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September 22, 2020
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Designing Business Simulation Games for Global Good

by Kunal Oogorah on 08/25/20 10:32:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Most games are birthed by an idea. But we engineered ours to solve three of the biggest global problems: income inequality, unemployment, and access to education. How do you attempt to tackle these issues on a global scale when all you have is a team of average Joes? Where do you even begin?

For us, we began with what we loved, video games. That’s how Visionaries was born. But before we get into that, let’s briefly discuss the problems of income inequality, unemployment, and access to education.

The link between income inequality, unemployment, and access to education is a complex one. Research reveals mixed results on which type of education, primary, secondary, or tertiary, is most suitable for improving gainful employment and reducing inequality. However, one thing remains clear, to reduce income inequality and unemployment, we need to democratize access to quality education. A 2019 Oxfam paper written by Jo Walker and co., titled The power of education to fight inequality, makes a compelling case for this.

Armed with this observation, we broke our goal into three components:

  • Core Idea: What sort of education is required to drive job creation and reduce income inequality?
  • Delivery Method: How could we help deliver it?
  • Channel: If we could, how could we package it so that many people would consume it?

The answer to the first question was straightforward: practical business education and specialized skills training. We decided to focus on delivering business education.

For the answer to the other two questions, we turned to video games. The fact that there are now more than 2.5 billion gamers worldwide seemed to take care of the method of delivery. If we embedded business concepts and mechanics in an entertaining video game, we could distribute it to millions of people seeking entertainment globally.

Now, how to do that successfully?

In his 2003 publication, What games have to teach us about learning and literacy, James Gee explained how game environments enable players to acquire understanding actively and at individual paces. Well-designed games allow players to advance on different paths and at different rates in response to each player’s interests and abilities while fostering just-in-time learning.

study carried out in 2007 by Nick Yee and Jeremy Bailenson at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, went further to demonstrate how people’s behavior in virtual gaming environments influences their behavior in real life. Known as The Proteus Effect, this phenomenon has therapeutic applications in behavioral modification, phobia desensitization, and personal empowerment.

Clearly, for our plan to work, we needed to utilize the Proteus Effect by creating games that will entertain and inspire future players to start successful real-life businesses. The best game genre for this, in our opinion, would be Simulation Games.

With this in mind, we set out to create a business simulation series called Business Heroes. A series of business simulation video games designed to stir up entrepreneurship in players by immersing them in a world with plenty of business mechanics to explore. The series will entertain and expose players to practical business management principles that will ultimately empower them to be actual “business heroes.”

The first Business Heroes simulation game to be released is a food truck business. Business Heroes: Food Truck Simulation is a single & multiplayer, turn-based, food truck simulation game designed to provide players with the knowledge, experience, and confidence required to start a real-world business. We scheduled the test phase for early access release on Steam in February 2021 and launch on mobile platforms after that.

The game’s goal is for players to start and grow a successful food truck business and fulfill their dreams. Players must make business decisions based on weather and economic conditions, customer preference, unexpected occurrences, and stock cost/availability. All the while, players receive valuable business lessons from the detailed small business guide embedded in the game and delivered by Master Lee, the in-game business mentor.

To heighten realism for players, we are simulating nearly accurate weather patterns, currency, and pricing based on the capital city in which the player chooses to start.

We have a Kick-starter campaign planned for December this year. We are working feverishly to make it a success, even though we know that there are no guarantees with these things.

To ensure we execute well, we are applying a social game design strategy by getting interested gamers to contribute to different aspects of the game’s development. You are welcome to join the Discord server for this purpose. We’d be glad to have you.

If you are not on discord, you can sign up for our mailing list on https://businessheroes.cool to get the latest development updates.

At Visionaries, our ultimate vision is to empower, entertain, and educate the world through the power of business simulation games and, hopefully, reduce global income inequality, unemployment, and access to education.


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