Games without frontiers

Games without frontiers

will have to work very hard just to entice people to play much less benefit from their gaming

Author
Dennis Draeger, Student, University of Houston

Last spotted
24 May 2011

The video gaming industry is increasingly becoming a driver of innovation. Not only has it pushed PC specifications and contributed to advances in supercomputing, but gaming is stretching beyond leisure and into the other sectors.
What is changing?
The video gaming demographic is diverse and thriving. 67% of American households play computer or video games. The average game player is 34 years old. 40% of all game players are women. In 2010, 26% of Americans over the age of 50 played video games, an increase from 9% in 1999. While these statistics are solely for the US, video gaming is a global phenomenon with more than 500 million people worldwide playing video games at least an hour a day.Video gaming is growing up. This market once relied on the technological advances of other sectors, but with a burgeoning consumer base, it has now grown to a point where its own innovations are being exported to other industries. A prime example is the hands-free controller popularized by the Microsoft Kinect.

When the Kinect was released, users spawned a myriad of applications from controlling telepresence robots and enhancing teleconferencing systems to helping the blind sense their surroundings and walk more freely. In the medical profession, researchers have enabled surgeons to easily sort through images on a screen while remaining sterile. Researchers at University of Minnesota are using the Kinect to inexpensively incubate an innovation to diagnose disorders such as OCD and ADD in children as they play.

The gaming public wants to see games elsewhere. So, corporations are using games to engage the public and their own workforce. Wal-Mart is using game dynamics internally with their My Sustainability Plan (MSP) to engage their associates on sustainability. Gartner expects more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one such gamified application by 2014. They claim these gamified services will be more important than Facebook for consumer goods marketing and customer retention. Examples include the World Bank Institute’s Evoke game which is crowd sourcing creative solutions and fostering future social innovators. The UK Department of Work and Pensions has developed Idea Street which is a gamified idea generator for employees. It has generated 1,400 ideas and the Department has implemented 63 of them.

Why is this important?
The gaming industry is making high tech devices relevant and viable to a mass audience thereby reducing their cost to a premium for more affordable innovation in other areas. At the same time, the wide spread demographic is leading to social innovations. Gaming is stretching beyond its own bounds and infiltrating other areas like sustainability, marketing, human resources, policy change, education, medicine, training, negotiation, science, etc.Gaming is a very competitive industry requiring more than just a passing understanding of game mechanics. Whether an organization wants to use gaming internally or externally, it will have to work very hard just to entice people to play much less benefit from their gaming, but the benefits could be huge. Organizations should try to develop this vast demographic because games can deepen the public’s experience of the organization and also increase employee buy-in. Gaming is big business, but more importantly, it could be an integral part of your organization’s effectiveness.

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