Farmville experience? You’re hired!

Posted by on Nov 30, 2010 in Design, Featured, Games, Innovation, The Future | 0 comments

Do you have kids yet? Are they old enough to play video games?

Either way, do you look at their gameplay as something you have to have control over, something that requires moderation?

I was asked this question the other day: “Do you think we’ll let our kids play video games?” Well I don’t know if we have a choice. In the near future, being a savvy gamer may be a serious competitive advantage in the workplace. This paradigm isn’t true today for most businesses (excluding the obvious – game design, Mountain Dew marketing), but it won’t be long before our CEOs and VPs will have grown up interacting with their whole world through interfaces like that of Farmville.

Two Year Olds are Better with the iPad than You

Have you ever watched a toddler breeze through the iPad interface, playing videos, opening and interacting with apps from games to storybooks? Like phones, radios, tvs and computers before them, tablets and smartphones will be indispensable to the next generation. And this means the ubiquitous tools of the workforce like Word, Excel, email and so on will have to be redesigned for a quarter-millenial employee used to rich tactile and sensory experience. Between the rate of change we’re experiencing now in information technology and the pervasiveness in our schools of these new gadgets, I’d place a bet that this same generation is the one who will redesign it, leaving us in the dust if we don’t accept and embrace it first.

It’s Already Happening

Don’t believe it? Think Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. While some companies still don’t let employees access Facebook at work, others base their whole business on the site. It’s been three years since Coke entered the virtual reality space with advertisements in the online game Second Life. And when the next wave of innovation hits, not only will we be trying to figure how to reach our customers within whatever game or app-like context they’re familiar with, we’re going to need to relate internally to our employees in the same manner of communication.

Farmville as a Marketing Dashboard

About a year ago I was presenting a new marketing strategy for an online community-based start-up. And as I was looking for an analogy to explain the proposed growth model, the concept of farming came to mind. Every new community member was a seed, that required nurturing to take root and grow. We thought of member support, user experience and e-mail marketing as the essentials: sunlight, water, soil. But you can’t take individual engagement very far when you get into the tens of thousands of members.

To scale our growth, we had to turn over “the farm” to our early adopters: teach them how to plant their own seeds, reward them for nurturing their crops and constantly provide the tools and raw materials they needed to build and grow their own farms. The two processes – bringing in new members and then teaching them how to build their own communities – was largely automatable. Finding our audience online, delivering messaging, the conversion path to registration, each interaction in the user experience, user sharing functionality – supported with a database filled with links, user data, messages and search parameters, it all could easily have been replaced by a child playing Farmville and triggering automated marketing processes in the background.

Your Next New Hire

Next time you interview someone for a job, learn about the technology that they’re used to, the interactions they have on social networks, the games they play to kill time, the apps they use most. How do those interactive experiences translate into potential innovations in your organization? And instead of looking the other way when they log on to Facebook or bust out the iPhone at work, take notes.

Still Skeptical?

Take a gander at some of the Farmville Youtube videos out there, with “farmers” delivering strategic and tactical advice to game players through tutorials. This guy would make a great corporate trainer, don’t you think?

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North Carolina, game capital of the universe.

Posted by on Sep 7, 2010 in Entertainment, Games, Innovation | 4 comments

The 25 mile or so stretch from Durham or Chapel Hill to Raleigh along I-40 is the main artery that feeds North Carolina’s heart with hundreds of thousands of professionals in software, biotech and pharmaceuticals, and coeds and grad students of Duke, UNC and NC State, every day.

It also just happens to be one of the most densely populated game industry hubs in the world. Game companies of all shapes and sizes, from the world-renowned Electronic Arts to home-spun app development studios, are finding the Triangle region (named for the tri-city geometry) to be a welcome locale for game development.

Pictured below are 30 or so local game industry companies (for a text list visit the Wake County Economic Development gaming industry page) within what I’d estimate to be a 300 sq. mile area, and who knows how many dorm-room start-ups and ex-IBMer software studios are in the works as you read this.

View Triangle Game Industry Companies in a larger map
But why is North Carolina the gaming capital of the universe, isn’t it just another NASCAR-loving, bible-thumping, tobacco-growing red state?

If you don’t live in North Carolina, or haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the Triangle region, you may have an impression of the southern states that somewhat mirrors the question above. Well, there’s a few things about the Triangle that just may shed some light on why it attracts game industry pros, and a whole lot of others.

1. Smart people

You’ve got Duke, UNC, NC State, Wake Forest, and they’re not just turning out basketball fans – lots and lots of newly graduated Gen-Zers are ready to work, and on something they’ve grown up doing (much to their parents dismay). Not only are they potential future game developers, but they’re taking part in some innovative initiatives, like NC State’s Friday Institute for educational innovation (yes, learning with video games is the future).

2. Passionate community

When you know its there, you see it everywhere you look. Thanks to industry associations like the Triangle Game Initiative, start-up accelerators like Joystick Labs, support from the Wake County Economic Development Center, annual events like the Carolina Games Summit and civic leaders like Wayne Watkins, the gaming community is thriving with resources abound for up and comers and established game industry folks alike.

3. Tax Incentives

How about that? NC Governor Bev Perdue approved a 15% tax incentive for digital media production in the state, signing House Bill 1973 at the local office of Epic Games. The incentive reduces the tax on compensation of employees that develop games, or platforms for gaming. The wording is rather loose actually – “interactive media” to be exact – so this could have farther reaching implications for other creative and technology industries in the state.

4. Killer Place to Live

I just moved to the Raleigh area, and its easy to see why its one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Low cost of living and real estate makes opening up shop easy, and when developers are looking for a good time, Durham’s food scene gets national media attention, local microbrews are available in every watering hole, good music comes through town and people are genuinely nice to meet you out and about.

North Carolina’s Triple Threat

Thanks to the Triangle area’s continuing support of the game industry community, North Carolina has become what’s described as a Triple Threat: highly skilled, highly educated employees in Game Engine Development, Entertainment Game Development and Serious Games. And as the News & Observer points out, the triangle region only accounts for half of the state’s gaming industry employee-base.

Game Capital of the Universe

Sure, there are bigger gaming hubs out there, and Ottumwa, Iowa, of all places, has claimed the “Game Capital of the World” title, but in my often prescient and completely quotable opinion, we’re the Game Capital of the Universe. So keep an eye on innovation in casual gaming, app development, MMORPGs, educational games and games in the workplace, all coming from our growing game industry hub and decide for yourself.

A special thanks to Brandon Bryce of Largemouth Communications and Karen Albritton of CapStrat for inspiring this article.

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