The concept of reality has undergone a revolution in recent decades while techno wizards stretch the boundaries of simulation technology through the development of computers and software. The virtual reality environments of simulation games have become increasingly realistic and may be changing our understanding of what can even be considered ‘real’. Gamers immerse themselves in interactive environments and industries turn to technology to more efficiently train a workforce.
While people have always used games as a way to fantasize about realistic situations, never has there been a tool as useful for doing so as the computer has proved to be. The video game industry is only one facet of the exponential technological innovation of the 20th century but this industry has dramatically changed the entertainment habits of millions. Games that focus on reality simulation have been surprisingly successful with early titles such as ‘The Sims’ selling millions of copies. People seem to enjoy acting out their daily activities in a simulated environment that takes away the pressures of the real world and allows them to explore scenarios that may otherwise be out of reach. With the success of games like ‘The Sims’ and later interactive simulators such as ‘Second Life’, it is no surprise that the business world has exploited this model for training purposes.
One of the first simulation games to teach business strategies was the Intopia simulation that was first released in 1963. Since its creation, the program has been used in hundreds of university courses and has spawned countless variations of simulation games designed to accurately emulate the real world for training purposes. Nathan Kracklauer, vice president of product development for Enspire Learning commented “The immersive nature of simulations is what makes them so valuable for business training. When people play them, they forget that they are not in the real world, and they start behaving the way they would on the job. Instructors or supervisors can observe that behavior and provide corrective feedback, framed in the context of the low-stakes, no-risk environment of the learning game.”
Business models can be tested and taught without traveling to a specific location; Information is decentralized and can be easily disseminated. For training purposes, simulations can also save money in the long run by preserving resources. The military for example uses complex flight simulators to train pilots and in doing so does not risk expensive equipment and provides a safer overall platform for training. A business can provide consistent, high quality training without having to rely heavily on outside trainers and consultants.
The usefulness of simulation games has made them incredibly successful tools for business development and the gaming community has weighed in with their wallets. The business of reality is booming and developers will continue to explore new realms of replication. The future of video games may be an uncertain one but if the past few decades are any indicator, ongoing research will continue to lead to new and unexpected technological innovation that will only lead to more accurate reproduction of reality.