When Playing Video Games At The Office Is Good For Business

Companies are increasingly turning to specialized video games to train their employees on how to sell, manage and lead. It is largely taking the place of now outdated “e-learning”

A gaming room in the Microsoft office in The Netherlands (wovox)
Thomas Monnerais

PARIS - What if video games turned out to be just the latest job-training tool? Top French companies BNP Paribas, Orange, Alcatel-Lucent, Thales have joined others around the world in using so-called serious games, a burgeoning video game genre with pedagogical ends, in order to train their sales staff and managers.

Employees of BNP Paribas are now learning to better manage evaluation interviews in a virtual way. Seated in front of their computer screens, they guide an avatar, dressed-up as a manager— either a chicly-dressed woman or a blue-suited man— giving it certain attitudes to take during the course of a meeting. If he intends to reprimand his virtual employee, he then becomes nervous, sinking down into his chair, crossing his arms as a sign of rebellion. It all looks pretty believable.

The use of video games for business purposes is not a new phenomenon. The organization of orientation courses and other role-playing games has often been viewed as an excellent way to reinforce the cohesion of teams, and to help present the business under a different light. explains Olivier Mauco, a researcher at the University of Paris, Sorbonne-Paris I, who has a blog about ideology in video games.

However, at Renault, video games have revolutionized the training of sales people, otherwise resistant to any type of training, which they see as useless and bothersome. Serious games also highlight the relative failure of e-learning: the system with which the learner reads theoretical texts on a screen is simply not convincing.

"We quickly realized that, despite initial enthusiasm, e-learning was not an ideal solution," says Gil Simoncini, the head of Renault Academy, the training center for the automobile company. More than 70% of employees were not finishing the texts, which were often uninviting and lacking any sort of interactivity.

With serious games, employees want to stick with it. In the Algerian division of Renault, for example, sales departments organize tournaments. The one with the best score wins an additional month of salary. "Video games promote a spirit of competition and emulation among the sales team," says Damian Nolan, commercial director of Daesign, a traditional game designer that has moved into serious games development.

Simoncini notes that there was some resistance in certain countries, having to convince company chiefs that they weren't wasting money – or time.

But does it work?

Serious games may fascinate, but are they effective? "A good salesperson in a serious game is a good salesperson in reality. It is rare to see a poor salesperson achieve high scores," says Simoncini. But these games also promote learning by failure. It's not uncommon to see some purposefully chase away a client. According to Simoncini, some would even like to virtually kill someone. The game allows errors to be made in order to measure the consequences.

The limit, of course, is that it does not teach by itself. "We must be aware of the myth of self-training. Just because it's a video game doesn't mean that an addiction will develop. People are not going to give up their free time in order to train themselves," says Mauco, himself an author of a serious game.

Simoncini concurs: "It is imperative that someone be next to the trainee in order to bring to life the video game and offer pedagogical lessons."

How are these games made? At Daesign, they are the result of a collaboration between a business sponsor and a design team, also composed of experts in management and communication. "But it's the client who decides the situations," says Nolan, owner of Daesign.

Serious games are meant to standardize the different behaviors of employees, but may also drive them to a childish level. "The real problem is that the learners tend to start believing it all a bit too much," says Mauco. The fear of "game over," without a doubt.

Read the original article in French

Photo - wovox

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Why Chinese Cities Waste Millions On Vanity Building Projects

The so-called "White Elephants," or massive building projects that go unused, keep going up across China as local officials mix vanity and a misdirected attempt to attract business and tourists. A perfect example the 58-meter, $230 million statue of Guan Yu, a beloved military figure from the Third Century, that nobody seems interested in visiting.

Statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou Park, China

Chen Zhe

BEIJING — The Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development recently ordered the relocation of a giant statue in Jingzhou, in the central province of Hubei. The 58-meter, 1,200-ton statue depicts Guan Yu, a widely worshipped military figure from the Eastern Han Dynasty in the Third century A.D.

The government said it ordered the removal because the towering presence "ruins the character and culture of Jingzhou as a historic city," and is "vain and wasteful." The relocation project wound up costing the taxpayers approximately ¥300 million ($46 million).

Huge monuments as "intellectual property" for a city

In recent years local authorities in China have often raced to create what is euphemistically dubbed IP (intellectual property), in the form of a signature building in their city. But by now, we have often seen negative consequences of such projects, which evolved from luxurious government offices to skyscrapers for businesses and residences. And now, it is the construction of cultural landmarks. Some of these "white elephant" projects, even if they reach the scale of the Guan Yu statue, or do not necessarily violate any regulations, are a real problem for society.

It doesn't take much to be able to differentiate between a project constructed to score political points and a project destined for the people's benefit. You can see right away when construction projects neglect the physical conditions of their location. The over the top government buildings, which for numerous years mushroomed in many corners of China, even in the poorest regional cities, are the most obvious examples.

Homebuyers looking at models of apartment buildings in Shanghai, China — Photo: Imaginechina/ZUMA

Guan Yu transformed into White Elephant

A project truly catering to people's benefit would address their most urgent needs and would be systematically conceived of and designed to play a practical role. Unfortunately, due to a dearth of true creativity, too many cities' expression of their rich cultural heritage is reduced to just building peculiar cultural landmarks. The statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou is a perfect example.

Long ago Jinzhou was a strategic hub linking the North and the South of China. But its development has lagged behind coastal cities since the launch of economic reform a generation ago.

This is why the city's policymakers came up with the idea of using the place's most popular and glorified personality, Guan Yu (who some refer to as Guan Gong). He is portrayed in the 14th-century Chinese classic "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" as a righteous and loyal warrior. With the aim of luring tourists, the city leaders decided to use him to create the city's core attraction, their own IP.

Opened in June 2016, the park hosting the statue comprises a surface of 228 acres. In total it cost ¥1.5 billion ($232 million) to build; the statue alone was ¥173 million ($27 million). Alas, since the park opened its doors more than four years ago, the revenue to date is a mere ¥13 million ($2 million). This was definitely not a cost-effective investment and obviously functions neither as a city icon nor a cultural tourism brand as the city authorities had hoped.

China's blind pursuit of skyscrapers

Some may point out the many landmarks hyped on social media precisely because they are peculiar, big or even ugly. However, this kind of attention will not last and is definitely not a responsible or sustainable concept. There is surely no lack of local politicians who will contend for attention by coming up with huge, strange constructions. For those who can't find a representative figure, why not build a 40-meter tall potato in Dingxi, Gansu Province, a 50-meter peony in Luoyang, Shanxi Province, and maybe a 60-meter green onion in Zhangqiu, Shandong Province?

It is to stop this blind pursuit of skyscrapers and useless buildings that, early this month, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a new regulation to avoid local authorities' deviation from people's real necessities, ridiculous wasted costs and over-consumption of energy.

I hope those responsible for the creation of a city's attractiveness will not simply go for visual impact, but instead create something that inspires people's intelligence, sustains admiration and keeps them coming back for more.

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