More than a Game

 
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BY KEITH JACKSON II

VIDEO GAMES AND THE OFFICE DON'T GENERALLY MIX.

After all, employers want fewer distractions—not more—in a workplace already full of them. But increasingly, organizations are leveraging the entertainment value of games to create custom training tools that both engage and teach project professionals.

Research firm Gartner estimates that by 2014, some 70 percent of large companies will implement “gamification” techniques—using game mechanics for activities such as recruitment and training—for at least one business process. Market researcher M2 Research estimates that revenue from the gamification industry will reach US$938 million by 2014, up from less than US$100 million last year.

A number of big-name companies already use simulations in the workplace to incentivize work and increase productivity. Tech giant IBM uses a variety of gamification strategies, including video games that simulate various business scenarios and in which users can make a virtual city more efficient.

“I [DEVELOPED PM GAME] BECAUSE A YOUNG PROJECT MANAGER CAN'T PROVE HE'S A PROJECT MANAGER WITHOUT THE PROPER EXPERIENCE, AND IT'S VERY TOUGH TO GET THAT TYPE OF EXPERIENCE.”

—Neelov Kar, PMP, PM Game LLC, Dallas, Texas, USA

Gaming helps IBM's some 400,000 employees—roughly 40 percent of whom work remotely—connect and stay engaged, Chuck Hamilton, IBM's virtual learning leader, told The Wall Street Journal.

Of course, engagement is only half the battle. For a game to be a tool rather than a distraction, it must provide the user—and, in turn, the user's organization—with tangible benefits. That's a principle that Rotterdam, Netherlands-based Ranj Serious Games applied to its project management simulation Sharkworld, which targets young project professionals and recent graduates. The game puts the player in the role of a project manager taking over a project in China.

“In a sense, the essence of Sharkworld is that a player plays the starring part in an exciting movie on project management,” says Ranj Serious Games COO Albert-Jan Pomper. “Nowadays, we see a lot of entertaining games and initiatives that apply the same principles—interactive storytelling, using real actors and video using strong characters—as we do in Sharkworld.”

As with a traditional video game, gamified interactive simulations rely on fleshed-out storylines, realistic characters and lots of video to create a strong experience. The difference is, instead of slaying virtual monsters, the player completes tasks that relate to project work: creating schedules and budgets, and juggling sponsors, stakeholders and team members.

Neelov Kar, PMP, CEO of PM Game LLC, Dallas, Texas, USA, developed PM Game, an educational game aimed at giving a leg up to inexperienced project managers.

“I decided to do this because a young project manager can't prove he's a project manager without the proper experience, and it's very tough to get that type of experience,” says Mr. Kar. “Our goal is for organizations to use this game to test the knowledge of a project manager to ensure they are a good fit for their organization.”

He was inspired to create PM Game in part because of his son's success as a developer on Activision's bestselling Call of Duty series.

“I felt that it'd be a great way to teach people how to learn in a different but fun way,” Mr. Kar says. “The game is created to give people an opportunity to learn, but the key is to engage them so they retain the knowledge they receive from the game.”

One key to engagement can be through the development of project management simulators that are as complex and graphically driven as top-selling video games. The current crop isn't there yet, but the next generation could prove to be a major boon for organizations. The games will be more than eye-candy, though; they have the potential to be used for human resources training, safety courses and talent management.

With that versatility in mind, Mr. Kar is already looking to expand his game onto tablets and smartphone devices. Meanwhile, Mr. Pomper and his team are considering developing a sequel to Sharkworld, which will jump off from the conclusion of the original.

“Part two will give the player a lot of freedom to experiment, to make their own decisions and to experience the effects of their behavior,” Mr. Pomper says. “Secondly, we are investigating the integration of professional assessment into the game. This basically means that, based on the game and player's actions, a prediction can be made with respect to the player's project management skills.”

As these simulations become more complex, project professionals and the organizations for which they work will continue to see real benefits from the virtual world. PM

PM NETWORK AUGUST 2012 WWW.PMI.ORG
AUGUST 2012 PM NETWORK

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