Distractions – can playing games at work increase productivity?


Distractions.  We all have them.  Whether we work at an office or from home, we are distracted from our ‘job’ by ringing phones, meetings, the occasional thunderstorm outside, or someone dropping in to say hi.  Stay at home workers, I believe, are subjected to twice as many distractions, especially if you are a stay-at-home mom or dad.  Kids and pets have an uncanny way of interrupting the ‘work flow’.

But what about self-imposed distractions, like playing games at work.  For the last year and a half I’ve had the intense pleasure (and pain) of not working outside the home.  It’s not that I haven’t looked for a job.  Trust me, I have and still do.  Every day.  But seeing as no doors have opened at this point, I have been following my passion and writing my heart out.  During this time I have finished my novel, sent it out, received a request for a rewrite and finished it again for re-submission.   I’ve written several short stories, won a few awards for my writing, and am currently writing on books two and three in my YA fantasy saga.

But not all my time has been spent on writing.  Outside of my normal distractions  (kids, disabled hubby, animals, etc.), I have one self-inflicted distraction:

It’s not a difficult game but I like it a lot, for many, many reasons.

Wizard101 is a 3D massively multiplayer online role-playing game  Players take on the role of students of Wizardry to save the Spiral (which is the set of worlds this game takes place in), and battle a variety of creatures by casting spells using a turn-based combat system similar to collectible card . Players advance in the game by accepting quests to learn new spells, gain equipment, and collect gold.  Although designed for pre-teens, the game appeals to all ages.  Players can play alone but it really is a game designed to play with others, and in fact, many of the bosses you can’t beat without collaborative play.  During play, you can ‘chat’ with your teammates.  Many times, I don’t chat much at all.  I ‘listen’ to the conversations between the younger members.  Great fodder for a YA author.  Also, seeing that I write YA fantasy, this game is right up my alley for having fun.

But, how does playing games affect my writing ‘job’?  If I’m playing games, then how can I possibly get any work done?  Well, according to WorldWinner, a provider of online games, playing casual games at work can increase productivity.  The survey from their 2007 press release states (and I quote):

***

The survey, which involved more than 500 players who compete at WorldWinner.com, reveals surprising new reasons workers take time out of their day to play casual games. Among them, more than 80 percent of respondents who play online games during the workday feel better-focused on work as a result of periodic mental breaks associated with game play, 76 percent report improved productivity, and 72 percent rely on game breaks to reduce job-related stress.Recent studies suggest that a growing number of workers are seeking alternate ways to reduce stress while on the job; and a great many of them are turning to casual word, card and puzzle computer games.

In fact, more than 60 percent of gamers who play games during their workday use “brain teasers,” including puzzle/strategy games (such as Bejeweled 2) and card games (such as Solitaire and Free Cell), as a form of therapy during the day. When asked how game play recharges their creative juices, the great majority of respondents answered that online games “take my mind off of work for a few minutes” or “calm me down after something has frustrated me.” An inference easily drawn from these findings is that casual game play may boost productivity by serving as a healthy way to refocus the mind in high-stress situations.

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I personally find this to be true with me and my writing.  Many times I’ll get to a spot in a chapter or a short I’m writing and my brain freezes. I don’t know where to go with it or what to say.  At that point, I either take 20 -30 minutes to unwind in Wizard101, or I go for a 20 to 30 minute walk.  Sometimes, if time and weather permit, I do both.  It’s amazing what that time away from the ‘job’ can do to revitalize the brain and the body.  After such a break, I am able to go back to several more hours of work.

There’s no doubt that everyone needs a break at work, but whether this calls for gaming stations to be implemented at workplaces across the country is another matter… Does your employer let you sneak in the odd game at work?  If you’re self-employed, do you play a game of Angry Birds or Solitaire every now and then?  If not, maybe you should.  It might just increase your productivity.

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3 thoughts on “Distractions – can playing games at work increase productivity?

  1. Well, I for one am glad to hear positives since I do take breaks to play my turn on Words with Friends (iPhone game). Also, the type of game you are playing may fuel your imagination in your writing. Mine certainly keeps me looking for new words.

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  2. All work and no play, make Jack a dull boy. I think allowing some play time in work is equal to the recess we used to get in grade school so many years ago. The poor nuns would gather us up to run, jump, and play for fifteen minutes every day, no matter how cold or hot it was. It worked, the students always came back inside refreshed.

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