Ann All's thoughts in her Straight to the Source blog about possible reasons that companies don't go for gamers made me recall an article I chanced upon at PC World on gaming at work. Can such gaming actually help to improve productivity in the office? According to this article, some companies believe that it can. But should companies really allow games in the office? My opinion on this is that it should be a no. Before you start flaming me, let me explain that I have, in fact, grown up playing games. Remember Doom? Well, I was playing it multiplayer when it was version 1. Come to think of it, I believe I connected via a dial-up modem, as with games like Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. I was there too when the precursors of today's MMORPGs - text-based MUDs were all the rage. I even taught myself programming so that I could write complex, scripted software to play on my behalf while I slept or went to school.
So believe me when I say I can understand how compulsive gaming can adversely affect productivity in the office. Ultimately though, the final decision either way resides with the company. Organizations that wish to promote a certain culture can certainly allow games, yet curtail the effects of compulsive gaming by disallowing games that persist even when offline - such as World of Warcraft.
For companies that decide against that, though, what options can they employ to completely bar games?
The truth, unfortunately, is that it is extraordinarily difficult to completely block off all types of games. There are simply too many types of games available: Flash-based games, browser-based games, games that can be easily loaded via a flash drive or sent via e-mail, and the list goes on. In fact, there are also text-based games that you can access via telnet or SSH - services typically used to administer routers and network equipment in the office. The bottom line is this: Internet and computer controls strict enough to completely halt gaming in the office will certainly block legitimate uses.
Instead, I advocate a decidedly non-technological solution for gaming. The senior management should document clear and non-preferential policies pertaining to gaming in the office. Progressive penalties, which should start from a simple reprimand for staff that are caught, should also be outlined and made known to all. The idea is to be balanced and fair in the implementation of such bans.
Now, just where did I place my Red Alert 3 game disc...