Gaming for business

How will game technologies play out in the corporate world?

What does gaming have to do with mainstream business? Until recently, I'd have answered, "not much." But a conversation with Tim Keanini of nCircle made me rethink my position.

As the CTO for a security company, Keanini draws on game theory, especially Col. John Boyd's OODA (Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action) loop. Boyd's 1970s theory posited that in any conflict, whichever party observes the adversary's actions, orients itself, decides what to do, and takes action faster is the winner.

I tucked away this bit of information until this week, when both Jon Udell and Tom Yager wrote columns dealing with the ways in which game technology is bleeding into the conventional business world. Given the confluence of events, I can only assume one of two things: coincidence or the presence of an real trend. I'm going with the latter.

The two columns actually are quite dissimilar, with Udell exploring the Second Life virtual community, while Yager examines game-friendly technologies built into the x86. For now, the virtual-community-to-business-community crossover is largely theoretical. Companies are dabbling with Second Life, experimenting with ways to harness its open-ended potential. However, "to exploit that openness," according to Udell, "you'd pretty much have to forget about your first life."

Not so on the chip front, where core gaming technology is going mainstream. GPUs (graphics processing units) are already used outside games in 3-D modeling and elsewhere. "But now, thanks to PCI Express," says Yager, "GPUs have the advantage of being first-class peripherals." They effectively become "co-processors that are able to handle complex vector mathematics, numeric analysis, and streaming transformation."

Now excuse me while I head off to play The Sims. Consider it research.

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