Alternate Reality Games: Games That IT Leaders Know How To Play

by drjim on July 23, 2009

Alternate Reality Games Offer IT Leaders A Way To Solve Difficult Problems

Alternate Reality Games Offer IT Leaders A Way To Solve Difficult Problems

As an IT Leader, you’ve got some challenges facing you. You’re managing a diverse and potentially distributed work force of highly skilled and talented IT professionals. You need to find a way to keep them challenged, and yet at the same time enable them to find ways to work together. Have you considered Alternate Reality Games?

Leave The Real World – Visit An Alternate Reality

As IT Leaders we have been taught that most problems can be solved with the application of some math and a whole bunch of data. However, most of us have learned that the real world is much more complex than that – there are a number of IT problems that can’t be solved this way.

Jane McGonigal has been looking at big problems like this and she’s got a solution for us: Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). ARGs are immersive games that provide a massively multi-player experience. What makes them unique (outside of their size) is that the game-play unfolds in the course of their players lives over time spans that can range from days, weeks, or even months. This isn’t your father’s Wii.

Tools Of The (Alternate Reality) Trade

Ok, I can hear you saying, so just how do you play one of these ARGs? Well, it turns out that you don’t really play it – it plays you! You already probably have some hard-core gamers working on your team, so why not? The folks running the ARG show, known affectionately as “puppet masters” are in charge of distributing potentially thousands of pieces of information that contribute to telling the story of the ARG. These pieces for the puzzle can be distributed via websites set up for the game, email, cell phone text messages, online audio podcasts and videos, etc.

The players in the game don’t play by themselves – there is no way that they could solve the puzzle if they did that. Instead, they need to collaborate in order to share and gain information. They do this by using social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, etc.), wikis, chat rooms, and blogs to talk about what clues they have and what they might mean. This interaction forms the narrative of the game.

Sounds Like An Effort – Why Bother?

Welcome to the 21st Century. McGonigal points out that ARGs are an excellent way for IT teams to master those difficult collaboration skills that IT Leaders want them to learn. Two of the skills that she points out are cooperation radar – the ability to identify who can best help you, and protovation – the ability to prototype and test solutions quickly.

Oh, and by the way: ARGs are a lot of fun for everyone that is involved. Although they may be working through a simulation of a business problem that your firm is facing, it doesn’t seem that way – it feels like a game.

Final Thoughts

When an IT Leader is faced with a BIG challenge that doesn’t have an obvious solution, playing an ARG may be just what the CIO ordered. Although they are not easy to set up, an ARG may offer the best way to quickly test out different scenarios in real world circumstances.

Above and beyond the business benefits that ARGs offer, using this innovative way to stimulate and engage your team will provide you with yet another way to transform yourself from an IT manager into a true leader.

Questions For You

Have you ever used any form of game playing to help your teams sort through difficult IT problems? Do any of your team members play massive online games like “World Of Warcraft”? Would your business environment support part of the IT department playing a game to solve a business problem? Do you think that your IT team gets along well enough to work together in order to solve a complex puzzle? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Oh Web 2.0, it seems like only yesterday that you arrived – is it possible that already you may be getting ready to be replaced? The answer is not quite yet, but the outline of what the Web 3.0 is going to look like is starting to firm up. IT Leaders need to start getting ready for this change now so that when it arrives they can take advantage of all that it will offer…

For More Information

  • Check out the “World Without Oil” simulation that used an ARG to simulate a complex problem with no easy solutions.
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