Contrary to popular belief, video games aren’t just for killing an idle Thursday evening. In fact, a variety of recent studies have begun to demonstrate their teaching potential. Steven Johnson’s book Everything Bad is Good for You offers a good introduction to the field. Tom Chatfield’s fantastic Ted Talk is another great examination of gaming and learning.
Believe it or not, the savvy gamer can combine his virtual hobbies with his dreams of business school success. The trick is to pick the kinds of games that will exercise the right parts of your brain. As much fun as Street Fighter and Super Mario may be, they aren’t exactly going to do much for your strategic thinking or logic skills.
Though they are no substitute for online GMAT prep, video games, in moderation, can stimulate your brain in a lot of constructive ways and even inspire new ideas. Check out our suggestions below, and let us know in the comments if you have any of your own!
Casual DS Games: Phoenix Wright, Professor Layton, SimCity DS, Brain Age
Each of these games is good for a quick mental workout while riding the subway to work. Professor Layton and Brain Age are chock-full of logic games that can help you with CR inferences. Phoenix Wright and SimCity on the other hand are longer games that reward players over time with a variety of problem solving opportunities.
Sports: Madden NFL, F1 2010, MLB The Show, Football Manager 2011
Sports games provide a lot of business-flavored brain food. For starters, they tend to involve a hefty amount of arithmetic, as you’ll spend a good deal of time negotiating salaries, calculating probabilities, and fine-tuning various player or vehicle parameters. You can get a good refresher on statistics with many of the titles recommended here.
Furthermore, sports team management makes for a fantastic interactive case study. As you set in motion your long-term vision for a franchise, you will see how your ideas play out in a sophisticated simulation. Not only does it make for good cognitive exercise, but it may also be the only way to see the Cowboys win the Superbowl under Wade Phillips (note: Wade Phillips was fired shortly after I wrote this post).
Role-Playing: Fallout Series, Fable III, Civilization Series, Galactic Civilizations 2
Strategy games force players to look for multiple solutions to various problems. Galactic Civilizations is particularly good because of its competent yet fair AI. Fable and Fallout start on a much smaller scale, but similarly reward long-term planning and pattern recognition. For turn-based strategy — perfect for a little multi-national negotiation practice — it doesn’t get much better than Civilization.
Business Simulation: Capitalism II, The Movies, Monopoly Tycoon, Restaurant Empire 2
There is a wide market of business simulation games for the computer. Many are quite dry and slow for a typical gamer, but the four listed above are both fun and stimulating. Capitalism II has been around for a while, but it’s still one of the best “mogul” games on the block. The Movies is great for film buffs, and Restaurant Empire 2 is extraordinarily endearing thanks to the new café / dessert shop options.