Today’s engine of innovation: Videogames, not military

By Anne Collier

Remember the military-industrial complex? Now it’s the entertainment-industrial complex. For centuries the military drove tech innovation; now videogaming does, according to a Wall Street Journal commentary by author and former hedge-fund manager Andy Kessler. “That’s right – every time someone fires up a videogame like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, the state of the art in technology advances. Hug a geek today.” What’s next? Kessler says, “the next decades will be driven by tools that can harness voices and gestures” like the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 Kinect. “Videogames will influence how next-gen workers interact with each other.” He doesn’t even mention The Sims and the virtual world Second Life, but he does say that “Call of Duty, a military simulation game, has a mode that allows players to cooperate from remote locations. In World of Warcraft, players form guilds to collaborate, using real-time texting and talking, to navigate worlds presented in high-resolution graphics. Sure, they have funky weapons and are killing Orcs and Trolls and Dwarves, but you don’t have to be a gamer to see how this technology is going to find its way into corporate America. Within the next few years, this is how traders or marketers or DNA hunters will work together. No more meetings! NPR reports that, during this just-past holiday season, “sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops hit the $1 billon mark in just six weeks” and 27% of US entertainment dollar goes to videogames. Give that NPR “On the Media” piece a listen for a little videogaming cultural history from New York Times tech writer and gamer Clive Thompson. [For thoughts on other positive impacts of videogaming, see “WoW: The guild effect for teachers” and my earliest reflection on the protective aspect of the guild effect (November ’09).]

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