Yes, it's a leading headline, and one with so many possible interpretations. But Microsoft teams really are playing games -- in the sense of gamification kinds of games.
Microsoft execs have talked up some of these games, like its Ribbon Hero one that is used to help teach users about the much loved and hated Ribbon interface that's part of Office. But there are lots more where Ribbon Hero came from.
Gamasutra blogged on August 29 about last week's "Serious Play" conference, where productivity games were the topic du jour. At that show, "Donald Brinkman, who manages programs in digital humanities, digital heritage and games for learning at Microsoft Research," and Ross Smith, director of test at Microsoft, shared stories of the company's efforts in this arena, both across the enterprise and outside of the corporation," according to the blog post.
"Elevation of Privilege" is an internally-used threat assessment game. Microsoft is making the game available as a free download under a Creative Commons license. The pair also discussed "Communicate Hope," which aided the development of Microsoft's Office Communicator, the precursor to Microsoft Lync. Communicate Hope was about getting users to provide feedback on the product design and usability and to submit bugs.
While we're on the topic of game playing, I received an interesting tip from reader Samuel Jack this week about Microsoft's own GameFest conference. I blogged earlier this summer that Microsoft was set to talk about new Visual Studio tools for graphics developers. Well, it looks like that session was pulled from last week's agenda in the eleventh hour. I'm guessing Microsoft might be holding off on sharing more on this until Build, where all will be revealed (as we keep hearing).
One more (vaguely) game-related tidbit: Microsoft Hong Kong is trying out a gamification-style approach to fighting piracy with a new interactive video that allows audiences to direct the routes to escape for some SMB execs who were duped into buying by non-Genuine software. (Different decisions lead to different story lines). The new "Dream Break" campaign was created by Microsoft Hong Kong in association with Agenda Hong Kong's Social Creative Lab.