Gaming software for business.

The World of Warcraft is a fascinating...phenomena. It is a game, a piece of software, but it is also a culture and a community. Indeed, it is an entire universe with it's own geography, history, language, economy, etc.

But I have never played it.

What I have learned today comes from the deeply impressive official WoW website. It is beautiful, comprehensive, usable, and I don't know of any business software that works as well or looks as good.

Why can't we create business software with that gaming feel? Not with a game's frivolity, but with it's crispness and vigor and fun. The clarity of statements and descriptions of game concepts, the ready encapsulation of information and partitioning of world information is quite alluring. Who wouldn't want to work in a company who's products, culture, roles, and history was as lovingly and completely described as in this game?

Perhaps we can go the other way and say that the only sort of business we are interested in are those that tend to look like games. And why not? Just looking at the WoW website, ignoring the game itself (which, BTW I've never seen except in screenshots) we see all of the elements required by a vibrant business community: background information on the game, terminology, howtos, forums (diced in various ways), tech support, events, etc. It may be that we'll end up with franchise McBusinesses, but at least they'll be fun!

But this is necessary but not sufficient software to run a business. Where does the customer fit in? We have a general way for people to share information, but how do they collaborate to create value and sell a product? What is the 'work' done in WoW and can we map game work into real work? Can the customer service department win their customer encounters using the analogue of magic spells, weapons, and powerful potions?

In WoW, players are primarily concerned about improving their character. This involves learning all sorts of complex rules about how characters function (and how they fit in the world - if there is a shortage in a Realm, etc), and making difficult choices during the lifetime of that character. Essentially everything else that is done in-game is done because of a general desire to improve the character. Characters enter into conflict, alone or in groups, risk their avatar's lives (which amounts to time), and get certain rewards.

What motivates a worker? How can a worker's experience be described? Would business be better served if the worker was embedded into the world of the business?

The proper place to apply the technology is not the one business, but to all businesses. Consider the business as a guild. Will there eventually be universal business software that would remain largely the same across the board but with certain tweaks per vertical? Would it allow workers in the same capacity in different companies to compare notes?

Technically, I don't think the usage pattern or the compute-requirements are very different. A worker might login and stay connected to the 'business system' all day. (Of course, in most cases there is no such thing as a monolithic business system). Most of the compute-resources used are messaging other workers. One big difference is in storage. A given worker needs access to more data than a WoW player, and combined in many different abstract ways: if one's inventory is in the millions of units of thoussands of different items, it would be foolish to represent that in VR. Or at least, in VR with no magical helper to help you find things.

Employees differ from customers and partners in two ways. First, the degree to which their own well-being is aligned with the company. Second, the messages that they send are generally better defined than external messages. Employees are more loyal and more disciplined.

I don't know the answers to these questions, but they are interesting to ponder. Last but not least, I'll note that it's interesting to me that games are so often about war. What is so fun about conflict?

UPDATE: You can buy WoW in-game gold for about 15 cents US per gold piece. The price varies per realm and faction. In addition, you can hire people to play your character for you to level it up. That is SOOOO insane.

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