Playing Games while you Work/ Play

I did have a chance to sit and listen to a panel yesterday on social games with a mix of people who love them and who don’t. And one of the things I really picked up was that players enjoyed having a game that they could play while doing something else.

And for all people gave the example, “While watching TV,” I was thinking, “So they mean while they are at work.”

A lot of time is wasted at work. Some of this is a management issue and is due to the work having genuinely slow periods (i.e. and management not having any good ideas for how to use this time more productively).

I don’t know how common it is for people to actually play games at work. Certainly there’s no shortage of ways to waste time on the internet, and browsing the news or reading a forum or twitter feed is no less of a time waster than playing Farmville, or even off the internet (i.e long chats around the coffee machine, long lunch breaks). I remember in my MU* days I had friends who claimed to play from work; I think it used to be viewed as a sys-admin’s perk.

I also spoke to people yesterday who were involved in trying to block Facebook games from work. And I can understand why. I’m also sure keen WoW players spend plenty of time browsing forums at work, planning their latest tactics, and otherwise doing non-work-related time wasting. And it’s bound to be true for other hobbies also.

I do doubt how effective blocking Facebook or any Internet access can be when people start playing from their smart phones instead. Or just finding other ways to waste time. But I can see it becoming a bigger issue.

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13 thoughts on “Playing Games while you Work/ Play

  1. There seems to be some sort of mental block around this in employers; they can’t stand people “not working”, so they try to eliminate the things that people do instead of working. However, as far as I can see, this just increases the resistance of the worker to the point where they will do anything but work, including staring at the ceiling for hours at a stretch.

    My current employer places absolutely no checks on what I’m doing during the day – as long as the work is done at the end of it, they’re happy, and if I get some extra done, or come up with something else that we can sell to a client, they’re very pleased indeed. This results, as far as I can see, in me doing more work, not less.

    As it happens, I have played Farmville from work, quite extensively. I then turned around to one of the senior people, demonstrated the game to them, and said “I think something like this will really work for Client X.” They agreed, and we’re going to be selling the idea to them next week.

    • It depends how boring your job is. If you’re doing, say, repetitive data input and you have nothing to do other than work or staring at the ceiling you will eventually get bored of the ceiling and work out of sheer boredom.

      I’ve seen a lot of people playing things like Solitaire at work. The problem I have with it is it kills initiative. Most staff can find something productive to do if they have no tasks on their plate. Re-organising their files, checking they have adequate stationery and so on. If their day consists of dodging anything optional all day so they can maximise time spent entertaining themselves they will do it. And I’m referring here to random surfing more than games because that was the issue I had with various secretaries, receptionists and IT support I’ve worked with.

    • I suspect you probably didn’t need to play Farmville all that extensively to see how similar ideas might apply to a client :) But it is really cool that you were able to do that.

      And also very true that letting employees go free range on the internet does mean that they might find and explore cool stuff that they can use as a source of ideas for work.

  2. It’s funny, while I’ll blog and twitter from work, I would never dare to play actual games from work. Not even facebook ones, and the idea of playing WoW at work kinda….*boggle* Maybe on my lunch break, sure, but even then I’d want to have a separate lap top to play it on.

    Work computer is for work, and has a lot of confidential information that I don’t want associated with wow in general. I have enough problems staying focused that wow at work would just be the end.

  3. For salaried workers, I see no real problem. They have their work to do and if that doesn’t get done, the problem should be obvious. If there’s no more work to be done at a time, they’re not quite being paid to work or not work, so they might as well not waste time pretending to work.

    • In my career I’ve done a lot of research as a salaried worker. Research is one of those tasks where work really does expand to fit the time available.

      If you have 5 minutes you’ll get a quick google search. Give me an hour and I’ll have checked multiple online and offline sources and produced photocopies of the relevant articles and pages from textbooks. Give me a week and I’ll have checked external sources or ordered books sent over.

      Also I’ve usually worked collaboratively. Meaning that as long as I look busy if a new enquiry comes in someone else will usually pick it up.

      I’ve worked through breaks and before and after hours.

      It’s not obvious at all in many professions if someone’s giving it their full attention.

  4. When I played EQ2 we had an American in our guild (it was a European guild so our evenings were his nights) and he played whilst he was at work. He owned his own steel company and spent all afternoon playing from his office! He was the boss so of course no one could ever say anything :) It was quite funny because on occassion he would forget to disable his microphone and we’d hear employees interrupting him to ask for things :)

  5. It’s really a catch22… It’s a derivative of your pay being based on the hours that you spend there (at least for hourly workers) which has nothing to do with the work you actually perform, so it becomes about doing the least work possible while filling the hours you’re required to stay there. It’s natural to resent something you’re required to depend upon, but don’t enjoy or have a personal connection to.

    But in my experience, if you make that pay performance dependent (quantity/quality based) instead you see a huge burst of initial productivity, an eventual burnout, and then enormous attrition. People eventually decide that the extra pay isn’t worth the amount of work they have to put in to meet the productivity standards, and the productivity standards have to be continually raised because a few exceptional people are always exceeding them… making it impossible for average people to sustain ‘minimum’ results. When you get to that burnout point, people start wasting time again, because they know that they can’t succeed, or that even if they do succeed, they’re just going to raise the standard again.

    Granted, my experience is mostly in call center type environments (many) and I’m not a specialist on human behavior or business or anything. But sometimes I think it would be so much simpler if we were all subsistence farmers or something. (lol)

  6. I am a paramedic on an ambulance and spend a lot of my downtime on wow via a laptop and cellphone. Mostly I do things like work the AH or powerlevel professions, which leaves the fun parts like raids and world pvp for my days off. Hey, its better than watching daytime TV in the station: -)

  7. I think there are definitely some jobs where you might as well play during work hours as do anything else(matt’s paramedic experience is a good example of that; he needs to be present because he’s on call but when not actually busy on a call, he just needs to stay awake.)

    And other examples, often in IT, of work patterns which have crunch periods and quiet periods, but you still need to be present in the office during the quiet periods.

    All I’m saying is from my experience, be careful about getting into bad habits. Sure, it’s fine to play if you have nothing else to do. But very easy to start getting the actual work out of the way as fast as possible (even if this means putting as little effort in as you can) so as to have more spare time for gaming/ time wasting. Don’t assume that no one will notice.

    Stabs is also right that if the net wasn’t available, people probably would find more productive things to do, even if it just meant sitting around the water cooler and chatting. Building up working relationships and possibly even talking about work is likely more productive than messing around on the net. But who knows?

    In any case, this issue isn’t going away any time soon. It’ll be interesting to see how employers adapt.

  8. Well when everyone around you is being laid off, and you’re constantly being threatened with it, the motivation to “above and beyond” just isn’t there. And that’s really the root of the problem with the labor force in the US right now. There is no vested interest. If you work harder, someone else benefits from it, not you. You’re just lucky to “keep your job”. Ever seen Office Space?

  9. Pingback: Casual Delight « Bio Break

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