Information Management: Game Over

Asteroids. Pong. Pac-man. Do you remember playing your first electronic video game?

Personally I remember back what must be at least 20 years, where my brother and I sat down to play hours of Daley Thompson’s Decathlon on the Sinclair Spectrum. Just thinking about it now gives me RSI 1

Why do I mention it? Well as you may have heard, or indeed purchased, we have recently seen the dawn of the next ‘generation’ of games consoles from Sony (PlayStation 4) and Microsoft (Xbox One). The sheer scale of challenges faced by the video games industry actually made me think about my own role, and the wider Knowledge and Information Management profession.

The growing worldwide success of gaming has had to overcome challenges such as perception, formats, and engagement – something that should resonate with information management professionals. Those staff must be able to influence behaviour, embrace new technology, and get their message across to a wide audience. Just as Sony or Microsoft will aim to do this Christmas.

Just for fun I thought I’d explore this comparison a little more with another Information Management blog ‘mashup’ 2 – Are there common themes that run through the information management profession and video gaming?

Motor car game 'TOOF-TOOF' (1901)

1901 Motor car board game 'TOOF-TOOF'. The predecessor to Gran Turismo? (ref. COPY 1/180/10)

Let’s find out:

Mobile working vs. mobile gaming: Creating content on the move

The original Gameboy popularised mobile gaming in the 1980s, but the introduction of mobile phones (particularly ‘smart’ phones) have ensured that electronic games of some sort are never out of reach. Those who were previously unlikely to log 100 hours at home on Skyrim: Elder Scrolls are now turning to Angry Birds, Candy Crush or Farmville to fill a few minutes of boredom on the train. Their successes mean that users are increasingly on the move whilst creating and interacting with their games – something which really compares with how people work with records.

Having access to corporate information on the move is important, and increasingly laptops, Blackberries, tablets and a host of other devices are being used to create records on the go. The challenge here for record managers is to ensure that users are free to create and exploit information, whilst doing so in a secure and managed environment.

Retro appeal vs. historical value: Identifying the ‘golden oldies’

Isn’t it funny that through all the technological advances in gaming, the oldies are sometimes still the best? Whilst games are created primarily for the enjoyment of those playing at the time, the value of some video games endures beyond the lifecycle of the hardware it is found on. For example, those familiar with Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 will still fondly recall how it shaped the 3-D first person shooter genre, and revolutionised offline multi-player experience. Also think about how Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Asteroids all have become a part of not only video game history, but wider popular culture.

The National Archives is responsible for collecting records which display similar qualities – those which document the development and evolution of government policy, as well as events which define our national history. Only by identifying and understanding the value of the information you hold can you manage it in a way that ensures the important ‘stuff’ will survive as long as needed. This is particularly true of digital information, which will need to be preserved through changes in technology so that we may retain their usability.

Generation vs. emulation: Keeping up with shifting formats

The video games industry is reliant on emerging technology to deliver state-of-the-art functionality and graphics to the user. This means that formats are always changing, both in terms of hardware and software. For a look at how far we’ve come, just compare the old cartridge style media of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES, 1986) to the Blu-Ray discs on the new PlayStation 4 (PS4, 2013); or compare classic paddle game Pong (1972) to the open world crime caper, Grand Theft Auto V (2013). This kind of shift means that the user will need to ensure that they have the right hardware and systems to play the games they like.

Much like those wanting access to digital information. ‘Format obsolescence’ is the term coined for losing access through incompatibility of current media or software, and is a real issue for those needing to retain digital records for long periods of time. In this case prevention is more efficient than restoration – maintain an ongoing understanding of the location, ownership and format for your records, and you can manage them accordingly. Don’t do this, and you risk having to pay handsomely for someone to restore, re-format or even just find your data.

 

Developing a game in today’s market is about getting people to buy-in to an idea and adopt a way of working. This is exactly the same for selling the benefits and consequences of good information management – it is really important that organisations make a commitment to good record-keeping, so that they may mitigate risks but also unlock the value of information to the business.

If we can’t do this then for preserving a legacy through digital records, I’m afraid it may be Game Over.

Notes:

  1. 1. Repetitive strain injury – does anyone else remember how quickly you had to tap those buttons to make Daley Thompson run? ^
  2. 2. Mashup – noun, informal. Phenomenon of combining or fusing two disparate sources to create a new product that is somehow more awesome than the sum of its original components. ^
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