Enterprise Games: Using Games Mechanics To Build A Better Business by Michael Hugos (book review).

I had to put the full title, ‘Enterprise Games’, in or you would think there was a ‘Star Trek’ connection, when actually it has more in common with multi-player video games. Author Michael Hugos sees the metaphor of how we play computer games used in a business manner and along with other people, now use this as a model for new business practices. In my old job, a while ago now, when I used to program computers, much to the chagrin of my bosses, I described what I was doing as ‘playing’, mostly for the want of a better word but more as a means to get users trusting what I got the software to do. With more people conversant with computer games these days, they will now recognise the pattern although I would be a bit more concerned as to whether they will confuse fantasy digital with reality and up the risk.

In this book, we see insight both into Hugos career, as well as that of others in this field, and also as it is applied to business practices where by getting your workpeople understandable incentives and such, your profits go up. This is obviously aimed more at the American market, I can’t help but wonder if all companies employed these techniques would any competitive edge be improved. Saying that, company staff would be happier and willing to do what they can for the company.

A lot of this, as I said, depends on how much the boss of a company wants change and improvement and how willing its staff will accept such changes, assuming both sides are let in the profit margin. Hugos says being up front about the dividends (sic) to all just makes things a lot healthier for any big business commerce. Whether smaller companies could benefit isn’t said, although I suspect and hope they read this book for any insight it might offer.

I would have liked to have seen opposing views to Hugos’ and other peoples’ use of this, just to balance things out. It’s interesting how he uses computer games like ‘Flight Simulator’ and ‘Unreal’ as lessons in reading HUDs and team play. I’ve been playing ‘Unreal Tournament’ on-line for the past month and I do see an unspoken team interaction to achieve goals and oddly, an increase in my concentration when doing work here. Hugos’ training methods goes through simulations before being let loose on the public and what it learnt is modified to a company’s workers requirements. Certainly, the military have taken advantage of this to prepare their soldiers for battle situations using ‘America’s Army, based off the Unreal engine.

Testing and training workers in digital scenarios could be seen as a means to remove certain levels of risk taking or even remove volatile people who are likely to be detrimental to the job. If you think of the high risks taken by bankers to cover massive losses on the stock exchange, this could be seen as a good thing.

Hugos’ footnotes, for a change, are on the relevant pages and many are Internet links to see samples or footage from different sources.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Granted Hugos wants to promote this method of business management and even as a moderate gamer, aware of what is out there, I can see what he’s getting at. However, I do wonder if this is suitable for all companies or, as I pointed out, if they all adopted these methods, would it change the level of competitive element and some other element of difference between them would be sought. Saying that, the insight from this book at a time when businesses need to change if they are to survive should get many of them to think, assuming that they aren’t already using these methods.

Is this book of interest to those of us not in business? Hugos points out that specialist freelancers are used in this field and can work their way up through the woodpile to better pay as they are less likely to take big risks in an effort to show reliability. As this is the world of geekiness and some of us are involved in understanding gaming methods, this might be a book that might be seen as a career opportunity, so yes, being reviewed here might not be a bad thing.

GF Willmetts

November 2012

(pub: O’Reilly. 199 page indexed sparsely illustrated small softcover. Price: £18.99 (UK), $24.99 (US), $26.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-449-31956-4)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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