For a few weeks now, we’ve been using this Venture Strategy Simulation both inside and outside the class. As you know, this kind of software is usually called “Serious Game” and aims to give us knowledge and skills in an innovative and non traditionnal (at least in a college context) way: by playing.
This idea of “learning by playing” is not that recent, and seems to have already been used a few centuries ago, in a military context, in order to help officers studying war strategy. However, this new trend of informatic educative games is pretty recent (early 2000’s) but represents a really fast growing market. Nowadays, an astonishing number of areas are covered by these Serious Games: Health, Environment, Science, Politics, Economics…
Yet, and despite the numerous papers and studies about the great efficiency of this new kind of learning, I’ve always been a bit sceptical about it. Not that I don’t believe in the extrordinary potential of video games (it’s actually quite the opposite), but I’ve already played one of those Serious Games in the past, and it didn’t convinced me at all. The whole point was actually pretty similar to the one we’re currently playing: we were to learn how to manage a company by making economic, logistic and marketing decisions, and competing with other groups. We had to manage a hostel by groups of 4, to choose the “rank” of the hostel (basically Mercedes or Workhorse), and to make it prosper during 6 quarters as well. In a nutshell, the purpose was the same, even though the actual software was pretty much simpler and less detail-oriented that this Marketplace.
In any case, I felt that this game was not really helpful: we didn’t have a real control over a few important things, such as advertisement, but in the other hand, we had so much data and numbers each quarter that it was pretty difficult to understand anything. As a result, most teams basically made their choices quite randomly, which led to pretty unusual outcomes (the team which had been leading for 5 first quarters actually ended up to be the last one in the end, and among the other teams, drastic and unlikely turnarounds happened each quarter). In the end, I don’t remember much of the concepts, and I don’t think I’ve learned a lot through this game.
However, this year, I’ve been completely astonished by this Marketplace experience. All the data provided is clear and useful, we have control (sometimes limited though) over almost everything, we have this feeling that every decision we make is really taken into account, and above all, there is this”I don’t know what” which makes me really involved in the game, which makes me want to try my best to make this business work! In addition, I really feel like I’m learning things, probably through this “learning by doing” paradigm: thinking long term, understanding the market, the customer needs, the financial parts of a company, trying to anticipate competitors’ moves and of course, teamwork! Hearing everyone’s ideas, evaluating them, trying to combine them: it’s indeed a really great social experience! And finally, this game is actually perfectly in line with the two other courses I’m having, especially Management and Strategy, which gives me some tools I can apply to this Venture Simulation, in order to see their results, to evaluate them, and to experience some new strategies myself based on these tools.
In the end, not only I believe that I’m actually learning a lot, but I also have a lot of fun preparing each quarter with the team, and that’s probably the important part, especially since this is supposed to be a game! Plus, the fact that we’re learning through a new and innovative way is pretty in line with the whole theme of this class! So, after all, I guess Serious Games are indeed pretty efficient, and in my opinion, this one manages to concile the values of “learning” AND “playing” perfectly well.
So I guess the only thing left to say is: Let the best team win!