Everything you need to know about business games

The so-called business games have become very popular. Whether at renowned universities or major multinationals, video games have become the perfect tool for teaching how to start up a business or manage product supply chains. While that’s all well and good, what are business games exactly? What are their benefits and most prominent examples?

Business games

Business games are used for teaching skills and concepts related to economics or the business world. This could include contents on corporate or business management, finances, human resources, negotiations or trading shares on the stock market.

Most of these games use simulators to imitate real life and favor experiential learning. So much so that business games are also referred to as business simulation games.

Business games initially followed the spirit of experiments carried out in the 1950s by the US Army to train its soldiers. By the 1960s, different universities incorporated business games in their economics and business departments, where board games and experiential activities were used to teach students. Video games eventually took their place and still continue evolving, forcing their way into learning institutions such as Harvard or corporations such as Coca-Cola.

What are the advantages of business games?

There is a simple explanation for the growing popularity of business games: they work. Overwhelming scientific evidence confirms that the use of games and simulators improve the learning process. Why? There are at least three reasons:

  1. Learning by doing. The secret to success of business games resides in their capacity to represent real-life problems and afford the direct practice of knowledge and skills via simulators. Learners are given a safe environment (therefore lacking economic risks) to immerse themselves in the same corporate issues that company executives face regularly, responding and interacting with them from the very beginning.

2. Interactive learning. Another key aspect of business games is their capability to capture learner engagement and participation. Numerous studies demonstrate that our brains remember knowledge better if we actively participate or interact when learning it. Compared to classroom-based or video lessons, business games bolster the direct participation, including emotional involvement, of the learners.

3. Cost reduction. Even though developing a good business game requires time, knowledge and money, once created, economies of scale entail an enormous competitive advantage. Unlike classroom lessons, these business games can be quickly and securely implemented anywhere in the world. Many of the best business games currently available only require learners to have smartphones and an Internet connection.

Examples of business games

Though something of a quirk in the beginning, there are currently an enormous amount of business games on the market. The following are only 4 of the most salient ones:

  • Capitalism. First published in 1995, this video game soon became a business game classic. Used by Harvard and Stanford universities, Capitalism helps students understand and tackle the challenges of virtually every company and sector (marketing, distribution, manufacturing or import/export). Its latest version, Capitalism Lab, was released in 2012.
  • Beer distribution game. Designed by the business school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) toward the end of the 1960s, this game has often been reinterpreted and reworked. It was designed to teach all the secrets of supply and distribution chains (with cost overruns, delays and multiple suppliers).
  • SimCity. This legendary video game is centered on the process of building and managing a city. Players must build transportation services and utilities such as water supplies, electricity, sanitation or education while attuning their budgets (raising or lowering taxes, changing budgetary items, etc.) to satisfy the needs of their citizens. Another similar, critically acclaimed game is Cities: Skylines.
  • Merchants. Players of this business game are transported back to medieval Venice to engage in multiple “real” negotiations regarding the shipment of goods, silk trade or sovereignty of various Mediterranean islands. This video game imparts all the secrets and techniques of negotiations and has been highly successful in companies across the globe.

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