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Playing Nintendo Wii… at work


Playing video games at work proven to increase productivity


Marina Ricci

Highlights

  • In Britain, banning internet usage costing business $4 billion
  • Oregon Trail and other vintage games available on Internet
  • Some companies creating game rooms for employees

Most people feel comfortable taking smoking breaks at work but very few feel as comfortable playing video games while their boss is in the office. Recent studies, however, have shown that playing while working increases productivity and may increase the bottom line. 

The PopCap Break Report 2008 revealed that banning internet use or access to social networking Web sites during the workday could be costing British businesses up to $4 billion every year due to a decline in work productivity. The report went on to further reveal that taking even a ten minute break to play online games may help reduce stress and refocus the mind on work to be done later on. These so-called e-breaks may even increase efficiency and morale.

In the report, 57% of workers would rather take an e-break instead of a coffee break and 71% of employees admitted to going online while their boss wasn’t looking. More than just a stress reliever and a way to focus the mind, playing games may also be a form of therapy for today’s workforce. 

Games including Bejeweled, Solitaire and Tetris can be found on computer desktops and multiple Web sites including Yahoo Games and ChicagoPhotoshop. Skill games not only recharge the brain after a longer day but also help with creativity and motivation for new projects. While the last generation used stress balls to manage the workday, today’s generation is using technology to increase productivity.

Scientists at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands have also studied the work and play phenomena and have determined that workers who play during the day felt better about their work and their job. Overall, it was determined that the studied workers increased their personal productivity. Not only did games like Solitaire break up the day but they also gave the brain a break from complex work tasks. 

Professor Goldstein, research leader at the University of Utrecht, says that giving people more choice on how they spend their day can contribute to job satisfaction.  Different types of games can also have different effects on the person playing. Goldstein says, “If you made a competitive league table, for example, and your business was competitive, like sales, you might want to increase competition in this way.” More astounding than the results that show that playing may make workers happier, playing may also decrease the amount of absenteeism in the workplace. 

While some are concerned about game-playing addictions, game scores and increased skill levels can also offer a neutral topic of conversation at water coolers. Kongregate, an online game company in San Francisco (http://www.Kongregate.com), has reported that their site receives the most amount of traffic around 1 p.m. at 800,000 users. They also showed a significant decrease in players around 5 p.m., also the time when most people end their workday.

The increase in online game playing at work may also be due to those in their 20s and 30s growing up with Nintendo and Sony Playstation.  Even games like Oregon Trail (Click Here to Play), an educational game played by most while in school, can bring back a nastolgic feeling of being a kid again when anything was possible. This feeling can also translate to the workday and lead complicated time consuming tasks to be handled more efficiently.

Some companies are following the trend by allowing workers to play games during the workday while others filter the Internet to allow access to only certain sites. Nevertheless, companies who see a benefit to game playing have even created game rooms equipped with Sony Playstations and Nintendo Wiis where workers can come in to play, relieve stress and even have some friendly rivalry and competition.

Workers in companies that prohibit game playing can still play the same games on their iPhones and Blackberrys. Regardless of how companies treat this new trend now, there is no question that gaming and company acceptance will only grow as time goes on.



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