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The gamer disposition

The ‘gamer disposition’ as described by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas, is a set of characteristics and ‘dispositions’ that gamers pick up when playing cooperative video games. The attributes include being bottom line oriented, thriving on change, seeing learning as fun and being more likely to come up with innovative solutions. Brown and Thomas hold that a combination of these attributes produces employees that are flexible, improvisational, resourceful and competitive and hence an invaluable asset to companies.

The idea of using video games at the workplace to boost productivity might at first seem to be counter-productive. After all, as an MBA student from Brigham Young puts it1: “Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that gamers would make the best workers if you could get them to stop gaming long enough to work?”

Brown and Thomas responded by saying that the ‘gamer disposition’ was in fact just a model disposition that employees should seek to inculcate with their employers; it does not necessarily mean that they should in fact be gamers at all.

And yet there is even more to it. The ESA (Entertainment Software Association), the association that represents video game companies in the United States, in an article titled ‘Games: Improving the Workplace’ give several notable examples that illustrate the usefulness of video games and the video game disposition to companies.

They use the examples of companies like IBM, Marriot, UPS and Sun Microsystems to show how organizations can use video games as tools to recruit and train their employees. In addition video games are now being used by companies to advertise their products to a wider range of potential customers. In fact the global market for in-game advertising is expected to grow to over 1 billion by 2014.

In addition more and more companies are using video games as a way to raise employee morale. They are abandoning traditional break rooms and replacing them with game-lounges where employees can relax and relieve stress. According to a study conducted by Dr. Traci Stizmann, employees who play video games are more motivated and more likely to learn more and forget less. In her analysis of 65 studies and data garnered from over 6000 trainers she concluded that those who played video games had an 11% higher factual knowledge level, a 14% higher skill-based knowledge level and a 9% higher retention rate than trainees in comparison groups.

Hence the process of ‘gamification’ of the workplace and fostering the gamer disposition is becoming a fast growing trend and a business in itself. Tech-industry research firm Gartner estimates that by 2014, some 70% of large companies will use gamification for at least one business process. Market researcher M2 Research estimates revenue from gamification software, consulting and marketing will reach $938 million by 2014.

An interesting case-study regarding gamer disposition is the story of LiveOps Inc. LiveOps, a company that provides ‘cloud contact services’, runs several virtual call centers and employs over 20,000 employees. To boost their productiveness LiveOps has implemented a sort of metagame in their workplace. The company awards agents with virtual badges and points for tasks such as keeping calls brief and closing sales. Leaderboards allow the agents to compare their achievements to others. Since the system was implemented, some agents have reduced call time by 15%, and sales have improved by between 8% and 12% among certain sales agents, says Sanjay Mathur, vice president of product management at LiveOps.

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