What do athletes, soldiers, doctors, and IT professionals have in common? They are all using serious games to prepare themselves for events – potentially disastrous – that occur outside the norm of their trade. Serious games are video games that do more than entertain; in that they prepare professionals to work smarter by enabling them to visualize the consequences of their actions and explore different permutations of events in a visceral way.
In case you still think that games are solely the domain of 14-year-old boys, 67 percent of U.S. heads of households play games, and the number is even higher in Asia. The average age of a game player is 35, and 47 percent of PC gamers are older. Forty-three percent of PC gamers and 38 percent of console gamers are women, according to the Entertainment Software Association (link resides outside of ibm.com).
IBM has been developing serious games for some time that can teach problem solving for real issues in key industries, helping companies to learn how to work smarter. This fall, IBM is going a step further by developing a game in which users experience some of the complex problems facing cities. They can implement changes and understand the results in terms of how various technology solutions can help revolutionize industries within a municipality.
The new game, called CityOne, is complementary to IBM’s smarter planet initiative, which is based on the knowledge that the world is becoming more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, giving its citizens the ability to make use of technology to solve the world’s pressing problems.
Serious games adept at teaching complex systems
Phaedra Boinodiris, IBM Serious Games Program Manager, said, “Serious games are not the panacea to teach everything, but they are exceedingly adept at explaining complex systems. This is why serious games have found such a welcome launch pad at IBM, where complex systems are deployed every day to do everything from optimize traffic to manage multi-tiered vendor supply chains.”
If you have ever tried to explain how a smart grid or an intelligent water management system works, you may have found that these are not the easiest concepts to relay in much detail. More and more companies, organizations, and schools are leveraging serious games to explain how systems work and how they impact broader business and organizational ecosystems.
As education adjusts to changing preferences, serious games will become more prominent. “By 2012, between 100 and 135 of the Global Fortune 500 will have adopted gaming for learning, with the U.S., U.K. and Germany leading the way,” states The Apply Group in the report, "Corporate Learning Games in Europe, 2007" (link resides outside of ibm.com).
Preview of IBM CityOne game
In October, IBM plans to release the CityOne game as a no-charge Flash game, and thousands have already signed up online to be notified when the game goes live. The video trailer on YouTube (link resides outside of ibm.com) for the new game has been viewed by over 75,000 since May 2010.
CityOne offers players the opportunity to optimize banking, retail, energy and water solutions via an online, sim-style game in which the player is tasked with guiding industries within a city through a series of missions. Players will make decisions to improve the city by attaining revenue and profit goals, increasing customers’ and citizens’ satisfaction, and making the environment greener with a limited budget. In parallel, players will learn how the components of business process management, service reuse, cloud and collaborative technologies make organizations in the city system more agile.
The game is also meant to be a conversation starter about the future: what are the catalysts for change and how can investments today prepare businesses for what is to come tomorrow. The characters in the game introduce players to industry progression paths that teach industry professionals the real-world planning they need to take to work smarter. "Simulations are already used as tools for real-world planning among financial analysts and the U.S. military. But games such as CityOne could represent a stepping stone to the far more ambitious projects. . . . ,” notes Jeremy Hsu in "IBM's City Simulation Trains Planners to Tackle Future Problems for Growing Urban Centers" (link resides outside of ibm.com), Popular Science, May 5, 2010.
“CityOne is our very first step towards laying the groundwork for city sims that capture real problems and real solutions. Just imagine! There is so much more we can do with this medium, including creating collaborative workspaces streaming real-time data for problem solving and transparent measuring of solutions affecting cities around the world” says Boinodiris, who was named one of the top 100 women in the games industry by Women in Games International. “For this first phase of the game, we have integrated CityOne with a BPM community in the cloud so that players can explore how the industry solution models in the game can be localized to a professional’s geography or circumstance,” Boinodiris said.
In her address to the cross-government logistics summit sponsored by USTRANSCOM at Scott Air Force base in June 2010, Boinodiris predicted that serious games will go beyond training and will begin to create work product, like arbitrating supply chain and workflow models. “When you have so many disparate sources of real-time data and the right kind of collaborative, highly visualized environments, a game that optimizes the variables and recommends solutions is the next step.”
IBM is creating a companion piece to CityOne, a graphical novel that will show players a glimpse of the personalities of the characters within the game and begin to explain the kinds of problems faced by the banks, water and energy utilities, and retail stores within the CityOne world.
The Discovery Channel plans to feature the making of CityOne in the “Cities of the Future” program to be aired Sept. 24.
INNOV8 illustrates how BPM improves organizations
CityOne follows on the success of the IBM INNOV8 game. Last year IBM announced the second in its series of INNOV8 games that teaches the fundamentals of business process management (BPM) and service oriented architecture using a 3D environment and business terminology. Ninety percent of respondents to IBM’s online survey said that playing Innov8 2.0 helped them better understand how BPM technology can help companies increase workforce productivity and resource efficiency.
The INNOV8 series, initially offered free to schools, has been downloaded by more than 1,000 universities worldwide, and more than 100 universities have built custom curriculum around it, such as the Marshall School of Business. Well over a thousand companies across manufacturing, defense, retail, and services industries use INNOV8, now offered online at no charge, to help teach the basics of BPM to IT professionals, business analysts and executives.