Today, 3 billion people on the planet play video games, and Microsoft believes it’s going to grow to 4.5 billion people by 2030. Games have a unique and powerful ability to enable collaboration, break down barriers, build rapport, spark imagination, and create empathy. Gaming allows strangers to come together and work as a team to achieve a goal, even if they don’t speak the same language, have never met, live in a different part of the world, or have different abilities. 

Microsoft corporate vice president of Xbox Sarah Bond explains what games can teach us about the future of work. In the hybrid era, more and more employees are discovering how to communicate and collaborate with other team members across town or on the other side of the globe by using chat, streaming audio and video, and avatars in 3D virtual spaces. But in video games, these forms of collaboration have been available for decades. 

In this episode, Bond shares insights on what games can tell us about the next phase of the hybrid era. As companies explore new ways to enable teamwork, including forays into the metaverse, they can learn a lot about how to best proceed from games.

Three big takeaways from this conversation: 

  1. Bond connects the experience of tackling challenges in games to Carol Dweck’s idea of a growth mindset. “Frequently when I start playing a game, I have no idea what to do. I try things, I die, but then I come back and I try again and again and again. I’ve invested that time in it, and learned how it works and figured out the mechanics, and I can do something I couldn’t have imagined being able to do. Gaming, by its very nature, teaches you that if you keep working at it, something that seems impossible, you can master it.”

  2. Many companies are struggling to create their own virtual worlds and metaverses, but Bond stresses the importance of making sure that there’s a compelling and non-toxic experience at the center of it. “It’s not just about creating an avatar and putting it in a virtual world. It’s about there being a reason for being there, and that’s what games give you. They give you a motivation, something that you could accomplish. And it’s also about creating a space where people believe that they can express themselves in a way that’s safe and inclusive.”

  3. Games are the only medium where you can accomplish something in coordination with other people that you have never met, you don’t know what they look like—maybe you don’t even speak the same language. “That’s very powerful and important in today’s society, where the breadth of the different cultures and experiences that we encounter is wider and more varied than it ever has been before in human history. In business, so much of what we’re investing in are tools to enable that exact same experience, to take down barriers like time zone and to auto-translate. It allows so many more perspectives and new opportunities for collaboration.”

WorkLab is a place for experts to share their insights and opinions. As students of the future of work, Microsoft values inputs from a diverse set of voices. That said, the opinions and findings of the experts we interview are their own and do not reflect Microsoft’s own research or opinions. 

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Here’s a transcript of the Episode 3 conversation.

TONYA MOSLEY: This is WorkLab , the podcast from Microsoft. I’m your host, Tonya Mosley. On WorkLab we hear from leading thinkers on the future of work—economists, technologists, researchers. They all share surprising data and explore the trends transforming the way we work. 

SARAH BOND: When people talk about a metaverse experience, talking about a digital world that’s immersive, that can hold millions of people simultaneously who have individual identities. And I look at all of that and I realize that, as Microsoft, we have all those capabilities because we know how to build a game, and all of those things exist in a game.