Effectiveness and limitations of IT-based business simulation games

Term Paper, 2012

28 Pages, Grade: 1.7


Table of contents

List of abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 What are IT-based business simulation games?
2.1 Simulation game
2.2 Application fields of simulation game
2.3 The business simulation gaming process
2.4 The influence of IT on business simulation game

3 What can be affected by IT-based business simulation games?

4 Why are IT-based business simulation games good?
4.1 Effectiveness on learning outcomes of participants
4.1.1 Affective outcomes
4.1.2 Skill-based outcomes
4.1.3 Cognitive outcomes
4.2 Effectiveness on other aspects of education and training

5. How can IT-based business simulation games fail?
5.1 Issues from the nature of simulation game
5.2 Issues during the gaming process
5.3 Issues regarding information technology
5.4 Learners’ personal issues

6. Discussion


List of abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1 Introduction

“You need a game to get the horse to water, but if you keep up an excitement of play, the horse may not drink anything”.
- Dr. Sivasailam "Thiagi" Thiagarajan -

Simulation gaming has a long history, which can be traced back to ancient China about 5000 years ago (cf. Faria et al. 2009, p. 465). In modern days, as a relatively new instructional method, it has received much attention from researchers and practitioners. However, as the attention grows, the debate on its effectiveness also becomes louder. Although t he aforecited words of Thiagi, an internationally recognized expert in learning games for personal and company, does reveal the most crucial promise and limitation of simulation game, it is only one part of the debate.

By thoroughly reviewing current literatures, this paper will try to address the current dissention on the effectiveness of simulation games and provide a clearer and completer explanation to Thiagi’s assertion. However, because this paper is produced within the seminar on business informatics, informatics and business economics, the focus of this paper will be set slightly on one form of simulation game: IT-based business simulation game.

The paper contains four sections. The first part will provide background information to help understanding the focus of this paper by explaining firstly what simulation games are and how they are used in business education and training, as well as how they are supported by IT technologies. Moreover, the process of simulation gaming will also mentioned. In the second part, several the classification of learning outcomes will be introduced to provide additional information and set a framework for the later assessment of the instructional method. The third and the fourth part are the main sections of the paper. In these parts, correspondingly, arguments on the effectiveness and limitations of IT-based business simulation game will be mentioned, along with theoretical and empirical supports.

2 What are IT-based business simulation games?

Because “business simulation game” belongs to a wider, more general concept of simulation gaming, the first part of this section is dedicated to defining simulation game by explaining how it is related to the two more familiar terms “simulation” and “game” and how it inherits the characteristics of these two concepts. The second part will focus on the use of simulation games in business education and training. The process of deploying business simulation games in learning context will be shortly mentioned in the third part. And the fourth section will explain how modern business simulation games are supported by IT technologies.

2.1 Simulation game

In spite of simulation game’s long history, among the literatures about simulation and gaming up till now, there is an abundance of works to define and identify the characteristics of simulation games (cf. Garris et al. 2002, p. 442). And many of the existing literatures emphasizes that it is necessary to understand two terms “simulation” and “game” before defining simulation game.

The definition of simulation should begin with its foundation, the model. A model is “a representation of the reality it is constructed to depict” (Feinstein et al. 2002, p. 734). Thus a computer simulation can be defined as an attempt to replicate the characteristics of a system through the use of mathematics or simple object representations (cf. Feinstein et al. 2002, p. 737). Curth (1989, p. 28) mentioned three types of simulation:

- Person-person simulation involves interactions between one or more people. Hand-scored simulation games which will be mentioned later in section 2.4 belong to this type of simulation.
- Person-machine simulation involves interactions between people and computer programs. In this process, user gives inputs and the computer uses these inputs to calculate results and returns feedbacks, which requires user’s responses in form of new inputs. Modern computer-based simulation games are examples of this form.
- Machine simulation is similar to person-machine simulation but does not require user’s input during the simulation process. Examples of this type include, among others, simulations of scientific processes such as physical or chemical reactions.

Game consists of “interactions among groups of players (decision makers) placed in a prescribed setting and constrained by a set of rules and procedures” (Hsu 1989, p. 409). Gaming may “involve competition, cooperation, conflict or even collusion” (Hsu 1989, p. 409). Garris et al. (2002, p. 447 ff.) characterized six following features of game:

- Fantasy: games involve imaginary contexts and every action taken place in a game is contained in the virtual world of that game and has no impact on the real world.
- Rules and goals: in spite of being apart from the real world, games also have rules, which govern the gameplay and shape the goal structure of the game.
- Sensory stimuli: since games reflect virtual systems apart from the real world, they enable the experience of unfamiliar sensations or perceptions.
- Challenge: although the goals of a game have to be specific, yet it should not be so easy to achieve. It is the possibility of reaching the goals that decides the degree of challenge of the game.
- Mystery: mystery is created by the discrepancy and inconsistency in information and the complexity, the novelty and the surprise of the game. An adequate degree of mystery of a game arouses the curiosity in the individuals and encourages the desire to obtain more knowledge.
- Control: in instructional contexts, learning contents can be fully controlled by a program or can be partially controlled by learner, which gives learners a degree in which they can control what and how they learn.

By citing Crookall/Saunders (1989, p. 12) and Crookall et al. (1987, p. 151 ff.), Garris et al. (2002, p. 443) suggested that the most important distinction between simulations and games is that simulation tends to represent a real-world system to some extends and game does not. However, the two concepts “simulation” and “game” are not clearly differentiated (cf. Sitzmann 2011, p. 492). Instead, there is a continuous spectrum, with “simulation” on one end and “game” on the other end (cf. Read/Kleiner 1996, p. 27). For that reason, the term “simulation game” may be used best to describe the hybrid instructional tools that stand in the middle of the simulation-game spectrum and inherit the aspects of both simulation and game (cf. Sitzmann 2011, p. 492). In general, a simulation game can be defined as an interactive instructional tool that involves the representation of a real-world system and can contain game characteristics.

2.2 Application fields of simulation game

Historically, simulation games have been used in “specific scientific disciplines (engineering, bio-sciences) and for high-risk occupational training (military, aviation, medicine)” (Jackson 2004, p. 22). In modern days, the use of simulation games has extended far beyond these traditional fields. Randel et al. (1993, p. 264 ff.) conducted a research on the applications of simulation games in many subjects of public education, ranging from social sciences to natural sciences and arts. Furthermore, Jackson (2004, p. 24) also mentioned the deployment of such games for political and religious purposes.

This paper, however, focuses more on business simulation game, or in short, business simulation, which is a subset of simulation game. Fripp (1997, p. 138) discussed business simulation games and stated that most of them have the same structure, which, like other types of simulation, involves the representation of a real or hypothetical business environment where players can compete. Moreover, these games usually require players to develop products or services and make various comprehensive decisions and actions. The statement given by Fripp is used in this paper as a definition for business simulation game.

2.3 The business simulation gaming process

The process of deploying business simulation games consists of 3 phases: the briefing phase, the playing phase and the debriefing phase, which can be summarized as follows (cf. Orth 1997, p. 30 ff.).

In the briefing phase, learners should familiarize themselves with the modeled world in the game, including its rules and goals, as well as some general information such as the purpose and structure of the course.

The playing phase is the main part of the game and is divided into several rounds; each represents a modeled period of time in the game world. If it is the first period, learners have to analyze the starting situation and, by reference to the game goals, construct a game strategy, which set the guidelines for later decisions. After decisions are made at the end of each round, they will be evaluated and their effects will be presented. Then learners will have to analyze the effects of their last decisions as well as the actualized situation to adjust their strategies and make new decisions. In general, by adjusting their decisions in each round of the game and observing the consequent results, participants have the ability to experiment with and explore the simulated system.

During the debriefing phase, learners emerge from the game world and discuss with each other to review their experiences and impressions. Then they begin examining the simulation model which they just played to identify the equivalence between the modeled and the real world. In the last step of the debriefing phase, learners only focus on the equivalences they already identified and consider which experiences to be relevant to them and will be kept and applied after the course (cf. Steinwachs 1992, p. 187).

2.4 The influence of IT on business simulation game

Early business games were hand-scored by instructors. This imposed limitations on the complexity of the model and also on the number of variables included, the number of participants and the number of products and markets in the game world (cf. Fritzsche/Burns 2001, p. 86). Moreover, the workloads of participants and instructors while playing hand-scored games were high which resulted in various kinds of errors (cf. Faria et al. 2009, p. 469).

As business school started to adopt mainframe computers and along with the introduction and the pervasion of microcomputers, the mentioned limitations were removed. Many business games were migrated to these platforms and even more have been newly developed exclusively for microcomputers (cf. Fritzsche/Burns 2001, p. 90). There are general and particular features that the microcomputer contributes to simulation game. The general features include, among others, lower cost, better accessibility, better user-friendliness and easier software installation and administration (cf. Fritzsche/Burns 2001, p. 90). Particularly for simulation games, microcomputers with their increasing computation capability allow the construction of more complex models, which consequently increases the number of participants, and the level of detail of the games (cf. Faria et al. 2009, p. 469). Furthermore, the enhanced graphical user interface in microcomputers enables audio-visual contents to be embedded in programs and support all phases of the business gaming process by, for instance, giving graphical instructions or providing more detailed feedbacks (cf. Faria et al. 2009, p. 469). This generation of business simulation game can be regarded as computer-based business simulation game and is related to computer-based training.


Excerpt out of 28 pages


Effectiveness and limitations of IT-based business simulation games
University of Göttingen  (Institut für Wirtschaftsinformatik)
Seminar für BWL, VWL und Wirtschaftsinformatik
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Planspiel, IT-gestütztes Planspiel, simulation games, business simulation games, vor- und nachteile
Quote paper
Do Hai Dang Le (Author), 2012, Effectiveness and limitations of IT-based business simulation games, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/264695


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