Housing Associations Serious gaming: more than just a game

Serious gaming: more than just a game

Computer games and simulations are fun and inspiring. They are safe and effective ways to learn. Where simulations revolve around imitating reality as true to life as possible, in computer games it’s the competitive element that comes to the fore.

Serious computer gaming offers the best of both worlds: you take people out of their comfort zone by placing them in a different role and context.

Employees of housing association Salland Wonen in Raalte were able to experience this personally by playing Vulcanus as part of a continuing improvement project. P5COM regularly uses this serious computer game as an awareness-building tool.

The object of the game is to develop, in a playful way, skills for making a difference for customers. Thinking and acting with the focus on customers and goals and gaining a better understanding of others: that’s what it’s all about.

The players work together to prepare a voyage to a virtual, alien planet. This blog gives a brief account of the sessions, especially what people learn during them. We also hope to inspire you to take your employees out of their comfort zone while giving them a special learning experience at the same time.

Where it all began…

Mini-planet Vulcanus was discovered in 2022. Its inhabitants, known as the Vulcans, have built a thriving economy. The computer game takes the players to the year 2072. A trade agreement has been concluded with planet Earth, unleashing cut-throat competition. Different producers of means of transportation on Earth are eager to get their piece of the pie. This is the moment to sell their innovations to the importer on Vulcanus. We play the game in two rounds. Each round covers one year.

And then…

Without giving away the story, it turns out that more ways lead to Rome on an alien planet as well, as we see the players quickly ‘get into character’. Working against the clock, with their eyes on the prize, and having the time of their life, the teams define their strategy. After all, everyone wants to be the first to introduce an innovative, never-before-seen approach that the customer really needs. Easier said than done, however. After the first year, not a single team has accomplished its mission.

All of a sudden, teamwork seems the way to go as the teams come to understand each other better. We see dialogue and customer focus, a sharing of knowledge, and surprising teamwork initiatives.

After a serious intermediate evaluation, they change course. All of a sudden, teamwork seems the way to go as the teams come to understand each other better. There is dialogue and customer focus, a sharing of knowledge, and surprising teamwork initiatives. Negotiation takes flight, the teams close deals with each other, and they get creative with developing their prototypes. The final changes are made to the modes of transport that enable the customer to move around Vulcanus efficiently. But even more important: they really exceed all expectations!

So now you are probably thinking…

What on earth does a housing association hope to achieve with such an exercise? Much more than you might initially suspect. After all, a housing association is occupied every day with providing distinctive customer value at minimum operating cost. That calls for creativity, empathy, and skills from its employees. What we see almost immediately is that customer focus is about more than just setting up a special department. The key to ultimate success lies in putting customers first in every stage of the provision of services. In other words: engage in dialogue, immerse yourself in the world of your customers, and go for the whole system.

Vulcanus shows that people need to think outside the box if they want to succeed. They have to roll up their sleeves and take a creative attitude to continuous change in the market. We also see that the players, when discussing their experience later, definitely see added value in working with colleagues beyond the confines of their own team. It is this understanding which usually moves everything into high gear.

And what becomes clear above all is that the strategy which they ultimately choose is no mere paper tiger but ultimately something that all members of the team recognize and support. It gives them a sense of involvement as they also come to see that they can make a real difference for customers.

By playing Vulcanus, they achieve exactly what we had in mind and that for which serious computer games were developed in the first place. Ultimately, it turns out to be more than ‘just a game’.