Employers are saying "game on" when it comes to training and motivation: Corporate spending on video game-based content is currently in the $5 million to $20 million range but could shoot to as high as $500 million over the next 10 years. "It's going to grow that quickly," says Ben Sawyer, co-director of the Washington, DC-based Serious Games Initiative, which studies how video games can be used in the workplace.
Now companies are popping up with offerings to motivate employees. Consider Seriosity, whose enterprise software embeds a virtual economy into a company's work flow where employees pay each other virtual money to make their work request a greater priority. F1rst League, an application service provider in Huntersville, North Carolina, helps companies create customized web-based virtual sports leagues, where employees are placed on teams that compete to accomplish company goals and earn points.
"We're applying [the sports concept] to business so it drives and infuses motivation, excitement and energy," says R. Alex Eggleston, managing partner of F1rst League, whose client roster includes Chevron and Johnson & Johnson. First League's product price tag is about $1,000 a month on a per-league basis.
Given today's game-savvy work force, it's a good idea to get employee input before you buy anything to make sure the game is sophisticated enough. Employees "may look at this [game] and go, 'This is garbage,'" Sawyer says. "It would be like putting a school play in front of someone who loves Star Wars."
Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.