Some people are saying that the massive multiplayer game World of Warcraft, with more than 6 million players, is the new golf of the business world. Hitting a small white ball around a chemically groomed park isn't for everyone, and is more expensive than the $15 per month fee for WOW, but at least you get some fresh air and exercise. But, the virtues of virtual worlds like WOW and Second Life are now the subject of serious study and even startups focused on applying game concepts, such as reputation systems, rewards, persistence, deep engagement, immersion and social interaction.
During a panel at PC Forum, WOW wizard Helen Cheng said that many players spend more time playing the game than working at their regular jobs. Cheng is also part of a startup, Seriosity, which plans to apply the game design to solving what she called "generally boring business tasks" and pain points in the enterprise. The 15-person company is in stealth mode, and co-founded by Byron Reeves, a Stanford University communications professor.
"We are trying to use the metaphors inside the game and mapping them to information tasks done outside the game," Cheng said. "There is more emotion and engagement in the game. We are figuring out how to bring more emotion to software, so users are compelled to use it."
Intel, for example, has a large percentage of virtual workers. Seriosity is talking with Intel about applying the lessons from online gaming to improving how hundreds of remote team members can collaborate effectively on projects that require lengthy engagement. "A [WOW] raid can take two to eight hours," Cheng said. WOW players work together to go on quests and raids to increase their levels (standing in the game). Players can be ostracized for behaving badly. Players who farm 'gold' (WOW currency) and resell it on eBay are not highly regarded, Cheng said. When asked what about Seriosity's goal, Cheng said it was to make work "fun."
Tech investor Joi Ito (read his post here) is also a WOW adherent, and runs a WOW guild that includes several tech executives and VCs. In his experience, WoW can provide lessons on working together and managing teams through difficult 'quests.'
Soon, your WOW level may get you the job...