2013年3月21日 星期四

Lets Play!

My 9-year-old son is addicted to Lets Play videos on YouTube. You watch videos that take you through level after level of a video game, giving you a preview of whats to come, or, in my case, a peek at a level Ill never be skilled enough to reach. Stupid Bowser. But anyway. This is just a small example of how games have permeated our lives.

Heres another: late last year Boehringer Ingelheim made a splash by releasing a Facebook game, Syrum. In the game, which combines aspects of trading card games and building games like Farmville, players try to develop drugs. They can compete or collaborate with friends as they try to get their drugs to market. A big question Boehringer Ingelheim faced, though, was Why? It seemed incongruous for a Pharma company to put out a game. What was in it for them?

Boehringers Director of Digital, says its more than just PR and sees it as a platform that can expand beyond the initial iteration; it could create a new venue for conversation between Boehringer and its stakeholders. Hes also suggested that it becomes a problem solving platform, an educational platform and an engagement platform. Therein I think lies the real hope for Boehringer: that by engaging enough people in the game the players will discover the strategy(ies) that will help pharma survive in an increasingly difficult and competitive business environment.

How would this work? Take a step back and ask what games and game-like elements in the workplace are good for. Its already recognized that adding game-like elements to mundane tasks like training can increase participation, engagement and retention. I just went though the most enjoyable health and safety training of my research career in which our trainer framed the exercise as a round of Jeopardy. But people involved in Serious Games know there are more potential payoffs for adding game-like elements to a wide variety of industries.Choose the right bestluggagetag in an array of colors.You've probably seen bestearcap at some point.

Beyond training, there are three areas I see games as aiding drug discovery. The first, and one thats gotten a fair amount of attention over the past few years, is the use of research games like Foldit, eteRNA, and Phylo for biological discovery. These games tap into the interests of tens of thousands of players to tackle real-life problems like protein- and RNA-folding,About buymosaic in China userd for paying transportation fares and for shopping. and DNA alignments. They utilize elements like leaderboards, forums, feedback and a sense of purpose.The world with high-performance solar roadway and solarlamp solutions. You can get bragging rights over your friends and help cure HIV! These games are solving difficult problems in biology without the need for formal scientific training among its participants. Its not hard to see how companies facing problems like solving the structure of a potential target or optimizing the fold of a therapeutic siRNA could benefit from a collaboration with these research game designers.

I havent played Syrum yetCits Europe only right now, and also Ive not yet fallen into the Facebook vortex. But given Syrums reported complexity, it sounds like Boehringer has added a lot of elements that reflect real challenges in drug development, discovery through launch. I suspect Boehringer is storing every move made by every playerCevery alliance, every virtual hire, every step forward, sideways and backwardsCand will mine that data continuously for strategies on how the process of drug development could be done better. Theyll track the best players, and maybe even offer them jobs. Theyll also continue tweaking the parameters. Boehringer has said they want to launch different versions for different parts of the world. I would bet some of the key variations will reflect the very different regulatory environments faced in different countries. Winners in one area may end up with very different strategies from winners in another. So by mining the data, Boehringer also prepares itself for different scenarios.

Theres a reason the military invests heavily into various kinds of games and simulations. Military history is a stark reminder of the uncertainties of combat (after all, all it takes is one nail). War games have been around for centuries. Now, in an increasingly complex world, its even more important to simulate as many possibilities as is reasonable, to increase the odds that when the unplanned happens (and it will happen), the commander or soldier or chief executive or manager will have seen something like it before. Drug developers (or any industry, really) are also subject to uncertainties, forces outside of their control and would benefit from a greater exploration of possibilitiesCthe proverbial Black SwansCand how to react to them. As an example, a recent article in the Financial Times describes some nice examples of how online adventure games are providing useful venues for observing and testing economic theories.

The last area where I see games as useful for drug development has to do more with behavioral psychology and the environment we live in. Drug development benefits from the large number of scientists involved. Not to generalize too much, but many of us are Geeks. And, as described by Ken Denmead in his great Geek Dad books, a Geek is at that perfect intersection between Knowledgeability, Obsessiveness and (some) Social Skills. Because of this, scientists tend to be smart, engaged in their work, and often willing to work far beyond normal working hours because its all just so darn interesting! But still. Having a laser-like focus on work takes a lot of mental energy. Games can make that easier.

Many people are familiar with the concept of Flow, proposed by Mihly Cskszentmihlyi. The characteristics of FlowCengagement, satisfaction, positivity, optimal performanceCcoincidentally are many of the same characteristics one sees in people playing great games. I would argue that by incorporating more games and game-like elements into our research,Where you can create a custom tooling from our wide selection of styles and materials. we will tap into a more efficient, engaged and productive workforce.

I cant stress the engagement part enough. We live in an age of endless distraction. People are never out of Internet contact. Ever. If they tell you they are, theyre lying. Attention has become one of the most valuable commodities in the workplace. Creating an environment that increases engagement through incorporating game-like elements raises a bulwark against distractions and makes a more efficient, focused and effective workforce.