as a good community citizen than were prior generations. Where the boomers and Gen X were much more pragmatic (and possibly cynical), the Gen Y and Gen Z and the whatever comes next cohorts are going to evaluate organization's commitments and actions in the community and towards their customers and employees much more closely and critically when they make their decisions about where to work and (probably more importantly), where to spend. Like another nemesis of mine, 'Culture eats strategy for breakfast', (don't get me started...), this notion has been reported on and repeated so many times that I think it is worth considering if, you know, it actually isn't true, or at least isn't completely accurate.

    I started thinking about this when reading about of a new play titled World Factory being staged in London at the Young Vic theater. In the play, audience members participate in what is essentially a global business strategy game, placed into teams who have the job of navigating a fictional global clothing manufacturer through a complex set of scenarios and decisions. It is basically like the kind of gamified scenario exercise you'd see in any college business strategy class. But what has been happening at World Factory is kind of interesting.

    From a recent review of World Factory in the Guardian:

    The audience becomes the cast. Sixteen teams sit around factory desks playing out a carefully constructed game that requires you to run a clothing factory in China. How to deal with a troublemaker? How to dupe the buyers from ethical retail brands? What to do about the ever-present problem of clients that do not pay? Because the choices are binary they are rarely palatable.

    The classic problem presented by the game is one all managers face: short-term issues, usually involving cashflow, versus the long-term challenge of nurturing your workforce and your client base. Despite the fact that a public-address system was blaring out, in English and Chinese, that “your workforce is your vital asset” our assembled young professionals repeatedly had to be cajoled not to treat them like dirt.

    And because the theatre captures data on every choice by every team, for every performance, I know we were not alone. The aggregated flowchart reveals that every audience, on every night, veers towards money and away from ethics. But what shocked me – and has surprised the theatre – is the capacity of perfectly decent, liberal hipsters on London’s south bank to become ruthless capitalists when seated at the boardroom table.

    Fascinating, and possibly kind of revealing as well. It is certainly much, much easier to say that corporate ethics and community responsibility is important in making employment and consumer decisions. But, even in a fictional exercise like World Factory, it is often, (maybe always), much harder to live and take decisions that are 'responsible' when facing incredibly tough business, environmental, and social challenges. 

    Business if often messy. Capitalist systems often force tradeoffs to be made, ones that at least according to what we think we know about Gen Y and Gen Z are not in line with those generations world views. But once Gen Y and Gen Z are actually in charge? World Factory is just one small exercise, but what if it hints at what Boomers have known for a while - every generation follows pretty much the same trajectory as they mature, take on more responsibilities, and get more experience in how the world works.

    And then in about 10 or 15 years we will have moved on to a new set of young people who will be lamenting the materialistic robber barons formerly known as Gen Z.

    Have a great week!


    Job Titles of the Future #7 - Professional eSports Player

    Like lots of guys of a similar generation, I grew up playing sports, watching sports, talking about sports, etc. My Dad and my other adult male relatives were all big-time sports people as well - simply put, there was not a day of my youth through teenage years where sports in some fashion was not a part.

    Fast forward about, well let's just say several years, and while sports are still a big part of many American kids lives, (certainly girls sports are a much, much bigger thing today than when I was a kid), there are lots more and different ways modern kids can choose to spend their time, energy, and as we will see in a second, to feed their appetite for competition.

    And just like traditional sports like basketball and football have for many years offered at least the most talented and driven kids a pathway to fame and monetary gain, we are starting to see these newer forms of competition also present similar opportunities.  

    What am I getting at?

    Check an excerpt from a piece in the LA Times - Online game League of Legends star gets U.S. visa as pro athlete

    International stars in sports such as baseball, hockey and basketball have long been afforded special immigration status to play on U.S. teams. Think David Beckham, the former Los Angeles Galaxy soccer player from Britain, or Dodgers rookie phenom Hyun-Jin Ryu, a pitcher from South Korea.

    Now add Danny "Shiphtur" Le, of Edmonton, Canada, to the elite list.

    Le, an online gamer, is one of the world's top players of League of Legends, a virtual capture-the-flag game in which two teams of fantasy characters compete for a glowing orb. Le is so deft at racing down the virtual field and opening up gaps for teammates that he recently became the first so-called eSports player to be granted a type of visa normally awarded to athletes featured daily on ESPN.

    With a generation of children having grown up playing video games, the decision by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been widely perceived as elevating America's newest professional sport to the same class as old-school stalwarts.

    And in a worldwide competition in which the winning team can take home $1 million in prizes, the ability to sign the best players — whether from Canada or South Korea or Russia — was seen as a must-have for U.S squads.

    Did you catch all that?

    A professional video gamer from Canada was granted a special type of visa, (probably a P1A), to live and compete in the USA with the rest of his elite team of gamers.

    I know you are thinking this is a kind of joke, or at least a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of occurrence. After all we are talking about video games, for gosh sakes. Not football, not baseball. Stupid video games.

    Except that I bet video games in general, and specifically League of Legends, the game in which Le and his team competes in, are a much, much bigger deal than you realize.

    How big?

    More from the LA Times:

    In the U.S. bracket of the championship series, eight teams compete against one another on Thursdays and Fridays at a West Los Angeles TV studio.

    The games are broadcast online and draw more than 1.7 million unique viewers. A typical National Hockey League game on the NBC Sports Network last season drew a quarter of that audience.

    Gaming industry analysts estimate that more than 32 million people worldwide play the game, about half of them in the U.S. The rest come from Europe and Asia. By those calculations, 1 in every 20 Americans plays League of Legends. That dwarfs baseball, from Little League to Major League Baseball.

    Like I mentioned at the top, I grew up playing traditional sports under the watchful eye of my Dad who also grew up playing those same sports. It would have fulfilled both our dreams had I become an NBA star. But alas, short, slow, and unable to jump very high (mostly) did me in.

    A new generation of kids is going to grow up playing games like League of Legends, under the watchful eyes of their Dads who also grew up playing League of Legends, (or World of Warcraft, or similar).

    And if those stats are accurate, or even close to it, that 1 in 20 Americans are playing League of Legends then there are going to be lots of career opportunities that will spring up from that ecosystem. Sure just like baseball and football there will be the select few like Danny Le that will become elite-level professionals, but there may also be a need for more event organizers, promotions, marketing, expert analyses, training courses, and on and on.

    Professional eSports Player, that has a pretty cool ring to it, and it makes the list as an official SFB 'Job Title of the Future.'


    Badges for failure

    Two themes that we saw, heard, and read lots about in 2012 were the value of 'failure' and the seemingly inexorable march toward 'gamification'. The failure theme is mostly about how you need to fail faster and more often, how you really only know you are pushing the envelope when you fail, and how lots of incredibly successful people have some pretty significant failures in their past. It is meant to make us feel better I guess, because if there is any one thing most folks can relate to it is failure.

    But we can take comfort in failure I suppose. At least that seems better than the alternative, drawing the blinds, getting under the covers, and watching a 'Real Housewives' marathon.

    The 'gamification' angle? Well that is mainly the idea that introducing mechanics and aspects of games, (points, leaderboards, badges, levelling up, etc.), to work and work processes will make them fun, (Yay for fun!), and make folks happier, more productive, and more engaged, (ACK, another 2012 buzzword), with their work.  

    Whether or not you buy-in totally to either or both of these ideas, the value of failure, and the gamification trend; I bet I can convince you that just like other epic combinations, (chocolate and peanut butter, Sonny and Cher, Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan), combining these trends will result in an incredible result.

    Just how does one combine failure and gamification?

    With Demerit Badges of course.  Check out some of these 'awards' for failure, courtesy of Demeritwear.com:

    Smartphone swimmingUtility Shutoff

    Out of gas

    Awesome right?

    With the Demerit badges you get the best of both worlds - utter and total failure, (which we keep getting told is great for us), as well as one of the fun elements of gamification, i.e. some tasty and colorful badges. Think about all the career development and fun you can have handing out a few of these Demerit Badges at your next team meeting, or giving a 'hard truth' performance review to someone on your staff!

    That is, in my best former consultant-speak, a Win-Win!

    Have a great weekend!


    Paul Revere is Terrible and the Unintended Consequences of Games

    I am not really a gamer, but even I took notice of the trailers and TV spots for the latest release in the popular Assassin's Creed video game series.  Titled simply 'Assassin's Creed III', the basic premise has the game's hero/protagonist 'Connor' operating and fighting in the Revolutionary War-era American Colonies, with the fictional Assassin's Creed characters and plotlines interwoven with real historical figures from that era like Benjamin Franklin, Sam Adams, and George Washington.

    So a couple of weeks ago I picked up the game for my son who proceeded to enthusiastically dive in to the story, and by extension, into the Assassin's Creed view of the Colonial world and some of the most famous people and heroes of that age. Then, in what can either be described as trusting and empowering parenting, or simply 'bad' parenting, I sort of tuned out while he spent some time over several days playing the game, and navigating through the stylized and idealized versions of Colonial Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.

    When I asked him about the game, and specifically how did he like interacting with the historical characters like Franklin and Washington, the conversation went something like this:

    Me: How was it playing the game and mixing it up with famous people from American History?

    P: They were all cool, with one exception.

    Me: Who was that?

    P: Paul Revere.

    Me: What was bad about Paul Revere?

    P: Paul Revere is terrible. He kept yelling at me to get back on my horse. When we had to fight the Redcoats he was worthless, all he did was wave his arms around and ride in a circle. He almost got me killed about five times.

    I have to admit it cracked me up, the idea of American Icon and legend Paul Revere reduced to a flailing, ineffective liability out in the field when naturally we think of him as a heroic and legendary figure. After I stopped laughing I did attempt to stick up for Revere and remind P of his place as a true patriot and essential player in our nation's formation. I didn't really think that Assassin's Creed would be an accurate and historically correct take on American History, (nor should it be), but I also did not want to see P walk away with a really incorrect impression of Revere.

    Thinking about the conversation further, I could not help but wonder if Assassin's Creed story is one we should take caution from, as we continue to think about and introduce gaming elements and game mechanics to more parts of work, education, and life in general.

    In Assassin's Creed, any potential relevant learning and understanding of historical events and figures is only an afterthought to the game itself - its purpose is to entertain and engage the player to accomplish the various missions, none of which are 'Understand the historical significance of Paul Revere'.

    I totally get that - running around Boston, scaling walls, dispatching spies and Redcoats with a well-placed musket shot is tremendous fun -  thinking about how onerous taxes levied on colonial merchants and how that led to protest and rebellion is kind of boring - particularly to an 12 year old.

    But that is exactly the reason why I think we have to be really careful making everything into some kind of game - it can get really easy to make the game itself so compelling and interesting that we forget why we are even playing in the first place. And it can get even easier to see 'success' as winning the game, with the true goals or purpose - completing some real work or learning something important, becoming only ancillary benefits.


    And I checked - Paul Revere is terrible, (at least at Assassin's Creed).