Friday, January 9, 2009

Book Review: Changing the Game: How video games are transforming the future of business

Authors: David Edery & Ethan Mollick

Title: Changing the game: How video games are transforming the future of business

Year: 2008

Overall, the majority of this book was not very helpful to me. However, that does not reflect on the quality of the book, rather its focus being more for businesses than education. It is very similar to Digital Game-Based Learning by Marc Prensky (2001), which seems to be one of the most important books in the field.

Here are some useful tidbits I got out of the book. Microsoft wanted to get its employees to voluntarily do bug checking on Vista, and turned it into a game (details not provided and obviously one must question its effectiveness!). The Army's online recruiting game has been unbelievably successful, you wouldn't believe the figures presented on this. Google has turned image labeling into a game.

Games are growing at double-digit rates while the movie industry is slowing down and the music business is actually shrinking. World of Warcraft made $1.1 in 2007 alone.

Everything in life can be seen as a game, the key is just to harness the properties of games that make them appealing. Business has rules, referees, "high scores," levels of progression, cheating, and teamwork.

"Games are compelling because, at their best, they represent the very essence of what drives people to think, to cooperate, and to create. Learning is not "work" in the context of a game - it is puzzle-solving, exploration, and experimentation." (p. 4-5).

They have posted the games on their Web site:

Grand Theft Auto is considered a "sandbox game," meaning the player can chose to ignore the given mission and just explore the virtual world.

"The best games keep players constantly teetering on the brink of mastery, even as they employ new twists and challenges to force players to rethink the lessons they have already learned." (p. 105).

According to Bill Ferguson, traditional educational games (which have been wholly unsuccessful) contained only 80% of the learning as traditional education, and only 20% of the fun of a regular game. He thinks this should be swapped, so that the games are 80% as fun as regular games even if you have to sacrifice a good deal of the learning. People should WANT to play the game.

Sun Microsystems hired Enspire Learning to create "Rise of the Shadow Specters" to share company information with new employees who telecommute. Sol City has been invaded by aliens and you have to clear each of the five parts of the city by finding certain artifacts relating to the five aspects of the company that they wanted to portray.

Games don't appeal to everyone. If you're going to make one for employee training, always offer a traditional alternative.

Army general Paul Gorman used an off-the-shelf game called "Neverwinter Nights" to promote teamwork among his soldiers. Harvard developed "Everest" to do the same thing among MBA students. In these types of games, each player on the team plays a role and receives the appropriate information for that role, which is not the same as the info given to the other players.

Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) - good for teaching how to handle unusual events.

Google posted two puzzles on billboards as a help-wanted advertisement for engineers. They figured only the best would figure it out and apply, and it would give applicants an idea of what it would be like to work there. L'Oreal has something similar for its business offices.

The authors warn against tying important real-world rewards like bonuses or promotions to these games. They can promote cheating and pollute the environment. Don't label anyone as "losers."

I have made the book seem like a random compilation of fact tidbits, and there is more useful stuff in this book. I have just either seen it before, or it doesn't fit what I'm trying to do with video games. The best book for this is still James Paul Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, which has a stronger educational focus. But I got some great quotes to use from this book and I think if a reader needed some advocacy, theirs is very effective.

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