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Business Games for MBA students

Business Simulation Games used to enforce EMBA learning  August 7, 2019 – 05:33 pm
Management graduates

Providing a playful approach to serious learning, business simulation games are enjoying a growing popularity among business students and faculty alike. Business education is renowned for pioneering innovative learning and teaching methods. So it should come as no surprise that a relatively new pedagogical approach has become established in the business school classroom. What may be a surprise is the tool itself: video games.

A staple in military education teaching methods, simulation video games carry tremendous potential for applied learning, without requiring participants to face real-world consequences. Similarly, EMBA programs are increasingly drawing on business simulation games to allow students to hone their business decision-making skills in real-life scenarios.

Commercialization of business simulation games

Salford Business School in the UK has utilized a range of commercial business game simulations for many years. Dr Gordon Fletcher, co-director of Salford Business School’s Centre for Digital Business, says the school has also developed its own games to satisfy specific requirements and to meet special requests from external groups.

“This has led to the development of what we believe to be the only business simulation game designed as a plugin for the WordPress platform, ” Dr Fletcher says. The game, developed by the Salford Business School over a 10-year period, is based on a purchasing and supply chain problem and has proven popular in a variety of deliveries. “Despite being software-based, a hallmark feature of the delivery is the use of MBA students to act as consultants (for a fee within the game) to support the decision making of teams competing against one other, ” he explains.

The school has taken its experience with business simulation games further by commissioning the development of a specialist web-based simulation that will ultimately offer a flexible trainer/teacher interface. “This will enable academics to create their own custom simulations, without the need for developers, for delivery to any level of students with or without integrated assessment, ” Dr Fletcher says.

A playful approach to serious business education

While video simulation games may be relatively new teaching methods in the EMBA classroom, business simulation games have long been preparing Executive MBA candidates for real-world scenarios. Mirroring the case study approach, business simulation games give students the chance to explore the dynamics of specific business environments or markets utilizing applied learning without the threat of ‘real world’ side affects.

MIT Sloan was among the pioneers in developing simulation games for business education and their creation, Platform Wars, has become so popular that the school decided to provide it as a free resource for all aspiring managers and business students.

MIT Sloan’s Platform Wars is a live, web-based simulation in which students take on the role of senior executive manager for a business in the gaming industry. In this capacity, the player has to lead the business to success, considering the market, pricing, competitors, offers and networks. The aim of the game is to allow business students to experience “the challenges of strategic competition in multi-sided markets with significant network externalities and important complementary assets.” The game can be used in strategy and related business modules.

TheWharton School also draws on simulation games to enhance business education in terms of students’ experience with role-play simulations, such as the Start Up Game though these are non-virtual. Within the Wharton classroom, students receive a role – founder, investor, employee – and sufficient information to be able to make decisions in their respective roles. The game allows students to employ applied learning to the impact of negotiations, deal-making and the power of inter-personal communications in business.

At Lancaster University Management School, the Executive MBA Business Development Challenge simulation module consists of a four-day business simulation which includes a live Dragon’s Den funding pitch. “Students love the buzz of presenting live and seeing the outcome in terms of ‘investment’ in their simulation business, ” says Dr Marian Iszatt-White, director of the Lancaster University Management School Executive MBA.

Drawing a larger EMBA audience

It’s not just EMBA participants who can learn from business simulation games though; candidates considering the degree can too. Tapping into the competitive spirit of these prospective business school candidates, the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business has developed a multiplayer game, entitled The Simon Games.

Modelled after the principles of The Hunger Games, students compete against one another in running a business and the top contenders have a chance to receive a full-tuition scholarship to the MBA program. While The Simon Games were primarily developed to attract a larger audience to the Simon School of Business, it also helps students prepare for the demands of the Executive MBA.

Facilitating applied learning

Whether personal or virtual, simulation games are an excellent way of facilitating experiential and applied learning. As technology advances and becomes a standard element in business education, the business games available to EMBA students will become increasingly sophisticated and relevant, adding further value to the EMBA graduates skillset.


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