RMIT has been approached by several prominent telecommunications, computing and mobile companies to look at the ways video games could be used to enhance corporate operations, according to RMIT's Gaming and Experimental Entertainment laboratory (GEELab) director Dr Steffen Walz.
Video games make everything fun! (Videogames and Exercise image
by Kelly Teague, CC BY-SA 2.0)
While the identities of the companies involved are confidential, Walz told ZDNet Australia that there has been corporate interest in the ways video games can improve the way companies operate and interact with customers.
"We're talking with telecommunications companies, we're talking with the mobile industry and we're talking also with the graphical computing industry," said Walz, explaining that the companies were interested in seeing, among other things, how an ecosystem could be built around a product or a service that emulates the experience of playing a video game.
Indeed the "gamification" of everyday tasks could potentially create more efficient and happier workplaces. By introducing social elements and game dynamics — like point scores, countdowns and the ability for participants to give props and badges to each other — into workplace activities, companies can make otherwise mundane activities, like changing computer passwords or doing errands, fun.
"One of our research focuses is looking at how to make things fun and engaging and how this can motivate people to do things they would otherwise find dry," said Walz.
"You can compare how quickly you do a task that you have been set and have situations where you are awarded for having done something."
While he admitted that it might sound a bit crazy, the concept of making something even slightly "playful" is compelling.
In fact, for an upcoming generation that has grown up with the internet, social networking and video games, gamification is a way for employers to appeal to future employees.
"There's different ways of looking at how game mechanics can encourage or inspire, maybe to train, maybe to substitute or augment an everyday activity," he said.
However, Walz said that a balance needs to be kept. Activities like brain surgery, for instance, are probably areas where you don't want someone to think they're playing a video game.
Video games could have a tangible effect on software development.
Design elements in games often act as precursors to features in computers and operating systems. Drag and drop, Walz explained, had its origins as an element of video-game design before it became part of an everyday computer interface.
"The big question is, what would the future operating system look like? How 'gamey' would it be?" said Walz.
The GEELab is a new project of the university's School of Media and Communications, to be launched on 15 March.