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How To Deploy a Game Console In the Office? 310

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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  • Quake worked (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dwat001 ( 513384 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:41PM (#25510383)

    I was in an office where we had a culture of approx 3 10 minute Quake games a day, multi-player all in.

    With the occasional after work longer session. We found a quick 10 min game increased productivity reduced stress and was good for the team.

    part of what worked was that we all played at the same time so we could yell and woop and curse.

  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @02:09PM (#25510621) Journal

    Assuming its a modern console, that's at a minimum $199/person.

    Minimum wage is still going to be over $10k/year. Developers don't work minimum wage.

    I've had a company laptop that was easily $1-2k. Conservatively, a decent beige-box workstation is still going to be around $500.

    If a company is balking at spending an additional $200/person, that company needs to have its priorities examined, and very likely, some heads need to roll. Even if you consider the games, warranty, etc, there's no way it's going to add up to any significant fraction of the money spent on a good employee, or the value derived from a good employee -- especially a happy employee.

    That said...

    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.

    That is, in every way, a good idea. Maybe more than one, maybe more than one common area, depending on the size of the company, but the principle is the same.

    But in no way should price even enter into this.

  • Re:Confused (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YttriumOxide ( 837412 ) <yttriumox@@@gmail...com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @04:28PM (#25511621) Homepage Journal

    It's not a case of "nothing to do", but instead "downtime between things to do". I don't work helpdesk, but I do know the sort of thing the GP is talking about.
    I spend most of my days writing code. Sometimes, I have to attend meetings. Sometimes, these meetings are scheduled for stupid times like 1pm. If I finish eating lunch at 12:30, there's NO WAY I'm going to try to get in to the coding mindset just to write a couple of lines and then get out of it again for a meeting, so instead I'll just "play around" for 30 minutes.
    Also, being a programmer, I sometimes need to "step back" from what I'm doing, clear my head and relax in order to move on to the next bit of code. Generally, I'll just go for a smoke in these cases, but sometimes I'll post to Slashdot, reply to personal emails, or just get lost following semi-random Wikipedia links for awhile. My boss has no problem with any of this - I write good code, deliver on time (or often WELL before) and fulfil all aspects of my job to a very high standard. Why should it matter if I "waste" some time during office hours?

  • Re:Confused (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @04:51PM (#25511809) Homepage

    I don't work helpdesk, but I do know the sort of thing the GP is talking about.

    For the record, I didn't mean to claim that this was in any way unique to helpdesk jobs. It was just meant to be an obvious example of a tech job where you're effectively "on call". When starting out, I had a couple helpdesk jobs where I was literally paid to be present in an office in case a problem came up. I would ask my boss if he wanted me to do anything during that time, and he said he didn't have anything for me to do except to be there. It was my job to sit at my desk 9-6 every day, regardless of how slow the day was or how bored I got, and look professional. There were plenty of days where I had a few uninterrupted hours of "nothing to do", and could have played video games, without hurting my performance, except that it violated the "look professional" part of the job. In a different work environment, video games might have been fine. It's pretty clear-cut.

    Now almost all jobs have some kind of occasional downtime, but I would imagine being a developer makes the issue a little more obscure. Even if your job is very project-oriented, there might be cases where someone very productive might finish their project early, and that person might just need to wait for coworkers to catch up. Like let's say you and I are working on interlocking parts, I finish my part before you finish yours, and I can't continue my work until you finish yours. You only need another hour to complete your job, which given the workflow of the company means that I don't have time find another project to work on, and I've already finished a lot of my side projects. So maybe I take an hour break. What's the problem?

    Being productive and getting other people to be productive really isn't that simple. Being a good manager requires being creative and adapting to the situation. It's difficult and complex, which is why there are so many bad managers out there-- and even decent managers screw things up often enough.

  • by BaShildy ( 120045 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:26PM (#25512033) Homepage

    But that's because we're a game development studio. No one uses their consoles for non-work related games in-hours because it would be a heavy distraction. We have a separate big screen and console setup for social gaming outside of work and that separation prevents distraction. Having games at work is great and can boost morale. But the work desk is for work. Morale wise you'll be hurting the team by having people play games at their desk because no one will agree on when its appropriate.

    Take your budget and buy a poker table and beer instead. Each week we play poker on Friday in the conference room at 5PM on the mark with company provided beer. Fridays are sometimes the most productive as everyone is in a hurry to get their stuff done because the game always takes place on-time. The non poker players hang out in the president's office which becomes a lounge. Everybody talks to each other, new employees are instantly thrust into the company culture and social life, and everybody lets off a little steam. Playing for small stakes lets boss and subordinate interact at the same level.

    Use your budget for activities that can be done in groups or in teams. Sports, Poker, even multiplayer Video Games are great for team building but a "toy" on everybody's desk would be disastrous in any school or work environment.

  • Re:Confused (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:46PM (#25512175)

    Heh, sorry about that. My comment probably came across as a bit snarky, when I was going more for funny. In truthfulness, I think things like ping-pong/foozeball/pool tables are a fun diversion for employees as long as they can be located out of the way, where they won't be a visual or audio distraction to people trying to work.

    I happen to be fairly sensitive to noise distractions - I'm most productive when I have silence to concentrate on my coding. If it gets too bad, I found that listening to movie/tv soundtracks or classical music on my headphones works moderately well, as it is not too distracting to me and can help cover up other noises.

  • Re:Confused (Score:3, Interesting)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @09:07PM (#25513527)

    We bought an Xbox at my last job.

    It kept people in the office longer. The longer they were in the office the more likely they were to stick around and work longer instead of leaving the moment it became convenient.

    It created an environment where people would come during their free time and actually worked longer hours.

    It improved morale dramatically. The project was under NDA to the point where we had to black out windows on doors, secure site etc etc. As a result it converted the room from a prison to a 'hang-out'.

    It kept people around during long renders. As a visual effects project you often have 30minute to an hour long blocks of time where you are just waiting to see if your work is looking right. You can't run software because every computer is rendering. So you play an XBox through the Dell 24" LCD without taking up any company processing cycles. So instead of "going to get a coffee" and having to find something to do for an hour it kept you in the same room watching progress and being ready to jump back into work as soon as it was done.

    The company that I'm working at right now just added an XBox this week. It does a couple of things. One it keeps clients around. The more clients are around the easier it is to communicate with them. The happier they are. The more they want to work with us. A happy client is a return client. It gives us the workers something to do again when we're rendering or literally have nothing to do. Sometimes it's a slow day and we're waiting on approval for something. The only thing we can do during these times is sitting around or internal speculative projects. But after working through the weekend. Working 10 hour days and quite honestly putting in many more hours than expected it's nice to be able to unwind. As people get 'burned out' they get less and less productive. There have been numerous studies where groups who worked straight with minimal breaks perform less efficiently than those who take numerous breaks and work "less hours" but still accomplish more. That's why we have weekends and try to keep work less than 50 hour weeks. It's just more productive in the long term. You don't have employees half asleep at their desks.

  • by tzhuge ( 1031302 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @11:14PM (#25514375)

    Thank you, Mr. dotcom Wisdom?

    I'm sorry but I find your post incredibly disingenuous. There is no way you really believe that what distinguishes your 'unconventional development methodologies' from 'conventional development methodology' is the perks. You yourself said you could put in the brothel and 'get away with it'. Have you considered that maybe that's exactly what spending company money on game consoles is? Something you get away with, and not something that actually contributes to making your numbers, or making your team happy. Have you considered that maybe 'the guys' enjoyed the challenge of writing the framework, and they didn't go the extra mile because there are video games at work (and the company paid for it... certainly it's impossible to game with co-workers on someone's personal property)? You really want to defend a culture of perks as the key to your success?

    I'm going to propose the crazy idea that maybe, just maybe, you can create a fun, casual, and flexible workplace without spending company money on game consoles. Oh, and conversely, you can buy all the game consoles you want for a code-mill and still not create a fun and creative workplace.

  • by Taint Bearer ( 957479 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @03:45AM (#25515591)
    We have a Wii at my work, and it is very easy to have a quick game against someone in a 10 min break. Its just set up with a LCD TV set off to the side of the lunch room, and is very non-intrusive.

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner