Today, about 22.4 million gamers use instant messenger Xfire to communicate with friends while playing computer games. Gaming messaging is redefining instant messaging and could well reshape online teaming for all of us.
Steam, for example, primarily is a gaming platform that uses digital distribution to provide more than 1,800 games of all varieties. First-person shooters, real-time strategy, and massively multiplayer online are just some of the genres available from this Valve-owned platform. More games meant more players, and as the number of players grew over the years, so did the need for an easier way to communicate with other players.
Normally, players did this via instant messaging services such as MSN, AIM, ICQ, and Skype. The problem with these services when you're playing a game is that you have to constantly "tab in and out" of games in order to chat with friends -- a process that can take up to five seconds, as users switch between games' full screens and messages' small boxes. Doing this once or twice isn't so bad, but if someone is constantly messaging you while you're attempting to play a game, it quickly becomes annoying.
Lo and behold, Xfire!
Xfire was one of the first IM clients that integrated into games, allowing players to chat and game. Crazy, right? It was this innovation that allowed Xfire to rapidly grow and become a benchmark in tracking gaming trends. When I originally concocted the idea for this blog, I had Xfire in mind, but today Xfire is no longer the leader of IM integration into games. Despite starting its community feature considerably later than Xfire, Steam has surpassed Xfire's growth and is now one of the most highly used gaming clients. While Xfire boasts more than 22 million registered users, Steam has 40 million-plus "friends or enemies" and 6 million unique users a day.
So what is the community feature? Well, what isn't it, is probably a better question. By having other users in your friends list, you are able to talk to them in real time, regardless of geographical location. I can talk to my brother, who's currently living in Los Angeles, despite the 17-hour timezone difference. I've set up a "Steam group" for my friends and I so we can schedule our gaming times, and everyone knows when to be on, as well as being able to share content with each other. We can also post comments on each other's profiles... hang on, this is starting to sound like Facebook, except modified for gamers. Essentially, yes, except that Steam's IM is much more reliable than Facebook chat. This is due to the nature of Steam being a program that is actually installed on the computer, while Facebook and its chat function are accessed through an Internet browser.
Of course, the ability to chat while playing a game is also a plus. Recently, Steam has also begun to provide not only games, but non-gaming software in its online store, thus branching itself further into the digital market. This constant progress to broaden its reach while maintaining and improving existing services is what makes Valve's gaming platform Steam such a large and growing community. Certainly, there are plenty of jobs that require single-minded dedication and an ability to chat with colleagues or managers, without the distraction of email or other office applications.
Currently, businesses frown upon the use of IM chat in the work environment, because it goes against the mentality of single-minded dedication. However, the new generation of employees is made up of digital natives, not baby boomers.
Perhaps in future, businesses will be able to become integrated into Steam? Sure would make it easier for me to go to work.
— Neil Thelander spent more than 30 years as an IT executive in the government, technology, healthcare, and university sectors. He consults with and coaches IT leaders.
There are large organizations that I know of that don't have an IM installed for employees to coordinate with each other. People use email for work-related matters and since facebook is accessible in many organizations now, people can participate in office gossips there.
jabailo, I completely understand what you're talking about. How frustrating is it? It may be a small thing to get irritated about but most people, at least that I know lol, don't like the idea of repeating themselves especially in the form of writing where it shouldn't be hard for them to see what your input was and simply read it rather than asking for you to write it again (in a sense). It's like, what's the point of having that state your problem box?
dcawrey, I agree, chat definitely has a place. First of all, it's usually quicker to pop off a message to someone than pick up the phone, remember their extention, etc. Plus with chat you can take it with you, especially if you have a laptop or maybe mobile workstation, etc. The phone? Not usually a thing that goes with you unless it's a mobile, haha.
Yeah, IM's can easily be managed if you use the right enterprise software. The thing of it is, people shouldn't be yapping about things they shouldn't be yapping about in the work place... end of story, you know? I get that the idea of being monitored constantly is quite annoying but save the yapping for break or after work. But you know, I'm really a hipocrite because I'm guilty of that yapping myself, haha.
You'd think companies would want chat if they're worried about employees gabbing the day away. Can't they monitor IMs under the same policies and rules that they use for email? Although not sure anyone would want to work at a place that skimmed their IMs, looking for over-zealous usage of the system or too much time spent chatting about non-work topics. Still, if they had to fire someone, IM chats could provide the employer with additional proof that s/he wasn't doing the job, I suppose.
I think chat has a role in work. Now that many of us have grown up with chat, it seems natural that now it would move to the workplace. Indeed, I have used it quite a bit in work environments, but it does depend on the opinions of management as to whether or not it is allowed.
I've seen it be more useful that not, however, and as a result I advocate for it. Just as long as people don't end up chatting their workday away I think it is a great thing to have in the office.
Well, there is still an interaction option for movies- for example, in the middle of the story- randomly chosen seats could say something for some charachters-well, I know it sounds too fituristic but- it might attract additional attention.
By the way, several years ago, I have visited Berkeley Theater where "Wishful Drinking" a play by Carrie Fisher was performed and it was a little bit interactive- someone from the audience had to answer Carrie's phone telling "her mom" that Carrie was busy at the moment- that was pretty interesting, I could say and I think, may be the producers are looking the way -how can they involve audience into the process.
I can foresee interactive movies and definitely a time when the audience determines the outcome -- does the boy get the girl? does the dragon live or die? - but i don't know if IM will be the tool moviemakers use to enable viewers to make those choices or interact with each other. I'd think there'd be more of a social media interface -- although there will be a messagingi element, certainly. Pretty cool, though, because you could conceivably never see the "same" movie again, no matter how many times you plunk down money for a ticket!
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