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Finding virtue in virtual realities

IBM, SOE see games as good training tools

Virtual worlds such as “Second Life” and massively multiplayer online games like “World of Warcraft” aren’t exactly known as good news for business.

Both types of games can be hugely addictive, with some employees even stealing time away from work to play. And attempts of movie studios and other types of companies to advertise in them have largely been a bust.

But now research from IBM shows that collaborative online games are a good training tool for many of the qualities businesses value most.

IBM is presenting its research done with Sony Online Entertainment, maker of online games like “Everquest,” at this week’s Digital Hollywood conference.

“There are some obvious skills like leadership, but also things like the ability to rapidly disintegrate teams when a task is done that businesses are very poor at doing,” says David Laux, global executive for interactive Media at IBM.

IBM and SOE are also planning to start pushing MMO games as way to actually make workers more productive, rather than less.

“Particularly for the distributed workforce of today, it’s not practical to do a ropes course” notes Torrie Dorrell, senior VP of sales and marketing for SOE. “However it’s easy to go on a quest together to kill a dragon or build a pyramid.”