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Training Games

The military has used video games as a training tool since the 1980s. Now the practice is catching on with companies, too, ranging from Cold Stone to Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO ) to Canon Inc. (CAJ ) Corporate trainers are betting that games’ interactivity and fun will hook young, media-savvy employees like Holshouser and help them grasp and retain sales, technical, and management skills. “Video games teach resource management, collaboration, critical thinking, and tolerance for failure,” says Ben Sawyer, who runs Digitalmill Inc., a game consultancy in Portland, Me..

Companies like video games because they are cost-effective. Why pay for someone to fly to a central training campus when you can just plunk them down in front of a computer? Even better, employees often play the games at home on their own time. Besides, by industry standards, training games are cheap to make. A typical military game costs up to million, while sophisticated entertainment games can cost twice that. Since the corporate variety don’t require dramatic, warlike explosions or complex 3D graphics, they cost a lot less. BreakAway Games Ltd., which designs simulation games for the military, is finishing its first corporate product, V-bank, to train bank auditors. Its budget? Just 0,000. Read more: On-the-job Video Gaming, Business Week Online

Funny that I should stumble upon this article. Last night, I was talking to a friend of mine who took her masters in urban planning and I mentioned that it might be fun learning a bit about urban planning by playing SIM City. Unfortunately, she said her professors usually sneer at that idea, because developing a whole city is far more complicated than the game really makes it out to be. Of course it is, but I’m sure there must be some equally sound principles in that game as well. A computer game that could be exceptionally challenging, I think, would be one that would require the player to develop a sustainable city. You will need to conduct environmental and cultural risk assessments, explore renewable energy options, think about proper zoning, and develop a proper waste management system. The more difficult levels will have you obtaining permits, speaking with various consultants, engineers, and corporate bigwigs, and dealing with the most crooked politicians. Eventually, you will need to make over an existing city and make it more sustainable.

Done correctly, I imagine that kind of game would probably train anyone interested in a career in city management and development, since it will ideally cover every possible aspect of such an undertaking. It’s also bound to be educational for the average gameplayer as well.

But anyway, back to training games. I’ve often wondered how effective these could possibly be, but it sort of makes sense now. Put someone through flight simulation and that person is bound to pick up something from it. Develop a video game for advertising, sales, and marketing people that will set targets for them and allow them to try out various strategies to use in different situations and for all we know, that will teach them to develop more effective strategies.

I wouldn’t be surprised if people take an interest in such games. It’s a complete cliché, but something educational can be fun after all. Of course, companies shouldn’t just rely on video games to train their employees, but these can at least be fun extra training options. An hour of video game training probably won’t hurt, plus it gives employees an authorized break from their duties.

(This isn’t exactly a training game, but check out Lemonade Game anyway. It lets you run a lemonade stand for a whole month, and you need to take into account the number of passersby, the weather, lemon spoilage, and supplies, among other things.)


About the Author: Lynn Lopez has been deeply interested in a career as a writer since her elementary school days and is proud to have actively gone down that road for several years now. A graduate of the University of the Philippines, she took up History (with a cognate in Comparative Literature) due to a strong interest in precolonial Philippines and also to escape the Department of Speech Pathology where she originally belonged. During college, she discovered the world of web design and decided to create her own websites, using the most readily-available tool back then for web design newbies: GeoCities. After graduating in 2002, she entered the magazine publishing industry, working as a webmaster and contributing writer for some of the country's popular lifestyle publications. Her job requires her to maintain three women's websites on a daily and monthly basis as well as complete product reviews and feature articles whenever they're assigned.

Beyond writing and web design, her hobbies and interests lie in food, books, travel, debunking urban and Internet myths, and castigating people for crimes against the English language. She's currently pleased to have an opportunity to write about important issues and discover more about business and environmental matters.


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