Simulation Games: A New Paradigm for Teaching and Learning


By

Nikhilesh Kariya
M.Sc. (Statistics), PMIR, MBA (Marketing)
Lecturer in Statistics and Management Science
Vidya Bharati Institute of Research and PG Studies in Science and Management
C. K. Naidu Road, Camp, Amravati–444 603, Maharashtra
 


Abstract:

Management simulations have been around for a long time, but they have not taken full advantage for active learning environment. Simulation games are conducted to create enthusiasm among the players as well as to improve their managerial skills and traits.  But with the passage of time and technological up-gradation, simulation games are acquiring greater places in management decision-making and for managerial training.  These simulation games are designed according to the nature of the participants.  This research papers aims to explain the modern approach of management simulation and its applications.

Introduction:

Game is an activity providing entertainment or amusement.  For the purposes of learning, a game is meant to teach or instruct through fun or entertainment. A game is a recreational activity involving one or more players, defined by a goal that the players try to reach and some set of rules that determine what the players can do. Games are played primarily for entertainment or enjoyment.  Games can involve one player acting alone, but more often involve competition among two or more players. Games are best used to teach through analogy and to engage the learner more deeply in the process of learning. Often, a game can make a concept easier to understand by embedding the concept into the rules and play of the game. As people play the game, they can grasp the idea of how the concept actually works. When simplified and expressed in a fun, entertaining way, the learner can develop his or her own understanding. By focusing the attention of the learner on entertainment and fun, games also distract the learner from the process of learning. When the learning process disappears into the background, the learner's attention is on the immediate activity. This gets the learner emotionally involved in the game. As a result, learning that is embedded within the game makes a stronger impression, and is more likely to be retained and used. 

Simulation: A Management Game for Learners

One of the kinds of game is simulation game commonly called management game. A simulation game (also known as a game of status or mixed game) is a mixture of a game of skill, a game of chance and a game of strategy, a game of role-play, which results in an imitation of a complex structure.  Simulation is the representation of the operation or features of one process or system through the use of another.  A simulation is an imitation of some real device or state of affairs. Simulation attempts to represent certain features of the behavior of a physical or abstract system by the behavior of another system.  A game of skill is a game where the outcome is determined mainly by mental or physical skill. Its benefit is that they are a means of exploring one's own capabilities. Games encourage people to look at, understand, and experience things. They teach people lessons about themselves and possibly the world, and allow such insights to be passed on to others. A game of chance is a game whose outcome is strongly influenced by some randomizing device, and upon which contestants frequently wager money. Some games of chance may also involve a certain degree of skill. This is especially true where the player(s) have decisions to make based upon previous or incomplete knowledge. A game of strategy is a game where the outcome is influenced through interaction with the environment and other players. If played with pseudo artificial intelligence they often come close to being a game of skill.  Its benefit is the open interaction with other people. The game partners have similar starting points and evaluate how others humans may react under same conditions. So game strategies evolve with more or less spirit involved to get advantages and/or protect artfully.  A role-playing game (RPG) is a type of game where players assume the roles of fictional characters via role-playing. The role-playing games tend to focus on this aspect of behaviuor.  The role-playing games engage the participants actively, allowing them to simultaneously be audience, actor, and author.  In most role-playing games, participants play the parts of characters in an imaginary world.  Some newer role-playing games expand the players' powers beyond dictating the actions of their player characters.  RPGs usually have rules, which enable the players to determine the success or failure of their characters in their endeavors. Normally this will involve assigning certain abilities to each character.  Today, the Computer role-playing games (CPRG) depending on whether the game is played on a personal computer or on a video game console are quite popular. Nowadays, Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) are played exclusively online shared by thousands of other players simultaneously. These computerized simulations have become increasingly prominent over the last two decades. The most recent computer role-playing games have endeavored to incorporate social interaction via networking and the Internet.

Simulation: A Management Perspective

Simulation is the process of designing a model of a real or imagined system and conducting experiments with that model. The purpose of simulation experiments is to understand the behavior of the system or evaluate strategies for the operation of the system.  For example, a business may be interested in building a new factory to replace an old one, but is unsure whether the increased productivity will justify the investment. In this case, simulation would be used to evaluate a model of the new factory. The model would describe the floor space required, number of machines, number of employees, placement of equipment, production capacity of each machine, and the waiting time between machines. Simulation runs would then evaluate the system and provide an estimate of the production capacity and the costs of a new factory. This type of information is invaluable in making decisions without having to build an actual factory to arrive at an answer.

Simulation allows the analysis of a system's capabilities, capacities, and behaviors without requiring the construction of or experimentation with the real system. Since it is extremely expensive to experiment with an entire factory to determine its best configuration, a simulation of the factory can be extremely valuable.  Simulation is used in nearly every engineering, scientific, and technological discipline.  Today, the techniques are employed in the design of new systems, the analysis of existing systems, training for all types of activities, and as a form of interactive entertainment.  Designers turn to simulation to allow them to visualize a system that does not yet exist and for which they wish to achieve the optimum solution.  Training simulations recreate situations that people face on the job and stimulate the trainee to react to the situation until the correct responses are learned. These devices produce well-prepared personnel without the expense of making mistakes on the job.

Effective simulations do a lot of the things that games do, but in a different way and for different reasons. The purpose of the simulation is to present a simplified version of reality so that learners can interact with it and try out skills in a safe environment. A good simulation will present a situation in a way that captures only enough detail to accurately reflect the relationships between the parts of the simulated system. Simulation simplifies reality to just the essentials needed for the learning task. Unlike a game, however, the purpose is not to make the situation more fanciful or fun, but to make the situation as close to reality as possible. The reason for this emphasis on accuracy is that the more closely the learning environment resembles the environment in which the task will be performed, the greater the transfer of learning from training to the task environment will be. Like a game, learners will often become emotionally involved in a simulation and they produce good results.  With the help of the simulated task environment and feedback, the learner can make quick progress in skill development.  As the simulation places the student in the position of making business decision for their company through the key content areas of marketing, accounting, finance, production, etc. to describe the basic forms of business.  The objective is to offer an interactive and interesting way to learn about business basics with a content-rich resource. Simulation has proven to better enable students to understand and appreciate the role business plays in our economic system and our society. 

Benefits of Simulation Games:

Simulation games are conducted to ensure 100 per cent interaction among the participants and find it interesting and encouraging.  It encourages 100 per cent involvement to solve the problem under study.  This is an important tool for easy knowledge acquisition and skill up-gradation of the participants.  Simulation games improve the level of confidence among the players, which constantly develops their communication and interpersonal skills. It acts as refreshments for the participants and found to be entertaining, interesting and informative.

Simulation: A Historical Perspective

Management and Simulation games are gaining popularity as educational tools in fields ranging from humanitarian action to business management. Role-playing in simulation games provides flashes of insight, which improve the quality of our perception of others and of given situations. It changes the way we look at others.  The use of simulation games began to spread after the Second World War, notably to teach business management. The most popular of the early games, "Top Management Decision Simulation", was designed in 1956 by the American Management Association.  Danny Saunders, who publishes The International Simulation and Gaming Yearbook, which first appeared in London in 1991, says the number of simulation games has doubled in recent years. In various premier business schools, simulation games are coming to be used as an assessment technique.  Many companies now use simulation games to train their staff – from manual workers and technicians to executives – in such areas as marketing, production management and human resources.  In France, a consultancy firm, Proconseil, decided to tap the rapid expansion of this market by creating a subsidiary dedicated solely to the development of adult training games. In the last ten years, the company has designed 25 games in 10 languages and trained more than 10,000 persons.

Simulation: An Effective Tool for Decision Making

Games and simulations are increasingly used as tools by group researchers and team development specialists, but many involve undesirable trade-offs.  The simulation models often found in organizational decision-making teams and expand the options available to those interested in understanding and improving team decision-making effectiveness.  The design and evolution of an innovative simulation/game for teaching information systems development from a management perspective.  Computerization and strategic focus add significant value in the design of simulation/games.  Simulations/games, and other experience-based instructional methods have had a substantial impact on teaching concepts and applications. They have also helped to address many of the limitations of traditional instructional methods.  In addition to influencing classroom instruction, experiential methods have come to provide a pervasive and largely taken-for-granted foundation for a wide range of endeavors across many fields. Still, many of the limitations of the classic paradigm continue as vital and largely unresolved challenges today, and there remains much important work to be done to translate insights about experience, teaching, and learning into common practice.   For effective decision making the simulation games are conducted systematically and the following steps are to be followed – identifying the training needs, designing and preparing the module, arranging the programme, conducting the simulation game, facilitating the discussion and follow-up.

Simulation: A Tool for Effective Managerial Training

The development of information technology and the Internet has encouraged the creation of simulation games designed among other things to develop commercial strategies, define the most convenient transport timetables and make population and climatic forecasts based on different scenarios.  e-learning, the use of electronic tools like computers and the Internet to deliver content, has emerged as the fastest-growing segment in the field of training and development. And one of the hottest tickets in e-learning is computer-aided simulation.  Simulation is a computer-based role-playing simulation in which a team of players is engaged into introducing a major change in an organization. Now simulation has invaded the corporate world and is being used to create workplace mockups that test and help to enhance an employee's performance. It adds an element of fun to learning programs.  In business simulation games the idea is to recreate concrete situations but by using a more adapted media. 

Today, the most comprehensive business simulation games are available, which provide a multiplayer online business strategy game.  Players can create companies, direct a company as the chairperson, run a company as the CEO, establish business units (factories, shops), choose goods (primary, intermediate and final) and suppliers, set prices, set executive and non-executive wages, set the advertising budget, buy and sell commodities on the commodities exchange to hedge against supply chain risks, speculate in the commodities market, borrow and repay money from banks, raise capital by issuing new shares, buy and sell shares and speculate in the share market, acquire and merge companies, execute hostile takeovers, liquidate companies, establish business relationships with others, create a horizontal or vertical business conglomerate, create and control a business empire, buy market research, and base business decisions on the economy of the game: GDP, unemployment, average wages, company tax, interest rates, inflation, etc. 

Conclusions:

Management simulations have not been taken for its full advantages from a long time.  Due to advancement in information technology the role of simulation games are expanding day-by-day.  Many of the MNC's are using management simulations for day-to-day training for employees as well as for training and effective management decision-making.  Also, simulation games are one of the important teaching methodology for knowledge acquisition and skill up-gradation for B-School students. Simulation Enhanced Learning (SEL) supercharges the learning experience by making it real and relevant to the participant. The simulated business environment exposes participants to strategic challenges in a "laboratory" where they can explore new concepts and try new things.  SEL uses a variety of integrated learning and feedback techniques to help the participants apply what they learn directly to their jobs.  Simulations can be very effective learning strategies, and fun for the participants, too!

References:

Management Simulations, Inc.®, http://www.capsim.com
 


Nikhilesh Kariya
M.Sc. (Statistics), PMIR, MBA (Marketing)
Lecturer in Statistics and Management Science
Vidya Bharati Institute of Research and PG Studies in Science and Management
C. K. Naidu Road, Camp, Amravati–444 603, Maharashtra
 

Source: E-mail March 01, 2006 / November 14, 2006

    

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