Making business apps more like video games

The New York Times has an article about how companies are using themes from video games to make business applications more productive and more fun. Taking that one step further, what if we can use Rich Internet Applications to make the interfaces themselves more video game like? Would that enhance usability? Would it make them more fun?

Disclosure: Last week I announced that I’m working for Adobe. While I haven’t officially started, consider me an Adobe employee for all intents and purposes. I have the disclosure statement at the bottom of the page, but I’ll probably run this for a while just to make sure there isn’t any confusion.

There's an interesting article in the New York Times today about how some companies are pioneering methods that make the business applications in their companies more like video games. For the most part, the article talks about using the methodologies behind video games to make business apps more fun and interesting. There is an example of character sheets being used for CRM software and virtual currency being used to make email more productive. But there are also some bits in the article about the gaming culture and how gamers are starting to become a big part of the workforce. As that happens, I wonder what the implications are for the interfaces of these applications are.

Because Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) give us a lot of interactivity and the ability to create creative, almost cinematic experiences, we've got a lot of potential to make the business applications we use more game-like. Richness without regards to usability is the worst kind of richness, but what if RIAs take us beyond that richness into a more immersive experience? The technologies are becoming powerful enough to enable these kinds of experiences, and we see some of this in the consumer market. The British Library application in WPF is a great example and the team over at OutSmart has put together a really cool 3D world in Flex which houses individual Flex components you can react to.

Sean Christmann over at effectiveUI and I have talked briefly about this and as an avid gamer he says he tries to find inspiration for the kinds of experiences they build in those games. I don't think this is something that's going to come tomorrow or even soon, but it does make for some cool food for though. If the idea of business apps behaving like games takes off, why not make those applications that much more interactive? The technology is there to start doing it, but in this case, I don't think any kind of killer app is in sight. What do you think? Is there a place for video game like experiences in work? Second Life has opened up the virtual office a bit. Can RIAs help bridge that gap?