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Are computer games now the locus of our economy?

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Simulated combat games such as 'Call of Duty' and 'World of Warcraft' may have more influence over innovation and productivity investments than the actual military itself.

Simulated combat games such as 'Call of Duty' and 'World of Warcraft' may have more influence over innovation and productivity investments than the actual military itself. And computer gaming itself has become a huge sector of the economy.

A recent survey of 755 Internet users conducted by the Pew Research Center confirms the economic viability of the game business: 19 percent of respondents said they had purchased online games in the most recent quarter. Considering the fact that there are about two billion Internet users across the globe, that translates into one big, big market.

A new report from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts says that the computer and video game industry created more full time jobs in the past two years than any other moving image entertainment sector.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Andy Kessler makes the point that the military and defense spending were the locus of the US economy for decades. Now, it appears the ground has shifted. Rather than military spending, the foundation of innovation and productivity investment is now based on electronic games.

Even the military is following suit, he observes, noting that piloting and navigation systems are likely to be modeled after game consoles.  Witness the pilotless drones being employed across the world, controlled by joysticks and video screens.

The user interfaces developed for gaming eventually find their way into the corporate world as productivity-enhancing tools, productivity is what drives our economy onward and upward. "Much as keyboards and mice and fast graphics have driven corporate productivity for 40 years... the next decades will be driven by tools that can harness voices and gestures," says Kessler. Gaming technology has stolen the show here.

There is plenty of evidence that adoption of computer games is on the rise within the corporate sector. As reported by my colleague Heather Clancy just this past October, IBM launched CityOne, an interactive simulation exercise focused on business and civic leaders. There are more than 100 different development scenarios built into the “game,” focused on traffic congestion, saving water, supply chain optimization, green power choices and so on.

Last year, Heather talked about how some of the world's biggest and most successful companies are encouraging management candidates to participate in business simulations to build the skills they need for their next step up the corporate ladder. Companies such as including Nokia, Accenture, Sony, Phillips, Rolls-Royce, Novartis, Ernst & Young, KPMG, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco are encouraging up-and-coming management candidates to participate in such an experience, the BTS Global Business Tournament, to build the skills they need for their next step up the corporate ladder.

There is enormous educational value, in fact. Last summer, a survey of more than 200 medical students at the University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin at Madison, reported in CNET, founds that 77 percent say they would participate in a multiplayer online health care simulator if said simulator helped them accomplish an important goal.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure