E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Gamers – A New Breed of Knowledge Workers in the Making?

Gran Canaria - El RincónI love TED Talks. Really. I *do* love them. And not just because of some of the most impressive and stunning visualisations that some folks have been putting together about them, like this one, but mainly due to the fact that a good number of them are amazingly inspiring and a rather clear call to action that one cannot ignore, nor neglect, just like that! No matter what subject either! Even playing games! Have you checked out Jane McGonigal‘s Gaming can make a better world? You should!

It’s totally worth every single minute of it! Those precious 20 minutes will surely change your perception, for the better, about the entire gaming industry. If you are already a serious gamer it would help reinforce what you already knew: that playing games can surely have a huge impact not only on how we conduct business, but also how we live as a society, for the better. It surely has changed my point of view to a point where I’m going to start challenging the corporate world I have been exposed to so far about finally demolishing that assumption that games are a total waste of time; specially in a working environment. Because, clearly they are not. And if you don’t believe me, check out the following slide that Jane used at her TED Talk:


I mean, who wouldn’t want to have, as a business, an employee workforce with all of that amazing talent to perform while at work? Wouldn’t you want your knowledge workers to have such amazing qualities to make a difference in your day to day business operations? Well, I don’t know about you, but I *certainly* would! Any time!

In fact, if you take things further into the next level, these very same capabilities from gamers pretty much narrow down to some of the various different characteristics from knowledge workers who have been exposed to social computing for a long while. If you don’t believe me, go and have a 30 minute conversation with that social computing evangelist working in your team and you will see what I mean. They are blissfully productive with that special fabric that social networks permeate through all along, with an on-going and ever growing urgent optimism about wanting to make things better and with a strong sense of epic meaning, wanting to change the way the corporate world has been operating under over the last few decades!

It’s rather interesting, don’t you think? I mean, I don’t consider myself a serious gamer, although I do play games every so often (Mainly on my iPhone and iPod Touch so far…), yet, while watching Jane’s talk I just couldn’t help nodding how spot on she is on the impact of gaming on our overall capability to learn, adapt, react, apply, execute and grow. It’s tremendous how over the course of the last few decades we have kept neglecting such innate playful nature from our offspring (children and youngsters alike!) as an empowering method for upskilling and developing themselves with those continuous gaming efforts in our modern world.

Maybe it’s the time for us to stop and ponder some more about how gaming could help shape not just the corporate environment we would want to have in the 21st century, but also ourselves as part of a troubled society that clearly needs a reboot in order to get back in shape, not to the level of what we may have had in the past, but already advancing into the next one: the one where we feel we are making a difference for a better world, not just for us, but, specially, for our children as well, because, after all, I keep refusing to think that the game is over. Not for us, not for them either. So next time that someone frowns upon you when they see you playing games, go and show them Jane’s TED Talk and get them involved into playing games. Games that matter. We would all be much better off. I am sure.

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  1. Fantastic TED video, and a great article to go with it!

    I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember (I’m now in my mid-30s, and have been working mostly in Knowledge Management as well) and while listening to McGonigal’s talk I found myself nodding at points. What I found most resonant was the notion that gaming is a means by which a social fabric can be woven, even between people who are vastly different in all other respects.

    Growing up, most of my friendships were formed through the gaming medium. This is not to say that I was hunched over my computer with all of my interactions taking place through some online game (actually, this was before the time when the Internet was found in every home, or in any home at all) – the games I played with my friends were console games like the original Nintendo or the Playstation. It was a weekend ritual for most of my early teenage years to get together with a friend or two playing an all-night session in front of the TV, working to “beat” some new game or other.

    Thinking back, after having watched McGonigal’s talk, it seems to me that I had very little in common (as people) with the friends I made in playing games. For all that I enjoyed the games, I also loved books (where they didn’t) and tended to be quiet and calm (where at least two of my friends were as high-strung as could be). I think it really was the GAME that pulled us together, and allowed us to bond by giving us a common goal and “epic meaning” – and I still remember some very specific moments (late into the night or early morning) where my friends and I would break through some frustrating challenge and achieve the endgame, allowing us that moment of shared victory.

    Even without the electronic consoles and online games, I see games as being a large part of community-building: consider the culture and spirit of followers of local sports teams, for example. Also, in my part of the world (Eastern Canada), the largely rural communities still observe the long-standing custom of weekend “card-plays”, where people from the community get together to play cards in a single venue.

    I think, for me, this is the main point of McGonigal’s talk: that games are everywhere, and everyone plays them. The question is then just a matter of what game, specifically, we prefer to play.

    I am not surprised at the thought that games bring us together and bring out the best of our co-operative tendencies – I do find myself wondering how that could translate into the “real world” so that we might enjoy the benefits here as well.

    Maybe the key is not seeing the divide between the “real world” and the world of the game – I see a lot of that line starting to blur with the movement toward more open workplaces that are more open to sharing challenges around the table equally.

    And I like how social networking has helped to blur that line as well, giving us the same capacity to interact with one another constantly that we might find in an online game such as World of Warcraft.

    Exciting times, interesting ideas presented in the talk and in your article – thanks for having shared it!

    ~ Shawn

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