ASAE Day 3: How online gaming will affect the future of associations

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I can't say enough good things about this session, either. Susan Fox, VP, The Forbes Group, who seemed like a mild-mannered academic until she showed us her World of Warcraft avatar, explained how we digital immigrants differ from the digital natives (she put the dividing line between the two generations at the invention of Pong back in 1972).

People who grew up with online gaming process information differently, she said. They pool knowledge into a collective intelligence to work better in teams, and are experts in networking, negotiating, and seeking out/synthesizing/disseminating information. They're great at sampling and remixing media and content, working with simulations, and adopting different identities to adapt to situational challenges.

One interesting point was about how those who grow up with online gaming (I think the figure she quoted as 75 percent of people under the age of 34 are familiar with the language of games, and the average number of hours they spend gaming per week is 22). Currently we look at leaders as those lone visionaries who will lead us into a shining future. But that's not how the digital generation works, she said. "It's going to shift, depending on the circumstances. Leadership for the digital generation is situational and fluid, and those who are leaders in some circumstances will be followers in others."

While she placed most of the emphasis in her presentation on incorporating gamers into the workplace (i.e., on staff at associations--watch for online gaming guildmaster skills to show up on a resume near you soon), she did touch on how the gaming mentality could be the next big influence on the training and adult education you offer.

Called serious games, more organizations are going to be able to adapt gaming technology for their adult education, either by building their own or by (the much easier route) using game engines like wildpockets.com, which is coming online soon. "Engaging the imagination is what's important," she said, "not necessarily having great graphics." She pointed out a few examples that are already out there, though not all are developed by associations:

My U.S. Rep (a Congressional role-playing game I'm now going to have to try)

America's Army, where you can role-play being a soldier

Darfur Is Dying, which delivers a serious message through a role-playing game

I spoke with Fox briefly after the session, and she said she was planning to do more research into the adult ed aspects of gaming, so expect more greatness from her to be published probably in the Journal of Association Leadership (drats! I was hoping we could score this one).

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