The power of video Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2007
Young people joining the work force today have been raised with gaming technology. What will these “gamers” bring to the table?

Not only will it be important for companies to understand what motivates these workers, but they need to embrace the fact that game technology will be the information medium of the future, says Debra Schneiger, dean of the School of Media and Communication at National University.

“We are becoming an increasingly sophisticated media society that is demanding sophisticated media presentation and tools to produce our own media and — more importantly — to distribute information,” Schneiger says.

Smart Business spoke with her about how gaming will affect the workplace of the future.

Describe the gamer’s learning style.

Video games are learning tools. They enable rapid learning of concepts by engaging and immersing a game player in a specific environment. There is a wide range of information that players must absorb. They can proceed at their own pace and performance can be measured. Along the way, a great deal of feedback is provided. This creates a player who is very competitive, who wants to learn the game and who wants to learn within the context of different scenarios for each new game.

These factors will change the way training is presented. If training is not adapted to meet rapid learning styles, students will have little patience for the information being presented.

What about problem-solving?

Video games enhance problem-solving by allowing for scenario casting. A multitude of solutions can be played out in a game scenario and the implications of the solutions can be observed.

Scenario casting also creates buy-in from a diverse group when solutions to challenges can be arrived at by consensus in game play. In the workplace, we’ll see more of this. Information will be displayed using game technology. The ability to monitor complex sets of information, which are now displayed on multiple screens, will be available in an immersive environment. This will enable people to observe and understand events as they occur. In the not-so-distant future, for example, analysts will be able to monitor multiple financial markets simultaneously using gaming technology.

What social skills are gamers developing and how will these apply to work life?

Massive multiplayer online (MMO) games such as ‘World of Warcraft’ enhance team work. Different roles have different functions to make the team go forward. Gamers develop a verbal shorthand for communicating with one another. In the gaming environment, communication is just as important as skill itself.

Through the ability to create their own worlds, affect outcomes, and be heroes and winners, gamers develop a strong sense of self-esteem. The idea of failure has changed. In game play, there is the concept of reset. This means starting over and learning from one’s errors and building on those mistakes to move forward.

How do gamers respond to changes in technology?

Gamers need to learn to make decisions quickly. They expect and embrace rapid changes in technology, which they incorporate quickly into their lives. This makes them flexible employees who move quickly to respond. In addition, gaming enhances hand-eye coordination, dexterity and multitasking capabilities.

How will these factors affect the way companies manage?

Members of this generation are not motivated by a fear of failure. They want to be recognized as experts. Salary and bonus structure will be important, but most of all they want recognition and reinforcement. The traditional hierarchy will no longer work. Gamers are used to creating their own worlds — setting their own goals, working together. Their playing field is based on skill and learning, not hierarchy. They respect knowledge and experts.

These workers will want flexibility and the best tools to work with. Because they want to be seen as experts, they will work hard but they will also want a life outside.

What can companies do now to prepare?

Managers should play games themselves to understand the experience. Observe MMO games or try ‘Me & My Katamari,’ a game that lets you recreate the universe on the PlayStation portable. Or try ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007’ for Xbox 360.

Also, look for ways to promote team building in the workplace. Try scenario games or encourage employees to form teams to play MMO games together.

A growing number of companies are also setting up space on sites such as ‘Second Life,’ a virtual online community. It’s important to understand what motivates these workers and to measure and reward them for their success in meaningful ways.

DEBRA SCHNEIGER is dean of the School of Media and Communication at National University. Reach her at (858) 642-8434 or somc@nu.edu.