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Microsoft Says Teams Games for Work App Inspires Teamwork and Fun
In a move that wasn’t announced in the Microsoft 365 roadmap or as a Microsoft 365 message center notification, Microsoft released the Games for Work app to enterprise and education tenants on November 16. An article on the Microsoft 365 blog reported that “Playing games with coworkers has a powerful ability to foster relationships and collaboration” and that “With the move to remote and hybrid work, our social capital has weakened, impacting cross-group collaboration and employee retention.”
Games for Work is an app developed by Microsoft Casual Games, an Xbox Games studio (the app is in pilot status. It includes four games: Solitaire, Minesweeper, Wordament, and Icebreakers, all of which can be played individually or with multiple players (from 2 to 250 people).
Characteristics of the Teams Games for Work App
It’s fair to assert that the pandemic weakened the personal links that connect people together. It’s not only the workplace. Losing the chance to interact with others at in-person technology conferences has also not helped. However, I’m uncertain that playing games with co-workers in Teams meetings will foster relationships and build collaboration. I’ve heard the same from many others, so here’s how to remove the Games for Work app from Teams.
First, we need to understand the characteristics of the Games for Work app. Like all Teams app, Games for Work shows up under apps in the Teams admin center (Figure 1). Like all Teams apps, before someone can launch the app, the Teams app permission policy assigned to their account must include Games for Work. If you need to update the app permission policy to allow people to use Games for Work, remember that it can take several hours before the permission becomes effective.
Once a user has access to the app, they can add Games for Work to their meetings before or during a meeting, just like any other app. Meeting co-organizers and presenters can also install apps in meetings.
When Games for Work launches, it takes over the shared content area, just like any other shared app (like PowerPoint or Excel). The app connects to the Microsoft Games site (Games for Work must be online for function). With a connection, the host select the game to play and launches it (Figure 2). To stop playing, the user who starts the app (the host) stops sharing.
Some People Can’t Play Games
Different users can have different app permission policies. It’s therefore the case that not everyone in a meeting has the right to access Games for Work. If a user isn’t allowed to participate, they see a generic error message (Figure 3) with a hint that they might need to consult a Teams administrator to play.
If you want to use Games for Work without anyone else, you can create a meeting with only you as a participant and run the app. Don’t go away and leave the meeting running as Teams might consider it stale and automatically close the meeting after ten minutes!
More information about the app is available from its FAQ. Oddly, the FAQ is hosted on Zendesk.com, which perhaps speaks to a certain detachment between the studio that created the app and the Teams engineering group.
Closing Off Games for Work
The easy way to stop people using Games for Work is to block the app. If you decide that some people should be able to use the app, add the app to an app permissions policy and assign that policy to those users.
You could say that Games for Work helps people to relax in a pressurized world. I’m all for playing games, but perhaps not in a Teams meeting, even as a break in an otherwise stressful event.
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