Last November I offered a session about online games at KM World 2005 in San Jose. It has seemed to me that the question the knowledge management community needs to consider is this:
“Why are online game environments so much more compelling than our office collaboration environments?”
Clearly the session hit a nerve. In fact, I was surprised to see the room completely packed when I began my presentation.
Dave Pollard, took extensive notes from the lively discussion and added his own reflections on his blog in an entry called “Why Can’t Real Organizations Be As Collaborative As Virtual Games?”
Knowledge managers are forever searching for technologies to stimulate and extend collaborative learning and working across distances, but virtual platforms such as discussion forums or knowledge repositories rarely achieve the critical mass their designers are hoping for.
Is it possible that online games could be a more suitable environment for virtual collaboration—or at least a more effective model? The intense interaction mediated by game technology is both more advanced and more productive than that which happens in the corporate world.
Game worlds are full of emergent and self-organizing phenomena. Designers never imagined or initiated the cultures, communities, commerce or even crimes that occur in and around the games. Participants create their own rules and traditions, form teams that create and share knowledge, and eventually force evolutionary changes of the game itself.
Games offer important ideas for organizational KM, but they have already demonstrated their potential as a virtual venue for organizational knowledge sharing and collaboration for at least one company that I know of.
There is a growing community of ethnographic and economic explorers in the new field of game studies. My friend Celia Pearce, who has been my guide to these virtual worlds, engages in a pertinent dialogue with Nick Yee about “Play as Production/Labor.”
How to make worktime collaboration as engaging as playtime collaboration is a subject I hope to spend more time on later this year.