More Companies Getting Their Games On

Ann All

Last summer I interviewed IBM's Phaedra Boinodiris about the company's Innov8, a "serious game" created to address a skills gap in business process management among business students. Providing an "immersive, engaging experience" modeled on popular games such as SimCity helped students grasp technical concepts in a way that classroom lectures couldn't.


The original version of the game was so successful, IBM reached out to its customers and business partners by offering free online versions of Innov8 that let them compare their scores with others on global scoreboards. Also offered online are 3D case studies showing how IBM clients solved real-world problems using the company's products, and Innov8 was added to BPM Blueworks, an online community that features content and tools such as process maps.


That's where my story left off. It picks up again with a post from IT Business Edge contributor Mike Vizard discussing the release of IBM's latest serious game, CityOne, which asks players to manage a city using BPM. (Unlike my piece, Mike's has a nice screen shot showing the game.)


The key to getting business students and business professionals to play these games is to keep them relevant. 'People can smell chocolate broccoli from a mile away," said Boinodiris in an interview with Fast Company. IBM's Serious Gaming group, the division led by Boinodiris, seems to have succeeded. According to Fast Company, the folks playing Innov8 online "generate[s] many times more leads for IBM's BPM software than any other source," and a new group has been created to produce customized versions of the game for IBM customers.


A Forbes article includes some interesting examples of serious games, some of them designed to explain social and environmental concepts to younger players and others designed to help teach mathematics. Microsoft and other companies are interested in the concept of games as a teaching aid. Microsoft donated $1.5 million in 2008 to form the Games for Learning Institute, which researches how games can be used to encourage an interest in math and science among middle-school students.


A growing number of companies are employing games to teach and reinforce concepts that are valuable in the workplace. Last month I wrote about the video games and physical simulations used at United Parcel Service training centers, linking back to an earlier piece in which I interviewed other companies that had introduced games for their employees, including Hilton Garden Inn and Assurant Employee Benefits.

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May 7, 2010 8:48 AM Brian Brian  says:

Ann, a very interesting blog posting. I came across it after reading the Forbes article you referenced by Oliver Chiang.  But I also believe that there are 'serious games' out there that are even more ambitious in their scope than the ones addressed in your article.  What I have in mind in particular are the VEILS (Virtual Experience Immersive Learning Simulation) developed by WILL Interactive ( I believe WILL is, and has been, taking huge steps forward in trying to change the world through gaming. 

The VEILS, which have been created for and are in use by every branch of the military, the National Football League, schools, and an array of other institutions of American life, are a mixture of feature film and role-playing game.  Much like the old 'choose your own adventure' books, VEILS provide users a serious of decisions, based on a patented behavioral change system created by WILL's CEO, Sharon Sloane.  The story line reacts to the user decisions, with all possibilities filmed so that the movie plays out based on your decisions.  In independent studies, the VEILS have been shown to improve performance or change behavior in areas like increasing financial literacy among NFL players, decreasing suicide among soldiers, and teaching students about the dangers of sexual harassment.  These are, at the core, VERY 'serious games'. But at the same time, they are enjoyable for the same reasons why kids and adults for generations have played different forms of role-playing games-because it puts them in charge of affecting the course of action.   Additionally, because these games are based on live action, feature film-quality filmmaking, there is an element of reality to the games that make them more impactful than any pure video game, which has a stronger element of escapism.


Brian Wagner

Jun 1, 2010 5:38 AM Nancygeorgia Nancygeorgia  says:

excellent post!!!....i believe that there are 'serious games' out there that are even more ambitious in their scope than the ones addressed in your article.  mind blowing!!...keep it up....

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Oct 17, 2010 4:07 AM Stealth Stealth  says: in response to Nancygeorgia

it seems that you've put a great amount of time into your article and i want a lot more of these on the internet these days. well, anyways... it certainly was very informative for me. pretty good post. i just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that i have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

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