I picked up a copy of The Kids are Alright by John Beck and Mitchell Wade at the airport a few weeks ago. The subtitle How the Gamer Generation is is changing the Workplace is very apt. It is a sort of business-oriented sociological report on the behaviors, interests and incentives of this particular generation.
This is probably a must-read for all current managers and those who simply don't consider themselves as part of this generation. What is this generation you say? It's a cohort/generation that probably started around the early 1980s up until the current block of 10-year olds. They generally consider anyone over 34 or 35 to most likely not be part of this generation. I'm in that generation myself although I'm just about exactly at the cut off point.
This is one of those books that talks about the implicit life lessons that influenced those in this generation, even if they were not heavily into game playing. It is very likely that those in this generation were surrounded by this and the closer you get to the current time, the less likely that they know a world where video/computer games were not commonplace. The preface lists 7 Habits of Highly Typical Gamers which seem quite relevant to the behaviors I've experienced amongst others in this generation. I'd even put it as something to think about when designing or delivering products and services.
The book appears quite on the point but almost dates itself, not because of time necessarily but because it was likely written at the turning point in the game industry: the rise of MOGs (for the non-gamer generation folks: multiplayer online games). At one point of the book, it talks about how gamers are tuned into solely individual experiences, in that the game-world exists solely for them.
While this is/was case for single-player games, recent years have shown that multiplayer games can become successful, recurring sources of revenue. While single-player games are still the vast majority, many leading games now are either designed solely, or have special modes, for squad (4-6 players), team vs team (16-32 players), or massive-players (up to hundreds of thousands simultaneously).
Most WoW players today probably won't even understand that even ten years ago, even squad-team games were not worth their development time. I recall in 1996 trying to convince a VC and game developers to consider creating multiplayer games. Most just shrugged or plain laughed at the idea. Thank goodness for a reversal on that. (For me, it does suck to be way too early to a party and no one's there).
Anyway, MOGs may change the rules for gamers once again. One key point in this book is that because it's a world customized for your experience, it does not emphasize the more-challenging issues of building social connections within games. Even when players get together to play a game, with SP games, it was mostly a solitary experience. With MMOGs, players once more are faced with social relationships and often with total strangers from other locations, and with much larger crowds and changing people. On top of that technology has evolved so that it is even simpler to interact: actual live audio conversations rather than typing a lot of text, greater bandwidth and better computing power for richer environments, and even social networking sites for recording/blogging events, etc.
It's my belief that games are so much better these days for their multiplayer aspect. For myself, I started on MMOGs back in the text-based MUD days around 1990 or so, so I'm pretty ingrained into this from an early date. So when I play a top-10 single-player game like Oblivion, even with one of the richest environments, most detailed graphics and storyline, open ended gameplay, and a reactive environment, it still feels a little dull because of the lack of other real human players.
In any case, I'd be curious to see a followup to this book in another 4 years examining how MOGs have affected the gamer generation. Let's face it, after a certain point, you can't really call it a separate generation because games are likely going to be here from now on.
Guide to the Gamer generation for managers