Some games lack the competitive aspect that is often supposed to be an essential feature of gaming (1). In fact, some games are expressly designed not to reach a winning final state. A classic reported example is SimCity which, in the words of Costikyan, “has no inherent ‘winstate,’ no explicit, built-in goal for the game. SimCity works because it allows players to choose their own goal, and supports a wide variety of possible goals” (2). Nevertheless, the possibility of being re-elected mayor could indeed represent a winstate for SimCity. Typical examples are given by MUDs and MOOs, where players are encouraged to motivate themselves towards fx15 a goal of their own (3) but also by some virtual worlds as like as Second Life which may embed, learning experiences as the ones of Serious Games, but with fuzzy objectives that may vary and that do not necessarily require any competition at all.
However, and likely more interestingly, Serious Games in Business and Management (B&M) allow games where competition could be even synonymous with failure. Such games are the ones, for instance, where collaboration and consensus building are among the key learning points. Some significant examples are given by EagleRacing, aSAP and WorldTeam as well as by WhatADay.
Eagleracing (4) (5) is the classical example which exposes players to collaboration dynamics in teams (which could be culturally highly diverse, co-located or remotely distributed) with the ultimate goal of reaching consensus at each iteration over three fundamental dilemmas represented by three video episodes (i.e. Episode 1: Managing Diversity & Team Processes; Episode 2: Team Decision Making under Pressure; Episode 3: Managing Communication & Trust-based Collaboration). The players are also exposed to the difficulties embedded in the use of more or less collaborative technologies for regulating their communication exchanges. Team compositions are made to maximise the internal conflicts so that players will be subject to the traps that undermine team and consensus building. Among the latter, the natural competition established among team members (e.g. the ambition to become team leader) has to be controlled in order to come to a decision in a reasonable time. Still some competition is kept in the game whenever more than one team participates in the learning experience session, as usually happens. In this case the competition is among the teams.
In some respects even more radical and challenging are aSAP and WorldTeam, as the collaboration efforts among diverse remotely distributed teams require a highly coordinated and common intent in order to cope with the challenge of different, conflicting or hidden aims and also taking into account the time lags introduced by teams distributed all over the world. It is indeed very easy to come out with a highly competitive and disorderly situation where each team tries to impose its own priority agenda and mission to the rest of the smallworld participants, quickly forgetting the original goal of the game that was to reach a win-win final state, i.e. the opposite of a competitive approach.
It is worth mentioning also WhatADay, that presents the EagleRacing pattern in three parallel and intertwined contexts and that addresses leadership competences in a complex managerial crisis situation with the untold goals of reducing conflicts and building a cooperative and collaborative environment within the team and with the customers and partners. Again, competition is within the gameplay in terms of resources and attention allocation but not in terms of game mechanics for fulfilling the game objective.
For reference / further readings:
- Prenski, M. (2001) “Digital Game-Based Learning”. New York, London: McGraw Hill; 2001.
- Costikyan, Greg. (2002) “I Have No Words but I Must Design: Toward a Critical Vocabulary for Games”. In: Mäyrä, Frans (Ed.). Computer Games and Digital Cultures. Tampere, 6 – 8 June, Tampere University Press.
- Lee, Shuen-shing (2003), “”I Lose, Therefore I Think” A Search for Contemplation amid Wars of Push-Button Glare”, Games Studies, volume 3, issue 2, December 2003 retrieved at http://www.gamestudies.org/0302/lee/ on 30th September 2011.
- Angehrn, Albert A. and Maxwell, Katrina (2009) “EagleRacing: Addressing Corporate Collaboration Challenges Through an Online Simulation Game”; Innovate, Journal of Online Education, Vol. 5, Issue 6, Aug/Sept 2009.
- “Tackling business problems with online games” by Mark Tutton, published under the Executive Education section of CNN.com at http://edition.cnn.com/2009/BUSINESS/06/05/business.simulations/index.html on 5th June 2009.