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How To Deploy a Game Console In the Office? 310

Posted by Soulskill
from the early-and-often dept.
SkydiverFL writes "Does anyone have an idea for a good solution for using a game console (Xbox 360, PS3, etc.) with a laptop and / or external monitor? I am planning to set up each of my developers at the office with a shiny new Xbox 360, surround headphones, and Gold memberships. The only catch is that I have to do it 'gracefully.' I would be grateful for any input on the technical setup and politics (how to get it in and how to work through the politics)." Read on for further details on the situation.
SkydiverFL continues, "Long story short, I am the MIS Manager / Lead Architect for a blue collar non-tech company. My team needs to be happy, but the folks in the rest of the office do not really understand what that means for the types of personalities that exist in our department. Even though my team is tucked away in a different part of the building, we do have clients and employees come back here from time to time. I cannot set a monitor on their desk. The console can be here, but it needs to be not so 'in your face.' Each developer currently has a maxed out Dell Latitude D830 laptop, docking station, and a wide screen 20" LCD. The LCD has a dual-input configuration — one for SVGA and one for DVI. The DVI port is in use by the laptop. It would be preferable not to feed the console directly into the monitor. We have employee monitoring software in use and need to track the usage of the console. So, it seems best to use a capture card along with some type of viewer utility. This would allow us to have a record of when and how long the console was used, in case anyone else in management ever has a problem.
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How To Deploy a Game Console In the Office?

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  • by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon@NoSPAM.gamerslastwill.com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:27PM (#25510277) Homepage Journal

    productivity will tank.

    you will look like a moron.

  • Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:30PM (#25510291)

    Are you trying to be their manager or their friend?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:30PM (#25510295)

    Are you hiring?

  • Reason? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DeadPixels (1391907) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:30PM (#25510297)
    What's the reason behind this? Without knowing why you want to do it, it's hard to find a way to help you justify the idea.
  • by Project2501a (801271) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:30PM (#25510299) Homepage Journal

    ok, it's nice to think that someone understands that i need to space our for a while. and it's a good thing you're giving out consoles.

    so why do you then monitor their use? it's like taking the consoles back?

  • by fat_mike (71855) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:38PM (#25510341)

    I agree. Why not make up a proposal for one Xbox and a moderate sized TV? Tell your people they can only use it on breaks or during their lunch. Giving each person an Xbox is expensive and my boss would laugh me out of his office if he didn't fire me first.

    Is this your first manager type job?

  • by tekiegreg (674773) * <tekieg1-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:38PM (#25510343) Homepage Journal
    Employees have enough distractions as is (the Internet in the office...), but you want to give them all a game console? If your company is publicly traded, let me know so I can sell now if I have any....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:39PM (#25510351)

    That is one opinion, and rather pathetic control freak one... Some people can actually ignore distractions when required and do their work. It can actually be a huge motivation to come to work and make the day go faster. If you have a goal to meet plus a reward when it is met it can improve productivity for the uninteresting tasks at hand.

    If you are worried about people not working, then you have already lost, by either hiring bad or not putting people in positions they will excel. Folks find plenty of ways to burn time if they are not motivated, and recognizing that is important.

    This may fail miserably, but not because it is a bad idea, but it must be done in a way that aligns with the culture.

  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:39PM (#25510357) Homepage Journal
    Limit game-playing to lunch and break times in a common or break area and have a trusted associate keep it in a locked cabinet otherwise. Have the same trusted associate manually enter the time played on the console. About keeping track of the minutes of console use: don't. What kind of control freak micromanages break activities?
  • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:40PM (#25510363)

    If your employees' productivity will tank by giving them an Xbox, you have poor employees who can't manage their time (and probably are already producing poorly).

  • makes no sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:40PM (#25510367)

    I'm the last person to be advocating nose to the grindstone blah blah get your work done, Cratchet behavior. That being said, what's the possible point of having gaming consoles in the office? I much prefer the idea of get in, work hard, get out after 8 hours, don't put in more than 40 if you can help it. Time spent at home with family is worth more than any sort of office camaraderie, fakey or othewise.

    When all the dotcom stuff was going on, I never could quite understand their idea of having game consoles in the office. If I worked there, I couldn't imagine playing on it myself because I would feel conspicuous, like I was goofing off on company time with a big sign over my head saying "pay attention, this is more flagrant than slashdot!"

    Personally, I think goofing off for a coffee break on slashdot is great. Checking the news while waiting for a report to generate/program to compile/etc is perfectly acceptable. Maybe setting aside a night every week or two to play department vs. department FPS is cool. But for the most part, the best thing you can do for your people is make sure they can get in, get their work done quickly and efficiently, and get them out the door at quitting time. That does more for sanity than all the perks in the world.

  • Re:Reason? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:41PM (#25510387)

    He asked slashdot for a way to *implement* the idea. If you prefer to answer justification questions, then go hang out on a managerial forum.

  • bad idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:44PM (#25510403)
    If you have to ask how to do something like this, then it's probably a bad idea.
  • by Gybrwe666 (1007849) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:44PM (#25510405)

    Okay, I've been in IT a while, and I know plenty of developers. I'm unaware of a developer "Needing" a console at his desk in order to do his job, unless he happens to be a game developer on that console.

    That being said, you mentioned this was a blue collar company.

    How long, roughly, do you really think it will take for the rest of the company to find out that their co-workers are being paid to play games? I guarantee you, I'd be *PISSED* if I found out one department had the company paying for time (whether salaried or not) that was spent on games. Imagine what happens when Joe Plumber (insert favorite and/or appropriate profession here) finds out? How long before one of your developers brags about it to someone outside the department?

    Not only that, but a console per person? Are you kiddng? Assuming its a modern console, that's at a minimum $199/person. That's a lot of money. Are you buying them games, too? If one dies, are you going to be spending time and money to send it in for warrantly repairs? How about 2 days after warranty runs out? You got budget to repair/replace? How about when the controller breaks? You payin' for that?

    You buying the games, too?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all about making the workplace fun. How about you buy one console and put it in a common area, and maybe give the "blue collar" guys one in their lunchroom, too? If someone is gone from their cubicle for 4 hours a day, should be obvious, right? Less money spent, more accountability.

    Or, and here's a crazy idea, I know, how about you expect them to actually work 8 hours a day since they get paid 8 hours a day and let them blow off steam in other ways. You could just give it to them to take home. Or have after hours lan parties or console parties. Go to a bar.

    Bottom line, you are not just asking for trouble, you've actually gone out, started blasting its mating call at the top of your lungs, and smeared its favorite food all over your body and genitalia while naked. This is a half-baked idea at best that won't last very long, for a variety of reasons.

    Bill

  • by forsey (1136633) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:49PM (#25510447)
    A console in the office can be good, but I can't see giving every person their own as being good. It's better to have just one or two setup in a lounge area so it encourages the employees to play it together in the same room (as opposed to on XBL with each other) and encourages them to build stronger relationships with eachother. You want your employees to view their desk as a work area, so when they are at their desk they will focus on work. If the console is at their desk then the barrier between work and play blurs and they'll end up being much less productive. In short, a console in the office (in my experience) works best as a tool to encourage socialization. At their desk it just another way to avoid work, and even a good employee could fall into that trap.
  • by Pahalial (580781) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:49PM (#25510451)

    Give it to them for home as a bonus. Management won't really care, in-office productivity won't take any hits (except maybe right after hyped releases) and other employees won't see it and so won't care.

    Plus their families can enjoy it as well, where applicable.

  • Re:Confused (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:50PM (#25510459)
    More generally: Why?

    I think the most important thing is to be able to answer why. I do pretty wierd things with company money, but since I can generally show a business case and since I've mostly been right (==directly, provably, profitable) in the past I tend to get away with it.

    If you want to motivate them; make them happy and so on, I suggest a ping-pong table. This will bring them together and make them interact. At the same time it will encourage fitness and movement which will counteract the rest of their job. There must be lots more sports equipment which would really help.

  • by homesnatch (1089609) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:52PM (#25510469)

    I have never been a fan of monitoring employee activity. Employees should be measured by output, not by how often they spin their gerbil wheels.

    Not sure how I got into the gerbil analogy, but I'll continue with it.

    Gerbil 1 runs his wheel all day and is slow... Generates 5000 revolutions per day.

    Gerbil 2 runs his wheel half the day but is fast enough that he generates 6500 revolutions.

    If I were to monitor these gerbils I would be disappointed by Gerbil 2's work ethic.

    If you could only keep one gerbil and send the other to Richard Gear's house, which one would you keep?

  • by MadCat (796) <benvanstaveren@@@gmail...com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:54PM (#25510491)

    Bad news if you want to give all the devs their own console. You'll find that productivity will tank. In our office we've got a 360 and a PS2 sitting in the break room, and we're free to wander off and play it for a while if we feel the need for it; this way at the very least someone will notice you spending hours on end at it and will tell you to stop being a dick and get back to work.

    Ofcourse the competition for the thing during break time is immense but hey, adds to the flavor.

  • by Talsan (515546) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:55PM (#25510495) Homepage

    Seriously? You really think that an Xbox 360 is a good idea?

    Get one for the team and put it in a break room or meeting room. Besides, consoles are more fun when you play with others.

  • A console _each_? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker@gnu ... org minus distro> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:01PM (#25510547) Homepage

    You're planning on giving _all_ the developers a console _each_? Some way that makes my head assplode. Isn't one of the points of consoles that you gather a bunch of people around the same machine and trash-talk while playing (i.e. the person-to-person socialization)? Oh well, if you think it's a good idea, go ahead.

    I can tell you what my former employee did: put a big TV and a wii in the conference room. According to local tradition, we play a game or two after lunch, and a few friday afternoon while having a beer. If we spend too much time on the wii, the boss-man can probably see it on our weekly productivity reports.

    In general, we were trusted to not slack off, which seemed to work fine. I saw the occasional emails saying "I'm sick, so I'm gonna work from home to the best of my ability today." When I was out of tobacco, I went to the nearby supermarket and bought some; I felt no need to tell the boss I'd be out for a few minutes.

    Treat people like responsible adults and they will act responsibly.

  • Re:makes no sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:02PM (#25510559) Journal

    I'm the last person to be advocating nose to the grindstone blah blah get your work done, Cratchet behavior.

    I should start by saying that this is exactly what's going on where I work, right now. It's Saturday, and I'm stealing a few moments before I get to work again.

    That being said, what's the possible point of having gaming consoles in the office?

    First and foremost: Morale. It's kind of fun reading these comments that say things like "Are you hiring"?

    We've got one Xbox 360, and one Wii, both hooked up to an HDTV, in a room with comfortable chairs (no couch yet). We have less than 10 employees, most of whom aren't avid gamers, but at the very least, it's a way to celebrate a major milestone.

    More recently, we've got beer fridays. I stick to root beer, but I appreciate the sentiment -- we aren't just a bunch of people thrown into an office by chance or by cruel HR decision. We are human beings, working on something we believe in, and we genuinely like working with each other.

    Time spent at home with family is worth more than any sort of office camaraderie, fakey or othewise.

    First: You assume there's a family involved.

    That said, some do have families. It's not the point. If the work is important, then the people you work with are also important.

    Personally, I think goofing off for a coffee break on slashdot is great. Checking the news while waiting for a report to generate/program to compile/etc is perfectly acceptable.

    Which is something you can't do as well with coworkers.

    I should also point out:

    Do NOT rigidly monitor its use. Just make it conspicuous enough that if someone's on it, you know about it. Wait for a problem before you start that...

    If most of your employees would always rather be playing games than working, it can't be very interesting work.

    It's a bit like monitoring Internet usage at work -- if an employee is really spending all day on Slashdot, that's a problem which should be addressed separately. If you're worried about them doing something illegal, make that their own responsibility. But if you're firewalling and logging everything pre-emptively, you're punishing those of us who are otherwise honest employees, and are probably more productive when we can get our Slashdot coffee break.

    Now, back to work...

  • foosball (Score:3, Insightful)

    by j1m+5n0w (749199) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:02PM (#25510561) Homepage Journal
    I'd recommend getting a foosball table (or similar) instead. It's a group activity. If it's in a common area, any employee can play whenever they like and you won't have a lot of employees bitter that some of the others have their own personal game station, and games are generally pretty short. Most employees aren't going to waste half the day playing foosball the way they might playing a game console.
  • Re:Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:03PM (#25510571) Homepage

    Whether or not this is a good/bad idea depends on a lot of things. In most situations, I agree, it's not a great idea. On the other hand, there are some jobs with genuine down-time. I mean, lots of jobs have some amount of down-time, and lots of times there are other productive things that people can be doing during those times, but sometimes not. Sometimes there are genuinely jobs that, when there's nothing to do, there's nothing to do.

    What some people don't always recognize is, sometimes the job is to sit around and wait. Helpdesk jobs can be like this, for example. It may be that a person's job is entirely reactive, and on a day that nothing breaks, there might be nothing to do. Unless you actually want to create a task for yourself of finding things for them to do, you have to accept that they're going to surf the web, play flash games, etc.

    Now you might say, "Fine, let them do that. But why would I spend extra money that's going to distract them?" To that I'd say, it depends on the people, and it depends on the work environment. Sometimes you might do something like this just for a perk, to keep good people around and keep moral up. Also, I know for myself, sometimes I can be more productive if I get a genuine break. If I can get up, get away from my desk, and get engaged in something else for 10 minutes, then I'll come back more productive than if I sat in front of my computer playing flash games. It actually helps to have a clearer distinction from when/where I'm "taking a break" vs. "working".

    So because of these reasons (and some others) I let me people play Rock Band in the office. I know when people have work to do, and I can see when they're playing Rock Band. It's a little bit of team building, keeps people happy, and in the past 6 months or so, no one has neglected their work in favor of Rock Band to any noticeable degree.

    Beyond all that, with regards to the question, "Are you trying to be their manager or their friend?" I agree that sometimes being someone's boss/manager means you can't really be their friends. Once you have some kind of power over someone, they're going to hate you a little. Still, you have to manage that hatred. Sometimes, if they hate you too much, it gets to be counter-productive, so it can be worthwhile to do nice things for the people you manage.

  • Don't do it. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:06PM (#25510589)

    Is your company working out of a member's garage? Is your company just a handful of individuals who are already putting in ungodly amounts of time?

    No? Well you'll be stupid to try and put a game console in a workplace. The whole reason for all those video games and snacks was that a lot of companies were formed out of garages and the founding members lived in them. As the company got bigger, they brought their homes into the workplace. You'd be stupid to do that in an existing workplace. Your group will look like slackers. Don't do it.

  • Re:Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dutch Gun (899105) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:10PM (#25510627)

    I suggest a ping-pong table

    You're kidding, right?

    pik-pok!
    pik-pok!
    pik-pok!
    pik-pok!
    pik-pok!
    pik-pok!
    pik-pok!
    pik-pok!
    pik-pok!
    pik-pok!

    I mean, who *wouldn't* want to listen to that all day?

    If you're going to give each developer a console, then actually give it to them. No strings attached. Let them take it home. I work for a game development company. Last Christmas, my company gave everyone a PS3, Rockband, and a copy of Ratatouille on Blu-Ray. Some people elected to keep it in the office, most took it home.

    But even in our work environment, you generally don't see too many people playing games during the day. We work hard, but we go home after eight hours to be with our families, play games, and live our lives however we choose to. It's understood that when we're at work, we have a job to do, and we're very focused on that. In general, I don't care much for playing games at the office. I'd much rather get my job done, get home faster, so I can relax in my *own* home.

    If you really want people to be happy, then treat people with respect, and encourage your people to work hard for eight hours, five days a week, then get the hell out of the office.

  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:12PM (#25510645)

    Tell that to Google, who has consoles, arcade games, pool tables, foosball, swimming pools, and just about everything else you can imagine. They seem to be doing okay as a company.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:15PM (#25510675)

    Get a 1 or a few Pinball games they are fun to play.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:18PM (#25510705)

    You want your employees to be happy but you use employee monitoring software, wtf? I work for Google so I think I know what you are kind of going for.

    Why are you putting these at everyone's desk? Half the fun of a console is playing with other people. Rock Band is almost exclusively what we play at work. GTA4, GoW, etc all gather dust. In addition it if's not at the work station people will be self regulating. It's a lot easier to just "play for a couple of min while this compiles" if it's at your desk. And we have clients/tours come through our office too, and the game room is a stop on the tour showing it off. We are geeks, it's kind of expected. And don't reserve it for just your devs, let everyone play or people will bitch. Don't worry after the novelty wears off the sales people won't touch it much. :) If they do, hey that's great, it's team building between business units and might help moral (less isolated) and might spur some innovation for one side or the other of the company.

    Also, productivity will tank to start with. They will be playing with their new toys and will get less done. Be ready for this, you will probably want to let your manager know and try and get some kind of grace period. But if it's not at their desks people will self regulate eventually and those who don't will just be more obvious. People like that will find ways to screw around, might as well give them an obvious way.

    So get a conference room and turn it into a game room. Get a nice big TV and a xbox and some social games. Maybe a Wii too (Mario Cart does get some play)

  • by tzhuge (1031302) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:20PM (#25510721)

    This may fail miserably, but not because it is a bad idea, but it must be done in a way that aligns with the culture.

    It most certainly does not align with the 'culture' of any kind of functional workplace, so I think it's perfectly appropriate to call it what it is, a bad idea. As your said, distractions or no distractions, motivated employees work better. Not every one is motivated by the employer giving them a perk. No way is a whole group of non-clones going to all be motivated by getting their own console at work. Personally, I would question my manager's judgment and consequently lose motivation. Hell, I don't think anyone would gain any kind of sustained motivation out of something like a game console. It seems to me that this guy asking the question doesn't understand the personalities in his own department either. Of course maybe they really are a bunch of people barely in the real world and also happen to share the exact same obsession with video games. The only reward that is likely to be welcomed by a diverse group of people is vacation time or cash bonuses.

  • by betamaxV2.1 (609267) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:28PM (#25510779)
    I am an extremely avid computer gamer. I spend 15+ hours a week playing computer games (TF2, Crysis, Sins of a Solar Empire, etc). I also work from home as a Sys admin and DBA. Having my game machine also double as my work machine made focusing on work extremely hard as I am expected to be available from 8-5 most days M-F. (old school corporate culture slowly creeping into 21st century).

    When I first started doing this it was very difficult for me to resist the temptation for firing up TF2 while I was waiting for some SQL to finish exporting data or an application to finish rebuilding. The problem is as with any game. You get sucked in. 5 minutes can easily turn into 1.5 hours.

    So unless you are going to spend your time wondering around everyones desk and making notes on how long they have been playing, I would listen to others ideas. Put the console in the lounge. Plan after hours lan parties or trips to the bar. I am sure that it would be ok to work through lunch one day and fire things up an hour early.

    The problem would never be that your employees would be irresponsible with the console. The problem is that anyone that is a gamer knows it is very rare to spend just 5 minutes on a game. For me it is even harder on flash games like bookworm or tower defense much less a more engaging game like Halo or whatever else is popular at the moment on the 360.
  • by omeomi (675045) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:37PM (#25510839) Homepage
    Or nobody will use them because they know they are being monitored. The summary says usage will be tracked...it's like some sort of sick science experiment. Here's a game system, but we're going to monitor your usage. Oh, and the Company execs may be egainst the whole idea, so next time layoffs come around, the guy who plays the most games loses his job. Brilliant. Why not just hand out the game systems as bonuses, and let them bring them home?
  • by grondak (80002) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:38PM (#25510841) Homepage

    ... and there's no room for lying in business.

    Hiding the consoles like you are and tracking their use "just in case" is the same as failing to inform management, which makes your acts lies of omission. Think twice. Make sure your management actually understands what you intend to do. They should see the reports of developer gaming time that I think you're going to produce.

    Of course, the monitoring will make the developers quit gaming, so I think you should just abandon the effort. Do something more constructive with your time and theirs: write the software your shareholders pay them to write. If they have a problem with work/life balance, tell them to cut out all goofing off at work and to go home when the whistle blows.

    (Yes, I'm making a lot of assumptions! Chastise below!)

  • by RulerOf (975607) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:45PM (#25510905)
    As an IT professional, I have to say you show a lot of insight into this kind of situation.

    I occasionally play video games on the clock--won't lie. But then, so does the rest of the IT department. Gaming is not exactly condoned in our environment, and the boss explicitly states that you do it at your own risk. The difference between our environment and the one you highlight though, is that gaming on the clock has to be treated the same way as casual web browsing. If, during the course of your game, you're needed, you drop what you're doing and take care of it, consequences of the game be damned.

    It's the breaking of that rule that can really cause a problem in a way that is definitely hazardous to company productivity. After all, you're not being paid to game, much in the same fashion others aren't being paid to smoke, browse the web, or call their spouse.

    On the whole though, overlooking something like that can help increase employee morale... but there are some people and some cases where you cannot.
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:47PM (#25510933) Homepage
    Company seems to be doing ok. However, they seem to be producing very little in terms of new products for the sheer number of people there. People probably thought Nortel was doing pretty good when their stock price was $120 and they had all the same perks. I'm sure it will come back to bite them in a couple years.
  • Is this for real? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lunartik (94926) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:55PM (#25510977) Homepage Journal

    "My team needs to be happy, but the folks in the rest of the office do not really understand what that means for the types of personalities that exist in our department."

    Honestly, I think this is bullshit. The idea that programmers are some social recluses who need to be coddled in the workplace and given special privileges that other employees don't get is pretty bunk. You know, I bet a lot of people who work in other parts of the company have hobbies and interests outside of work too. What's next? An auto restoration garage? A knitting room? An art studio?

    If you are seriously thinking about putting a personal game console at every desk, maybe you should instead pitch to your boss the cost savings of contracting out your IT work.

    Sorry to rain on the parade.

  • Don't (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PhotoGuy (189467) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:55PM (#25510979) Homepage

    Unless you're a shop developing XBOX games, don't do it. Period.

    I've had bad experiences, all around, with allowing gaming in the office.

    We used to have Friday afternoon pizza parties and gaming sessions at work. The gaming-at-work habit grew (whenever my back was turned), and it seriously hurt productivity. Gaming can be addictive, time-consuming, and distracting. Endorsing it in any form, opens the door for rationalizing gameplay when people should be working.

    We stopped doing that, and actually had to let a couple of people go (turns out their PC's were loaded with 95% games, 5% work). Things were much better after we broke that habit.

    Also, spoiling people too much gives them a sense of entitlement which can be hard to deal with later.

    Have a Christmas Party or summer gettogether with a bunch of network games set up; that's a lot of fun, and keeps it separate from work. That always worked well for us.

  • by syousef (465911) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:58PM (#25510995) Journal

    Take a look at the rest of the responses here. There is no way you can do this without making others jealous, which means there's no such thing as graceful. It's unfortunate that human nature works like this. (I've personally been affected by such silliness, though it has nothing to do with console games, and it's made my workplace experience much less pleasant. C'est la vie).

    So either give them X-boxes to take home and call it a work bonus or as others have suggested put it in a common lounge area. Either will STILL result in some jealousy but particularly the take home solution won't have everyone in the office scrutinizing productivity and babbling about being paid to play games.

    Human nature's a son of a bitch sometimes.

  • by flithm (756019) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:59PM (#25511003) Homepage

    I work for IBM, and we have a bunch of PS3's, ping pong, pool tables, shuffle board, fooseball, etc., that people can play whenever they want.

    No it doesn't hurt productivity, in fact quite the opposite. Sometimes you just need to decompress, go do a few laps around a track, shoot a few balls, or get in some socializing with co-workers over a friendly game of ping pong.

    The motto at IBM is that management trusts their employees. As long employees get their work done who cares what people are doing or when they're doing it!

    You can just as easily slack off at your desk as you can in front of a game console. What people notice is results, and happy people produce better results.

    I don't think you need to give every developer a console, and I think that would ruin a perfectly good opportunity to create more social interaction. Put all the games in common areas where people can gather.

    I've solved more problems while chatting with colleagues on a break than I could begin to count.

  • by Shados (741919) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:08PM (#25511081)

    I agree. That just shows how a lot of teams are filled with fucking spoiled little brats who still think they're in college.

    If someone wants to make developers "happy" to keep them productive, make sure the projects managers aren't acting like idiots, and that the devs have the tools they need to do their job (Doing business application development on a single 17 inch monitor = painful. Fortunately that doesn't seem to be the issue of the person who submitted the article).

    Beyond that, its a fucking job, not a party. You can have fun while doing your job, but there are god damn limits.

  • Well.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikkelm (1000451) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:08PM (#25511085)

    We have an XBox 360 in the office, hooked up to a nice 52" Samsung TV, and it's used perhaps once or twice a month. Once the novelty wears off, they'll probably be wanting you to go get them a new expensive gimmick.

  • by Kugrian (886993) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:17PM (#25511141) Homepage

    Why not make up a proposal for one Xbox and a moderate sized TV? ... Giving each person an Xbox is expensive

    Agreed. One is probably too few, but enough so they'll be a spare controller slot for each employee. Playing in close quarters should (hopefully) improve team skills.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:31PM (#25511241)

    Google is made up of over acheiving programmers that work an excess of 55+ hours a week. Comparing google to a blue collar non-tech company is as dumb as this idea

  • by Bodrius (191265) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:44PM (#25511333) Homepage

    I don't think even Google has a *private game console for each engineer*. For good reasons, all companies I know of use rec areas, and communal games, for these things.

    Seriously, I'd have to agree it sounds like a bad idea. As fun as it sounds, I couldn't help but see it as a waste of the company's money. Even if everyone has good self-discipline and no one spends half their time playing instead of working - there is no good reason to think this will increase productivity commesurate to the cost and risks:

    - 1+ Consoles on a COMMUNAL area (usually Good Idea): it acts as a nerd watercooler / smoking room. People take breaks, relax, chat and play games together. Increases morale and helps team building with a (relatively) cheap, *flat* cost.
    Also tends to self-regulate by social pressure: the guy who plays games all day instead of working will be noticeable to his peers (who would be picking up the slack if he goes on).

    - 1 Console FOR EACH Team member (Bad Idea): people take breaks and play games by themselves - or with their usual online group. Increases morale, but at a relatively high cost *per head* - that adds up over time. You'd also need monitoring, hardware setup per office, etc. so this is part of your 'new team member' logistical overhead.
    Perhaps more important, you don't get any of the expected side benefits: no team-building, because team members don't need to interact with each other if they have their own console online. And the one guy who does play games all day instead of working is not obvious to his peers - until it is too late to prevent the damage (or worst case, repair it).

    So best case, this may be a way to buy individual worked morale - at a higher cost and the risk of reducing your team's interactions outside work meetings. It begs the question of whether this is the most efficient way to buy that morale.

    Worst case - just a couple incidents of privilege abuse by one employee could erase whatever morale and productivity gains this approach had - and if you need to take the consoles away due to cost-reductions / abuse, the morale will be even worse than before.

    E.g.: Having your boss "take away your console" because "Billy didn't finish his hom...ehem... *work*" sounds profoundly demotivating - it reduces the employee to the status of a grounded teenager, on the company's eyes, and their own.

  • by KZigurs (638781) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:55PM (#25511409)

    Make it even simpler - a bad-ass TV, a console or two [or three, althou wii is ... not as interesting in long run - had my personal in the office for a while] and a fixed budget for games that team can wote on how to spend on. No Strings Attached.
    If you have a slack moment at 11AM - fine, have a 30 minute break at GT with half the office guiding you trought the line. If you have a spare minute at 4:30pm - brilliant, show us how your tekken skills are doing. And then, maybe, get back to your desk for that all-nighter making sure your T/SQL is perfect.
    Any condition implies distrust. Any distrust clearly spells out: "so what that there is a deadline tomorrow noon, they don't trust me to know what I do, so I stick to 8 hours".
    Small things (from a budgeting perspective - bad-ass setup is what - 1/10th of small-sized teams' payroll?) goes a long way. Do not fuck it up by conditions. If you are in any sense concerned that it will be abused - you have already failed. Badly.

  • by The Real Dr. Video (1218040) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:55PM (#25511413) Homepage
    Work at work. Put in an 8 hour day and go home. Play on your own time. What isn't obvious about this? And yes, I manage technical people, first as a Manager of IT and then as a CIO. My employees are happy. Maintain a decent work/life balance for your employees and nobody will want outrageous crap like this. Don't promise clients the moon and make your people work 80 hour weeks.
  • by Chelloveck (14643) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @04:01PM (#25511449) Homepage

    Amen. Don't give everyone a console, just stick one in a common area. We have a Wii in our office and the lunchtime Mario Kart races are a good way to build camaraderie. If everyone had a private console they'd hardly ever get used. For the most part we're not hardcore gamers; we're doing it for the social aspect. Even the ones who are hardcore gamers get their fix in outside of the office.

    Whatever console you get, make sure to get some brain-candy games which are easy for non-gamers to play. In the office no one's going to be able to get into a huge RPG. They're going to have 10 or 20 minutes here and there. You need games that anyone can pick up a controller and have fun, without a major learning curve.

    BTW, the idea of monitoring the console usage is awful. If your company routinely does that sort of thing, I think you probably have deeper morale issues than can be addressed by video games.

  • Re:Confused (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wild_quinine (998562) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @04:06PM (#25511483) Homepage

    I mean, lots of jobs have some amount of down-time, and lots of times there are other productive things that people can be doing during those times, but sometimes not. Sometimes there are genuinely jobs that, when there's nothing to do, there's nothing to do.

    If you have nothing to do at work, then you probably have very little responsibility at your company. If you have very little responsibility at your company then it is probably because you are new, awful, or not trusted with responsibility. None of those reasons earn you an Xbox.

  • by karnal (22275) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @04:08PM (#25511501)

    While I don't disagree that your lunch is your time, there are expectations in larger business environments that this kind of attitude would not tolerate. I've not worked for smaller companies full time - however, I do have a side business doing small network cabling and computer support.

    Long and short of it is that if you want to keep your job and your customers, you do the best you can to not tell them to shove off. I've had small business customers that I'd rather not have done business with - but I tolerate them because they do make me money and every small business knows other small businesses. References are king. I've learned long ago that I'm not the only person out there that can do my job, so I do it the best I can 100% of the time - even if that means that I only get a few minutes for lunch every now and again.

    I've learned too that if you do want to truly have an uninterrupted lunch, you don't stay at your cubicle/place of employment. Ever eat lunch at a company cafeteria? While that can be good for getting the whole team to get together with non-work related chat, it can get pulled back to work with the statement "I know you're eating lunch but..."

  • by copponex (13876) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:06PM (#25511917) Homepage

    You prove his point. If the company did as every other company does, and just released "new" products, they wouldn't be doing what makes them successful, which is releasing innovative products. They even make better mousetraps - search engines, webmail, mapping, application hosting...

    In a way, Google does something far more sinister, and pays people for ideas that they may have. When you've got a crapload of perks, a steady paycheck, and you still get to do what you want, it makes it a lot less appetizing to start your own company with your own new idea. You don't have to pay hundreds of millions for smaller companies who have the best ideas - you've already hired the brains that will produce them, and they already belong to you.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:14PM (#25511945)
    I gather that a lot of the services at Google (stuff like free laundry, a cafeteria, etc.) are there as a not-so-subtle hint that they expect you to work a lot longer hours than just 9-5. It's not their way of saying "Hey, we're laid back" so much as saying "We expect you to almost live here." Personally, I'd rather work an 8-hour day and pay for my own damn laundry and food.
  • by EastCoastSurfer (310758) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:17PM (#25511959)

    Okay, I've been in IT a while, and I know plenty of developers. I'm unaware of a developer "Needing" a console at his desk in order to do his job, unless he happens to be a game developer on that console.

    I agree. And people wonder why companies are trying to outsource development work to India. They are tired of dealing with prima donnas who consider themselves better than anyone else in the company.

  • by i_ate_god (899684) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @06:00PM (#25512299) Homepage

    It most certainly does not align with the 'culture' of any kind of functional workplace

    That's not entirely accurate. It would align with the culture in a tech company who's products are related to digital entertainment or gaming. I have seen consoles in people's offices and in lounge areas. The idea was to create an environment at the work place that would keep the employees comfortable and give them less reasons to leave the office. The same can be said about some of the companies that provide Starbucks coffee machines in their break rooms. Most likely this guys workplace just isn't the right fit for this kind of perk, especially if he wants to hide it from customers.

    These are the offices I'm most afraid of. If I find out that the office has on site showers, I run for the hills. I need my life outside of the office and would rather the office not try to be my second home.

  • by Bensam123 (1340765) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @06:24PM (#25512491)

    I agree. What we have here seems to be old business practices vs new, better, business practices.

    Old bosses still believe employees should slave away at their desk for the entire 8 hours, taking a 15 min lunch break instead of the whole hour is the right thing to do, any distraction will 'tank productivitiy' so you stare at your clock for a good half hour before the answer comes to you, employees are akin to children and have absolutely no time management skills so they have to manage them theirself.

    New bosses believe in their employees and was said in the posts above, look for the results rather then the method. Most employees know that if they don't work they'll get fired. If they're overly unproductive then that is the end result and they get fired. They dont believe in the illusional perfect employee and know that they're people, just like them.

    I agree though, giving every employee a console is a bad idea. Not because you're giving every single one a console, but because you aren't encouraging socializing. You know how many places you have to socialize after you leave school (college or high school)? Bars and work. Friends usually start to mellow out as they get their own families and lives. It can really brighten your day if you get to spend part of it talking to others and maybe some of that talk will relate to that half hour problem... which is then cut down to 10 mins.

    Socializing produces amazing results and productivitiy. Never underestimate the importance of morale.

    Now, unlike the above posters I work for a company every summer, a very small company. It has two full time employees, one part time depending on workload, 'the boss', and me during the summer.

    The boss is a no show and one of those that believes after they setup a good system they don't need to do anything, but reap the rewards and come in once in awhile to do administrative work.

    Which leaves one of the full time employees to do all the work they're supposed to and part of the bosses workload as they either expect them to do the work or they get pushed into doing it over the phone.

    Now he has a computer, his desk, a window(!!!!) the usual setup. Nothing outside of the ordinary and makes the day slow as hell. He comes around and talks all the time when he has nothing better to do or is bored. I found out that he used to play games of some sorts so I decided to hook him up with a copy of Flight Simulator X and a joystick for his birthday.

    Now our talks everyday usually include where he was and is flying to and what aircraft he is using. Keep in mind the sort of work we do is pretty straightforward and easy to finish when you're on task.

    The thing about Flight Simulator, sims in general compared to other games, is you can just let them go and don't require that much interaction. He actually uses the game as a screen saver while he is working becaues it takes time to get somewhere and if you've seen how scenic FSX is, it's a very good dynamic wallpaper that changes.

    If you're that concerned about tanking productivity, just start them out with a simulator. It's quite a bit better then working at your desk, but doesn't grab your attention nearly as much as something like a FPS.

    I would have to disagree, the company that had people playing AoE at lunch time would be amazing. Even if they go over their lunchtime a bit, miniture lan parties like that will shoot your morale, productivity, and comraderie through the roof. I can almost guarentee they didn't take breaks for the rest of the day if that was at lunch time and I'm sure they didn't before that. Going to work is a drag and usually there isn't much of anything to look forward to in the day.
    Regardless of motivation, being excited to go to work each day is something rather... extrodinary.

    I would also like to point out that if you're on break, regardless of playing games or sipping coffee while browsing slashdot, you aren't required by any means to help customers. I guess that's why you have a break area so it doesn't look like anyones home.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @06:56PM (#25512765) Homepage

    It most certainly does not align with the 'culture' of any kind of functional workplace...

    Thank you, Mr. Conventional Wisdom. I've had video games in the office with few problems. In the old days, we'd have a frag fest after hours and we played another team game called Netrek. We still got our work done.

    And I'm going to have a game consoles in the new office. Planned on having it in by now but I had to slide it two quarters due to budget issues. Ping pong, foosball, Wii...as long as we're hitting our production deadlines and I can make my numbers nobody's questioning my judgment.

    In my first couple months I managed to slash production and licensing costs while shortening delivery schedules. So, right now, with the numbers I'm putting up, if I wanted to install a brothel and could convince them it was legal, I could probably get away with it.

    I don't want to hire people limited by old-style, conventional development methodologies. We couldn't find a framework that was just right for one of our projects, so the guys wrote one. Those are the kind of people I like working with. If you want someone who thinks out of the box, why would you want to hire someone comfortable in a box?

  • by Vandil X (636030) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @10:52AM (#25517495)
    ...don't take lunch at your desk!

    (No, really. If something melts down during your 30mins/1hr break, make them page/call you. Life will not end if your desk is unmanned for lunch.)

    Take your lunch:
    • at an outside table.
    • in your car (in the lot)
    • in your car (drive someplace and park)
    • at home (if reasonably close by)
    • at the less often used break room.

    Need entertainment during the desk-less break?

    • Get an iPhone or something else with a real browser and internet access.
    • Get a Nintendo DS/PSP.
  • by porcupine8 (816071) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @10:58AM (#25517559) Journal
    Any condition implies distrust. Any distrust clearly spells out: "so what that there is a deadline tomorrow noon, they don't trust me to know what I do, so I stick to 8 hours".

    Definitely. I just heard about some "revolutionary" new book (Work Sucks or something like that?) that suggests letting employees 100% set their own hours, as long as the work gets done it doesn't matter when. The comments about it were all kind of in awe - and I'm thinking, uh, this is how it's worked in academia pretty much forever. And the professors I know are just about the most productive people you could possibly imagine. Is it really taking business this long to figure this out? As long as the work gets done, why does it matter what time people come or go, play video games or write a report?

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Monday October 27, 2008 @01:12AM (#25523641) Journal

    Is that the best you can come up with? Lol.. Do you actually think attempting to attack me over a moniker I picked on my own is going to do anything but make you look stupid?

    Serious dude, if you got something to worth saying, say it. You shouldn't need to use personal attacks to do that unless there is something wrong with what you want to say.

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