Monday, June 12, 2006

All work and no play? The brave new world of strategy games

I have spent some time on Games in the last two weeks. Oh, no, I am not talking football – despite the media frenzy on World Cup now. Nor I am talking Cricket, though I do feel that India is doing better than expected in the West Indies.

The games I am talking about are virtual ones, and concern themselves with Politics and Business. So, this is about playing the Father of a Nation - you can choose what you want to be - a Lenin, a Nehru, a Mandella, or a Mobutu Sese Seko.

Consider this one to start with, Nation States. This is game about managing nations. Though at an elementary level, it throws at you political and administrative issues at a regular interval, and let you choose a response. Based on your response, the nation you are managing grows or declines, gets into war or prospers in peace. This also has regions – a thriving community of other nation-managers and the United Nation, where the nations compete for influence, and debate and vote on issues.

This is free and fun, you can see where I am getting to with my new-born nation at http://www.nationstates.net/kolkata

The other one is Second Life, which is more about business, so this is about playing Donald Trump or Martha Stewart [No, not Steve Jobs - it is mostly about real estate and lifestyles at this time]. Here, you can be reborn, with a name of your choosing [subject to availability, and you have to belong to one of the clans from the list of surnames available].

The idea of Second Life is that once you are there, you can invest some money and buy land in different regions, and then do whatever people do with land – build a house, sell it, speculate with it etc. This, of course, extends beyond just Real estate – one can start businesses around the community. There are Second Life weddings, so services of Wedding Planner and Caterers are also required.

I have already come across people who have made money in Second Life – heard of a Second Life Millionaire, even.

I have so far created myself – as Alfred Chandler, after the strategy guru – and plan to start something. However, this may have to wait till I make some money in the first life itself, but let’s see.

And, of course, I must mention SIM City, which I started playing in 1995, but still love its new versions. The Sims have become far more diverse now, and do a lot more things – like starting a business and flirting inside office – but once you are hooked, you stay hooked.

I wonder how long it will take to include such strategy games to become an acceptable part of a Training Calendar. I am not sure why it is already not there, and who should take the lead in adopting these for such use – game developers, corporate managers or e-learning content providers. But one thing you will be certain about – there is an opportunity here, which not many people are pursuing.

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