Bill Green

Extracting meaning

Video games that help you do your job better

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It appears that 20% of video games nowadays are “serious games” designed for professional training.

Can’t video games also be used as an integral part of your job?

Video games to solve real problems?

Imagine a game that solves real-life issues, or is fed with information from the real world that players can manipulate in meaningful ways to produce accurate results.

Instead of crushing candy, you’d be folding proteins to help the progress of science. Of course, it already exists.

But it turns out it’s not that easy to make a video game that still feels fun while accomplishing something meaningful. Most math problems are already solved better by computers, and the few problems that humans can solve better would feel extremely repetitive and artificial when shoehorned into games.

Augmented reality games

A more promising way for video games to enter everyone’s lives is through augmented reality games, making “boring chores” or menial jobs more lively.

Imagine you work as a cook in a futuristic restaurant. In the future you’ll have screens in the kitchen, with realtime feedback from the customers. You’ll have information when people tweet their food, what they say about presentation, taste, etc. You can adjust the recipes, cooking, quantities, seasonings, with immediate feedback. Individual or general tastes can be made available to you so you can customise the food according to everyone’s needs. Every client’s special diet (kosher, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free) can be immediately known and special iPad menus will display only the relevant items and allow immediate order without any need for intermediates (like, you know, waiters). Ambient music and decoration can be adjusted by the clients to automatically cater to their taste, etc.

It’s easy to imagine games between cooks to achieve the best cumulated score during the service, and have special rewards displayed on screen for “perfect” dishes or “best cook of the day”.

It would make people who work in all sorts of difficult jobs feel better when they have instant feedback to realize that their efforts are paying off. Hi-scores could be displayed in the restaurant on a front display, alongside a constantly updated list of the most successful dishes.

Being a garbageman could almost become funny and motivating if you had a realtime display on the sides of the truck of the quantity of trash accumulated since the beginning of the day, with a timer, compared to your best score. When you beat your best score or perform significantly well, a special cinematic and music reward you, and people in the vicinity are warned that they can send encouragement tweets displayed immediately on the sides of the truck, make money donations or gifts, etc.

Even the most humble jobs would get recognition. And feeling observed and having people giving you feedback for your job is the best way to entice you to improve continuously.

Depending on your level of cynicism it could be either the most pathetic excess of enslaving by entertainment and infantilization, or the best thing to ever happen to capitalism.

  • Games can motivate progress and easily give a sense of constant progression when there is no more.
  • Games can make cooperation easier between coworkers by exchanging only the relevant information by design.
  • Games can provide visual or sound indications for instantaneous feedback on your actions, and faster correction.

If people can play a game as dull and boring as World of Warcraft for years (that’s an inflammatory but fair opinion), there is no doubt that even simple video games with your coworkers can motivate you to accomplish boring tasks just to unlock achievements or grind xp to get to the next level before the end of the day. You are literally being rewarded for pressing buttons all day in specific patterns, arrange and optimize numbers, this can actually be made useful in industry.

It’s the same strategy used to make children or dogs do things. You have to convince them it’s a game (like, cleaning their room or completing an obstacle course), and they will gladly do it.

It would be extremely perilous to introduce the concept to grown-ups, as they would probably feel insulted, but probably less so in the future, when pretty much everyone has lived in a culture of video games since childhood.

By providing a more direct link between actions and rewards, video gamification of the world is the solution to optimizing human performance in the workplace.

Just having publicly displayed visual indicators that you can influence, is already a powerful motor for human action, as they trigger hunter impulse and collective emulation.

Video games are one of the cheapest entertainment medium available, you only need a screen and any interaction device, they can be linked to real information or sensors, and produce real consequences. They enforce a given framework, a set of rules that no one can break. They are the ultimate tool for enslavement of the younger generations.


There are obvious threats with video games everywhere in the workplace, mainly that it needs true employee involvement to work.

Also games might distract you too much from the real job. No game can fully encompass and evaluate all you need to do to be successful at your job, because they can only reflect reality as well as what is used as input to them. Anything that isn’t in the game, even when it would be beneficial, will not be done.

Consequently, evaluating employees based on game results can have nefarious consequences, it should remain “just” a game, with employees having a say at how it could be evolved or how new content could be added to reflect reality better.