Friday, August 31, 2007

VOLVO CAR UK: Serious Games Replicating A Real-Life Showroom Experience

Volvo Dealers benefit from groundbreaking Serious Games

Via: Caspian Learning - Serious Games As A Highly Engaging Learning Solution For A Dispersed Workforce

Caspian Learning designs and delivers 3D game-based learning solutions for the Education and Corporate setting.

Caspian's authoring engine, Thinking Worlds™, is an incredibly versatile and globally unique technology that allows Caspian, its partners and clients to rapidly and cost-effectively build highly interactive and engaging learning solutions.

Thinking Worlds™ was object of my prior posting
Where Serious Games in Education Is Heading, which gives us “a taste of” its extremely worthwhile results in the sphere of Education.

This time I would like to focus on Caspian’s impressive Training Portfolio.


Car salespeople not only need to be experts on their products, they need to be well versed in legislation such as the Trade Description Act and Data Protection.

Learning the intricacies of data protection, consumer credit and trade description legislation is dull at the best of times. Finding time to release staff from the forecourts to undertake the necessary training, whilst ensuring staff are engaged in what are traditionally dry subject areas, is a serious challenge.

Volvo Car UK was looking for a way that would be flexible enough to train staff on essential topics from legislation to product sales. The training programme also needed to be innovative to encourage participation, easy to update to ensure longevity, accessible to a dispersed workforce, suitable to be used in short sessions rather than half or full-day sessions and finally, be a refresher training tool for those that want to scrub up their knowledge of a particular area. And of course make Volvo’s training more fun!

The car manufacturer needed to ensure sales teams across its dealer network understood the law and how it related to the sales of its financial products.

"We wanted a different way to stimulate sales people and move away from just running lecture-style courses with role-play," says Volvo Car Finance sales development manager Tony Grice.

Volvo commissioned Caspian to develop a Serious Game to help train its dispersed car sales force. The game developed in 12 weeks and named Knowledge Drive, came from a collaboration effort between Caspian Learning, a global leader in the use of simulations and games to solve learning issues, and Fimtrac, a face-to-face motor industry training company.

Knowledge Drive was produced using Caspian's authoring engine, Thinking Worlds. It is comprised of a number of modules, made up of various 3D environments where players are faced with real life scenarios which they need to work out to achieve their learning goals.

Fimtrac took pictures of actual showrooms so that Caspian could build a virtual environment unique to Volvo

The users enter a 3D environment and meet 3D figures along the way that impart information related to their learning goal.

For example, potential car buyers enter the virtual showroom and ask questions which the user must answer. They are then told some facts about the customer and what he/she is looking for. It's the kind of information that any good salesperson can then use to make some deal closing assumptions.

Next, the users pick up relevant information as they progress through the scenario and delete anything they do not need, ultimately building an appropriate presentation for the customer. There are deliberate law breaking scenarios that must also be identified and rectified throughout the game.

Each environment is designed by Caspian to look like a real Volvo show room and populated with virtual characters from the library of assets, which has over 150 3D environments and 1000 3D characters.

“At the lowest level, these virtual environments expose trainees to real life sales situations,” says Graeme Duncan, Caspian Learning Chief Operating Officer. “Users are then able to drill down to a particular subject area by completing various games in a safe environment, which enables to learn from any mistakes they may make without having a negative impact on the business.”

“A revision system is integrated into Knowledge Drive, which provides real-time mentoring and feedback to the trainee, which in turn allows to manage the learning process and measure the impact of the training,” says Duncan.

About 80% of Volvo's 700-strong customer-facing sales team have so far logged on to the game via their own PC and they study for on average 30 minutes at a time.

The Verdict

The Serious Game has proven to be far simpler and less time consuming then sending staff off-site for training.

Feedback from Volvo staff revealed that Knowledge Drive dealt with “boring” subjects or issues in more interesting ways than traditional training methods. Also, as their salespeople are able to carry out the training in short sharp hits, the intrusion into selling activities is minimal.

Employees can sit down for 20 minutes at a PC during a “quiet” time for a refresher, to continue a task that they are yet to complete, or concentrate on areas where they are weak.

Knowledge Drive is available at all dealerships in the Volvo network and is targeted at all levels of staff within these dealerships, from sales administration staff to sales managers and dealer principals.

It has also proven to be a cost effective training solution - its adaptability and flexibility means that as changes in legislation or product specification come about, the games can be easily updated to ensure relevance and accuracy at all times,” says Anne Woodward, Used Car Programme Manager, the driving force behind the initiative at Volvo. “We have already started to extend the use of this application – new elements and tasks are being added and there is scope to use the tool in other areas of the business too.”

About Caspian Learning

Caspian Learning has combined best practice in learning and memory, based on years of cognitive thinking research, with 3D computer gaming technologies. This has resulted in the development of their Thinking Worlds™ authoring engine. With a “robust” library of 3D environments and 3D characters, it is now feasible for HR departments with tight budgets to create games to suit their organization’s needs.

Furthermore, the flexibility of Thinking Worlds means that trainers can edit any aspect of a game, keeping it up-to-date and extending its life indefinitely. This has obvious benefits in terms of cost, but also means that the game addresses training needs on a granular level.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

BW Special Report: The Power Of (Serious) Gaming

Via: Business Week Innovation and Design - The Power of Gaming


The recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report estimates that the video game market will increase from $31.6 billion in 2006 to $48.9 billion in 2011 (please find my prior posting Serious Games: A Sizeable Market - Update) . Business Week exclusive series looks at just some of the innovations that are sparking this growth rate.

BW Special Report on the Power of Gaming and related items embed almost 10 articles, some of of which address the increasing contribution of Serious Games to the overall game market.

The article Getting Serious About Gaming challenges us to look to the fringe and see two promising areas for growth that aren't acknowledged by the PwC report: the broad category of serious games and the newer attempts to meld gaming with the social-networking features of Web 2.0.

According to Evan Wilson, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, the real growth in video games will come from these areas. "Traditional games have become too complex for all but the most hard-core players in the industry, and it's the stimulation of the non-hard-core audience that will drive meaningful industry growth," Wilson said.

In the article Video Games Entertain and Educate, David Perry predicts future efforts from the major gaming studios that will result in, “games that promote positive values, or that teach or inspire players".

But it's on the article The Name of the Game Is Work that I would like to focus on.

Companies are creating their own online video games to recruit, train, and communicate more effectively across divisions and continents.

Even more traditionally conservative industries such as insurance and finance are now giving immersive games a whirl. According to a 2007 survey by the eLearning Guild, which polled nearly 1,500 of its members, from large and small companies throughout the U.S., 38% of insurance companies are investigating using games for work. In finance, accounting, and banking, that figure was above 50%.

To be competitive globally "requires deep creativity and imagination, strategic and analytical thinking, decision-making, excellence in planning and execution, and adaptation to rapid change. These key skills are the skills people exercise when they play sophisticated digital games."

Here are some of the companies creating innovative online games for their employees.

CEO of the Future

McKinsey & Co.'s German headquarters has been using a game called CEO of the Future for the past several years. In the game, contestants try leading a company: Players who increase the value of the company by the largest margin win.

Freshman Orientation

Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development has used an online "university" for three years to help new hires acclimate. The university, called 3DU, resembles the popular virtual world Second Life: all new employees get an avatar and can sign on at any time to walk around, meet their colleagues, and ask questions about benefits such as health care.

Mission Possible

This past spring, the same pharmaceutical R&D company within J&J, launched a game called Mission Possible to let people new to the department better understand the drug development process and to help veteran regulation experts get up to speed on the latest trends in drug marketing. Employees had to develop a new drug to treat schizophrenia, and answer questions at various stages of the drug development process from characters such as Dan Discovery or Marvel Marketing. After answering questions correctly, they got their passports stamped and were able to move up through the game's levels.

Simplicity Showdown

Royal Philips Electronics has used a game with its employees called the Simplicity Showdown. The game was intended to help the North American division of the company better understand brand strategy and to improve communication between managers and far-flung staff. Teams traveled virtually around the world, to landmarks where Philips products were used, and were tested on Philips' strategy. The 4,000 Philips employees who played had to answer 250 questions over four weeks. The winning team got to hold its annual real life strategy meeting on the beach in the Bahamas


This fall, IBM will start selling a 3D immersive business game to its consulting clients to help employees improve business processes. Players will go into a virtual business unit to tackle such tasks as redesigning a call center, opening a brokerage account, or processing an insurance claim.

Who Wants to Be a Sales Star?

Sears Retail Training has used a game that incorporates elements of Jeopardy and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? to help its 10,000 sales associates improve customer experience in stores. In one part of the game, salespeople have to choose photographs and text to engage customers. If they ask the right questions and create an optimal customer experience, they sell their product. In another part of the game, they practice demonstrating the features of products such as tractors so they can do the same task more effectively in real world stores.

In these games, players can quickly change their management style if it doesn't work. "The lessons learned in these games become increasingly useful as companies become less command-and-control and more a series of distributed networks around the world."

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Serious Games: A Sizeable Market Via SlideShare

After publishing my recent post "Serious Games: A Sizeable Market - Update" late June, I've received quite a few inquiries about the availability of any market report/number crunching for the segment.

This is why I've decided to consolidate the related content I've been gathering, for the last one year or so, and publish it in a concise, slide sharing format. Data sources are detailed on slides 21 and 22.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Serious Games Institute Opening September

Serious Games Institute and Coventry University's SL Island launch simultaneously

Via: Coventry University Future-Initiatives

Bringing together the latest computer games technology and changing approaches to learning and training, the Serious Games Institute will be opening in September 2007.

The Serious Games Institute (SGI) is based in the Technology Park close to the Futures Institute. Partially funded by Advantage West Midlands (AWM), this £3 million project includes facilities to support the development of Serious Games research and a cluster of companies based in the West Midlands.

The Serious Games Institute will launch with a smart building demonstration and tour led by David Wortley, SGI Director, on 13th September 2007, during the Serious Virtual Worlds Conference, the First European Conference on the Professional Applications of Virtual Worlds.

On the same day, and at the same event, Coventry University's Second Life Island will be launched.

The theme for this first Serious Virtual Worlds conference is ‘The Reality of the Virtual World' and takes a close look at how virtual worlds are now being used for serious professional purposes.

The anticipated two-day programme includes:

Day 1 - Introducing Virtual Worlds: presentations and conversations introducing virtual worlds and the 3D web from Cisco, Linden Labs, Trusim, Forterra, Giunti, Pixel Learning, Caspian, Ambient and Daden, closing with the launch of the Serious Games Institute’s ‘Second Life’ Island with a Cocktail Reception followed by the Conference Dinner.

Day 2 - Serious Virtual Worlds: Action & Potential: live virtual world presentations and conversations from Digital Earth, Reuters, Stamford Med School, Trusim, PA Consulting, IBM, Forterra, NPL, Logicom, and AVM.