Why companies want you to play computer games at work

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Once upon a time computer games were played by teenage boys and thirtysomethings reliving their teen years. Now big business is joining in. "Corporate gaming" took off last year when Thorn Business Communications launched a Nintendo module for its Guestlink system, which feeds special services into television sets in hotel rooms. The Nintendo module lets guests play all the latest games at an hourly rate.

The idea originated in the United States, where it was a hit with business travellers and families. When it was tested in this country, Thorn found it was popular with business executives.

At least one chief executive is unsurprised. His company encourages its managers to play games on its computer network. It is, he says, a useful management tool. The most popular games are strategy- and team-based, with strong puzzle-solving elements. There are useful parallels with commercial life, and some managers believe the games can help them to spot potential talent.

The rise in corporate gaming is linked to the increasing use of CD-Roms in management training. Those that contain games are reckoned to be effective because they help people to "bond". This is not a new idea: paintball games and go-karting have long been encouraged by management theorists. The advantage of computer games, though, is that they can be played every day, and more or less for free. Some companies encourage them simply because they believe that a lunch-hour game works wonders for managers' morale and effectiveness.

There may be other advantages. One woman who was tired of another employee making sexist comments challenged him to a game of Doom. "I beat him easily," she says, "and after that the comments stopped."