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Gaming and “Serious” Technology Work

Went to the annual “Summit” of the Washington Area CTO Roundtable last night.  These are usually pretty good (program + schmoozefest), and last night’s was no exception.

The topic was “What CTOs Should Learn from Gaming”, and it featured Don Marinelli from Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center and Alan Gershenfeld, head of E-Line Media.

Both guys come from the entertainment business (Marinelli from the theater, Gershenfeld from the cinema and gaming), and their message for productivity in the future was:

  1. “Digital Natives” (people younger than me) are deeply trained in “interactive digital” experiences (aka videogames), and need an element of this to work productively
  2. Attention to drama, story, interaction, and feeling can improve any technology experience.
  3. Immersive environments (where you have a toolset and a “world” rather than a recipe) make for better training than didactic environments (where the learning points are laid out one by one and then drilled)

3) makes complete sense to me.  Exploring in a learning space where the laws of the space dictate the consequences of actions is exactly the right way to learn.  As they say, you have probably heard how to put on a lifejacket in an airplane a thousand times if you travel, but the first time you actually had to do it would be unbelievably stressful and error-prone.  If you could try it in the airport waiting room everyone would be proficient.

2) makes sense to me as well, although it’s hard to see how to “drama-ize” the mundane interactions of the technology world.

1) makes the least sense to me.  I don’t like to think of anyone as being inherently one way or the other, particularly a “generation”.  And there is something patronizing in the way we characterize the charming but feckless youth, who like diversions but are incapable of serious attention and need to be beguiled at every step.  I think everyone works well when engaged, but I don’t believe that a game-like environment is the only or best way to engage the youth, and I don’t believe that entertaining is the same thing as engaging.

Your thoughts on gaming and “serious” work?

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About the author

an Gordon is Research Director for Valhalla Partners, a Northern Virginia venture capital firm. Dan has twenty-eight years experience working with technology, as a computer scientist, software developer, manager, analyst, and entrepreneur. Prior to joining Valhalla Partners, Dan was a Director and senior staff member at the PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Technology Centre, analyzing technology trends and consulting on technology-oriented strategies in the software, e-business, wireless, optical, networking, semiconductor IP, and life sciences arenas. He worked with clients from North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia. Dan was a Contributing Writer and Contributing Editor to the Technology Centre’s annual Technology Forecast, and a frequent speaker at industry and general business meetings. Before joining PwC, Dan spent 20 years in Silicon Valley as a software technologist, manager, director, and entrepreneur, including senior technical roles at well-known Silicon Valley firms like Symantec, Intuit, and Oracle. Dan has also been involved in startup companies in the applied Artificial Intelligence and Web applications fields. Dan has a B.A. (cum laude) from Harvard University and an M.S. from New York University in Computer Science. He is a Professional Member of the IEEE and ACM. Dan lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children.