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  ‘Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders’ Report Distilled  
Posted 2007-06-28 by Tony Walsh
IBM and Seriosity have teamed up for a joint research report entitled "Leadership in Games and at Work:
Implications for the Enterprise of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games." A summary of the report is available for download, painting a picture of "Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders" in broad strokes.

The summary report's chief takeaway in my view is that leadership isn't just a part of MMOs but a byproduct of MMO play (no surprise to any organized MMO players out there). Also see my notes from Ito and Hall's SXSW 2007 panel "Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy," or a bunch links I collected last year on the topic of productive play.

Here's my favorite passage from the report:
"The collaborative influence that online leaders exhibit is extraordinary in some cases. Gaming leaders are more comfortable with risk, accepting failure, and the resulting iterative improvement, as part of their reality. Many of these leaders are able to make sense of disparate and constantly changing data, translating it all into a compelling vision. And the relationship skills of the best gaming leaders would put many Fortune 500 managers to shame."
What sticks out here is that game leaders are more comfortable with risk and accept failure. I submit that this is largely due to the minimal real-world repercussions for risk and failure in MMO games. Few guild leaders are losing their day-jobs over a bad raid decision.

According to the report, there are about 73 million online gamers around the world. These gamers are 56% male, 43% female, and play about 22 hours weekly. The average age is 27: 43% are aged 18-49, 35% are aged under 18, and 19% (a larger number than I would have expected, even being aware of mature gamers) are over 50.

Some quick points directly copied from the report...

Online gaming environments facilitate leadership through:
1. Project-oriented organization
2. Multiple real-time sources of information upon which to make decisions
3. Transparent skills and competencies among co-players
4. Transparent incentive systems
5. Multiple and purpose-specific communications mediums

In fast moving distributed environments, leadership can be:
1. A temporary phenomenon
2. Task-oriented
3. Dynamic and constantly changing

The full report and its attractively-designed summary may be downloaded via Seriosity's web site.
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