IT Managers Really Can Save The World

Some schools of logic dictate that promotions and advertising are all about mind games. Managed services provider First World Corp. has succeeded in blending a kind of goodwill game laced with a number of plugs for its own image with the creation of a game designed to alleviate stress in IT managers.

Still in beta test mode, “First World: The IT Security Game” is free, but won’t be available from its host company’s site for another week or two. Still, it’s worth taking a look at.

The game lets a player put themselves in the role of IT manager, who bears the burden of with too many responsibilities and too few resources. As with many similar games, the player is out to save the world from a motley crew of crazy and weird characters. What’s different, however, is the game’s microcosmic scale — the world of databases and networks.

There are data- and intrusion-thirsty spammers, pingers, data thieves and corporate spies, all of whom must be combated with a select weapon, ranging from a garbage can lid as a shield, to a high-end personal digital assistant.

Allow me to offer my own experience and humble review.

In the first level, I was confronted by a vicious guy name Ping in a karate robe. I was asked to choose between six weapons: a paper shredder, shield, flame thrower, staple gun, a PDA and CDs (that’s right — compact discs!). Ping began pinging me violently. Not being an IT manager, I tried every weapon I thought would be plausible in killing the bad guy, but to no avail.

In the end, I was given this epitaph:

“You’ve been pinged to death. Your network just suffered a fatal denial-of-service attack because your detection and defense systems are outdated.”

To my surprise, the creators managed to slip an advertising plug for one of its products in the next line:

“Next time, remember that First World’s FirstScan Monitoring System watches your system like a hawk and detects any suspicious activity.”

I tried again, undaunted.

Finally frustrated after four rounds of watching my several-thousand-dollar servers blow up in my virtual face, I gave up.

When Eric Dafforn, content director for First World’s PR firm called, I told him about my troubles.

Dafforn said I was supposed to fend off the pings with the garbage can lid. Is that how an IT manager does it? Kind of low-tech in this high-tech world, isn’t it? But seriously, the game is not designed an instructional tool on how to defend the company’s jewels, it’s an IT professional’s worse nightmare a session of comic relief.

Its graphics are pretty clean and the cast of villains, ranging from a zit-faced hacker to a mad computer scientist, are definitely amusing. It’s no fancy “Quake,” but it’s certainly no Jurassic “Space Invaders” either. On a scale of one to 10, I’d rate “First World: The IT Security Game” a six. My biggest knock, as I explained to Dafforn, was that I wasn’t able to shoot anything in the first round.

I told him I would make the first villain a player faced susceptible to being taken out with the staple gun or the flame thrower — it’s easier for novice gamers, whose instincts are to shoot and kill, to grasp.

Finally, putting particulars of the game aside, the play doubles as a nifty advertising tactic.

The game links to the First World site, where players learn that the firm is, in fact, not a gaming company, but a managed and dedicated services provider that fulfills collocation needs of small- and medium sized businesses.

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