Gaming companies have a tougher hurdle to beat then most line of business application (LOB) vendors, as you see gaming is something you do when you're not in front of the LOB applications or when not at school.
As a result, you can't let things slide. You're audience are less forgiving and demand near perfection, and when it doesn't happen it can either make or break you in a heart beat. The main reason is, that mainstream press are constantly hovering over most of the game studios, waiting for them to trip up and provide them a scoop on some small amount of detail, which has enough to draw their readers attentions (given Gaming Magazines / Sites are a dime a dozen).
Games are not only judged by their covers, but also their actual functionality and more importantly the user experience. Talk about the toughest critics, if a 12 year old cannot figure out how to make their City (SimCity) run in an economic environment that has huge amounts of hurdles before them, damned if they will praise it or talk about it front of their friends. If that same 12 year old can't figure out how to complete a Quest due to poor visuals (early days of World of Warcraft), they will not only talk about it, but it will be so damn loud that others will help carry that voice forward.
Yes, Gaming companies have the toughest hurdle excluding Operating System makers (Microsoft gets an absolute beating at times on everything). Yet, Software applications get rated in a fashion that's more moderated. Did this application fit my business requirements, yes/no/partially.
Rich Internet Applications are now being thrust into the void between gaming and line of business, they are asked to mimic all the great elements of gaming experiences but also have the serious component required for lines of business. In this context, despite the attraction to this line of thinking, they are ultimately doomed as there is no guide post for this type of success.
This has increased the variables beyond the reach of mere mortals at present, whilst the technology is here today and is getting closer with each iteration, it however needs to overcome one undiscovered variable - humans. Humans are a funny thing, we love patterns but can't explain them, if you were to ask the above 12 year old or others like him "Which game do you love the most, and why" I guarantee you will get a variety of answers in response (if you don't, startup a game studio now as you have the market cornered).
I think the key ingredient in all great software in both gaming and line of business, is context. It has to be context driven to a persons persona, the user interface needs to react in a way that keeps the end users pain points in perspective. I wasn't kidding around when I suggested that "XBOX Achievement Points" should be built into all mainstream software at Microsoft, as it would encourage the users to gain more awareness of how the software they have bought works, furthermore it rewards them for both their failures and successes and lastly, it provides them a clear benchmark on how they are doing.
I hate doing my expense reports here at Microsoft, simply because it's primative that it's almost bordering on embarassing. Ask any employee at Microsoft, they will gripe and moan about it. Yet, I wonder if we were to make this into some game, in which we compete in some way and at the same time get rewarded.
"Scott, congratulations, you've just completed your 50th Expense Report, and you win a prize from the company store".
It doesn't take much, just some imagination mixed with Microsoft UX Platform and you stand a far better chance of reaching employee satisifcation for mundane task through simple User Experience that differs from "Serious" software (yet the data layer beneath the UI doesn't alter). Games aren't forced into consumers hands, they are wanted. Business applications are mostly forced into the workforces hands, how about we make them want it as well?
I am Scott Barnes, and I love my RIA.
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