February 26, 2009 Pilots, the military and emergency services have been using simulations for years to teach skills in a risk-free environment where otherwise lives might be lost. Video gaming isn’t new either - the CEOs of many of today’s big names such as Yahoo and Google grew up on a diet of avatars and role-playing. But it’s only recently that business simulators and advanced video gaming have merged to form ‘serious games’ like IBM's Innov8.

IBM is more commonly associated with button down suits than World of Warcraft, but says that skills honed playing such games can be useful when managing modern multinationals. Innov8, a business process simulator with video game-like qualities is designed to teach students the fundamentals of business process management (BPM) and bridge the gap in understanding between business leaders and IT teams in an organization.

The v.2 release is a complete redesign of the game and incorporates a new global collaboration feature where players work with virtual teammates to progress to the next level. There are also three new game scenarios that reflect a new level of intelligence required for future, high-value job opportunities.

No weapons, just sharp wits

Academics face an ongoing challenge to actively engage students – our future business leaders - in lectures and get them thinking about real-world scenarios in real time. You may not be able to ‘frag’ people with Innov8 but the 3D environment is compelling and familiar to many students and helps bring business concepts to life.

There are three levels to Innov8 v.2: process discovery and process modeling, collaboration driven simulation and iterative process improvement, and real-time business management. The game allows players to visualize how technology and related business strategies affect an organization's performance. Together, players can map out business processes, identify bottlenecks and explore 'what if' scenarios in an experiential learning environment. Students have the opportunity to play with different variables and see how their changes vary the outcome, preparing them for the day they need to make real decisions.

Time to take gaming seriously?

According to a 2008 study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a great lecture can improve learning outcomes by 17 percent, while switching to a different delivery mechanism such as serious gaming can improve learning outcomes by 108 percent.

"Serious Gaming", the use of games and gaming dynamics for non-entertainment purposes, is set to take off thanks to the rise of Technology Populism, the greening of IT, and the emergence of the Millennials. Opportunity comes from many sectors including IBM and Microsoft. (Forrester Research: It’s Time to Take Gaming Seriously 2008) .

However, Forrester also identified five issues the industry needs to deal with before we see widespread adoption of serious gaming: 1) what games should be called; 2) how slick the presentation should be; 3) how users should interface with the games; 4) how to determine ROI; and 5) determining if the technology has any limitations – and suggest that getting from here to there will require patience and guidance on the part of serious games vendors.

Innovate v.2 will be available at no cost to educational institutions through IBMs Academic Initiative and to businesses for simulation and training purposes.

For more information visit IBM Innov8.

Karen Sprey

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