by Naomi Kokubo, Editor of Founders Space
If you’re thinking of getting a gift for your kids, nephews, nieces or friends, why not start them on the path to entrepreneurship. There’s nothing like experience to get a young (or old) mind thinking of starting their own company someday. Since most people aren’t about to found a real company, the next best thing is to start a virtual one in a simulated game world.
I’ve personally developed three business simulation games that are popular with schools and universities around the world. The first one my partner and I developed was Gazillionaire, which teaches the basic ideas around supply and demand, profit margins, managing risk, interest rates, overhead, etc. It is not only educational, but it’s really fun to play, which is why students (and adults) love it.
My philosophy is that learning should be an interactive and engaging activity which stimulates the player’s imagination while illuminating the underlying concepts. Software should be designed to allow players to interact with a set of complex ideas in a rewarding environment that enhances the educational goal.
Any good business sim should be designed to help players understand the fundamental principles of running a business by translating abstract concepts into concrete examples, such as paying interest on a loan or investing in advertising.
It often helps to set the simulation in a fantasy scenario for two reasons: first, it eliminates any confusion between the fantasy world and the real world; second, the fantasy environment stimulates the player’s imagination and facilitates the learning process. The goal should be to make people excited about learning and get them involved in the subject matter.
I don’t expect players to walk away from the game with a set of memorized theorems or formulas. Instead, I want them to have a feeling for what those ideas mean by playing with the concepts in the game environment. That way when the players encounter similar situations in real life, they will learn how to handle them much faster because they already have framework to reference.
After creating Gazillionaire with my partner, I went on to develop two other business simulation games: one called Zapitalism, and the other called Profitania. These are more complex than Gazillionaire and are primarily used in high schools and colleges to teach basic economics. I’ve found that students who start learning financial literacy at a young age have a much greater chance of being successful at managing their own finances and even starting and running their own businesses.
Here are some other popular business sims. Most of these aren’t nearly as educational as LavaMind’s business games, but they’re certainly fun to play: