Clickable Culture   Official Research Blog of Phantom Compass
  Combining Online Games and Productivity  
Posted 2006-01-05 by Tony Walsh
What if all that time wasted playing large-scale online games had a real-world productive edge? When will be it possible to play a game that results in the production of real-world work? These are questions that have been rolling around my braincase since late last year, and recently I've discovered a pair of good blog posts on the theme. I'm lining these up with one of mine. Stay tuned for the punchline.

Game Grind Just Another Job (Tony Walsh)
"Massively-multiplayer games aren't casual for those who pursue success--but rather than seeing it as a pointless grind, most gamers can't seem to get enough of this type of serious play. I wonder if there's anything modern workplaces can learn from massively-multiplayer games in making the work-day more enjoyable or at least more rewarding."

Labor of Love (Mark Wallace)
"Really, I think it's no surprise that here in the middle of late-stage capitalism we see forms of income-producing labor that are also enjoyable. Perhaps it's simply the case that work and play are moving closer together as the developed world's economies mature. Maybe leisure-work (i.e., work that looks like play) is simply one of the products of luxury."

Massively Multiplayer Personal Productivity (Steven Frank)
"So it was in the midst of a marathon WoW session when I had my million-dollar epiphany... If character development, and a bit of visual gloss can make repetitive and possibly mundane activities into an addiction, then I have the perfect application for it... My biggest problem is to stop procrastinating and actually do the to-dos. What I need is an incentive! [...] So, clearly, what I need is a specialized PIM app, where each task can be assigned a certain number of experience points. Maybe if I, say, replace the furnace air filter, I get a chance at a certain amount of gold or silver. [...] Next, this app checks in with a server and ranks me against other users. What? That guy I work with is level 20 already? I've gotta go mow the lawn, that's worth 500 XP!"

Treating players like numbers (Raph Koster)
"[Byron Reeves presented] a mockup of a Star Wars Galaxies medical screen, displaying real medical imagery. Players were challenged to advance as doctors by diagnosing the cancers displayed, in an effort to capture the wisdom of crowds. The result? A typical gamer was found to be able to diagnose accurately at 60% of the rate of a trained pathologist. Pile 30 gamers on top of one another, and the averaged result is equivalent to that of a pathologist — with a total investment of around 60-100 hours per player."

The Labour of Fun (Nick Yee)
"The timing and layering of reward mechanisms in video games train players to derive pleasure from the work that is being done.
Video games condition us to work harder, faster and more efficiently. In the same way that TiVO trains us to become better TV watchers (Andrejevic, 2002), video games train us to become more industrious game workers."

I think it's possible to design games that result in the generation of real-world work products without hardcore gamers even noticing the difference in play. Koster talks about harnessing distributed gamer-power like the distributed computer-power used in the SETI@Home project or cancer-beating screensavers. Not only are humans more intelligent than computers (and capable of more challenging tasks), but gamers enjoy solving problems. There are over five million gamers worldwide enjoying World of Warcraft's quests and missions at the time of this writing. If Warcraft incorporated small solvable real-world problems seamlessly into routine game play, millions of problems would be solved around the clock, all year long. This is perhaps a unique advantage video games have over less interactive forms of media, and one we would be foolish to overlook.
  ... share via email digg bloglines fark reddit newsvine simpy blogmarks magnolia  
Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
January 6, 2006 @ 10:27 am
I think this kind of idea dovetails nicely with the idea of games been tools of learning as well. While the edutainment market has had its rough times, i still believe that there is a way to create entertaining activities which help teach at the same time.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
January 6, 2006 @ 1:26 pm
Koster argues that we are entertained by learning new things. I happen to agree--games already teach us, and that's a major reason we enjoy playing them. It's *what* we are being taught that separates games from being distinguished as junk culture or high culture. Game developers are capable of elevating the medium, it's just that no publisher wants to bankroll a game based on maintaining a healthy spousal relationship--instead we get Grand Theft Auto. I wouldn't mind GTA so much if it actually helped me learn how to drive. I'm sure there are ways to integrate valuable learning, work, or grid-computing with compelling game play, it's just that few designers have given it serious consideration.

I think developers might earn some kudos as being socially responsible if games were secretly educational or productive. As I alluded to in an earlier post about World of Warcraft (and we might have talked about this in person), would it have killed Blizzard to make more realistic recipes for skills like cooking, or to include NPCs that help explain why a recipe works the way it does. This might not teach us how to make good bread, but it might give us an inkling more about the cooking process than we had before.
Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
January 6, 2006 @ 1:43 pm
Of if a direct connection to the real world is not desired, because of the type of game, make it a one for one swap of fictional items for real ones.

So you don't want to use "flour" as an ingredient for your "bread" - you want them making "space snacks" using "super space seeds". Still use a recipe for bread, just call it and the ingredients whatever you want.

Of course, not everything can be so easily swapped, but wouldn't it be great if all the WoW players suddenly realized that they knew how to make a western omelette? Or pizza dough? Or teriyaki chicken?

Or how to fix a broken bicycle tire?

What things are easily cross-over-able to the virtual world, without spoiling the game? The bike-tire i don't know about, but the food ones are easy. I guess it also depends on the game - GTA isn't really going to be able to teach you to drive as one of the great things about it is, well, causing havoc with your vehicle! Ignoring that, how would you change GTA to make it more like you said - to make it help one learn to drive?
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
January 6, 2006 @ 2:06 pm
Just a quick note that I've added relevant quotes from Mark Wallace and Nick Yee to the entry.

Jos wrote:
wouldn't it be great if all the WoW players suddenly realized that they knew how to make a western omelette? Or pizza dough? Or teriyaki chicken? Or how to fix a broken bicycle tire?
Yeah, that's exactly what I'm talking about. I think any of these are somewhat plausible. There's a huge variety of game-world analogies for real-world professions, all of which are abstracted, but can be used to convey some foundations of the craft.

how would you change GTA to make it more like you said - to make it help one learn to drive?

GTA is a tricky example because of the nature of the game. Here's a braindump-- Let's assume that you're going to be responsible for a lot of traffic-related infractions in GTA. We already know that when you commit violent crime in GTA, the police take notice. What if every time you perpetrated a traffic-infraction, the game notified you of the infraction and pending penalty corresponding to real-world laws: "Failure to come to a complete stop! -2 demerit points! $150 fine!" Perhaps when you are caught by the police, your rap sheet is made available with a snapshot of each infraction. Granted this is all hastily thought out, but it's possible that in teaching you about your precise infractions, GTA could help you pass a driving exam. I'm learning to drive this year, and know that I will be expected to remember a slew of infractions and their exact penalties when I do the written test. Handbook boring. GTA fun?
Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
January 6, 2006 @ 3:05 pm
I agree that GTA is a difficult one to frame into a (positive) learning example. I love the idea of the fines tho - you have to pay to get out of the jail as is (i think - its been a while since i played), why not make it more relevant? Would driving well help you somehow? How do you keep it fun, without loosing the enjoyment of reckless transgression? Kinda tricky ;)
Comment posted by csven
January 8, 2006 @ 2:56 pm
This topic is a big part of the reason for my own blog and why I follow topics as seemingly disparate as videogames and PLM software (discussed his not too long ago) and manufacturing. One recent entry of mine with a couple of links might be of interest here: Take 2: Cooperative Building Games aka PLM.

Thanks for the articles.
[ Detailed Search ]
Clickable Conversation
on 4159 entries

Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'

yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please

Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool

Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please

It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy? get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock

Clickable Culture Feeds:

RSS 2.0 ATOM 1.0 ALL



Clickable Culture
Copyright (c)1999-2007 in whole or in part Tony Walsh.

Trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments owned by the Poster. Shop as usual, and avoid panic buying.