Training the Workforce, Part 2: Video Games in Business – A Generational Divide?

Skilan Ortiz, Training the Workforce No Comments

Skilan Ortiz | October 22, 2012

This is part 2 of an on-going series of blogs on using games for training the workforce.

When you take the time to think about it, you begin to realize that we are living in a very exciting time for the field of training. With technology constantly advancing at an amazing pace, we are beginning to take training away from the dull lectures and training manuals of the past, and into the relatively new and exciting frontier of training which uses video games to teach new skills and knowledge.

Any quick literature search on the subject of video games will tell you what is almost instinctual, that they are engaging and intrinsically motivating for a multitude of reasons. As Przybyslski, Rigby, and Ryan state in their 2010 article, “the appeal of video games lies in the inherent properties of the experiences they provide” [1]. In other words, video games are fun because they allow us to experience things in a way we normally may not be able to due to the risk of making critical mistakes or even personal harm. Not only are they fun, but according to de Freitas and Jarvis, there is evidence in the literature of game-based learning “accelerating learning, increasing motivation, and supporting the development of higher order cognitive thinking skills” as well [2].

This seems like a golden opportunity for us to give trainees a hands-on-like experience that they would normally not get from a lecture or manual. How exciting to know that not only can we give them the opportunity to try out newly acquired skills without consequences, but that they can be more engaged and motivated while doing it! Surely this would get any training professional excited just thinking about the possibilities. The U.S. military has already seen the potential, and as Beidel points out “the influence of video games on military training has been substantial” [3].

With all of this potential and the training gains seen by the military using video games, it comes as a bit of shock to see almost nothing in the literature, or anywhere else, dealing with video game training in the business sector. At first I was mystified and spent quite a while wondering why this was. Slowly, I began to form an opinion and believe I may have at least a partial explanation for this phenomenon. In my opinion, part of the divide between video game training and business is a generational one.

I personally believe that a majority of people over the age of 45-50, still hold an unfair view of all video games as either a “waste of time” or as not useful for anything other than simple entertainment. I feel this is most likely due to the fact that they did not grow up with video games as part of their everyday lives and do not hold the same appreciation for them that those who are 10 years, or so, younger do. Therefore, it becomes more of a challenge for them, compared to the younger generation, to see the potential of video games as a useful training tool.

The military, even though run by a handful of elder officers, is for the most part a younger person’s game. Every year military branches receive an influx of mostly younger recruits, probably between the ages of 18-24, that need to be trained both quickly and effectively. When you consider the fact that only 24.6% of the active duty officers are over the age of 40 it becomes easy to see why video game training has become such an integral part of the military [4]. It consist of a population who, for the most part, has grown up embracing and enjoying video games as part of their normal life and can see, as well as, appreciate the usefulness of video games for such a massive training need.

On the other hand, a business, in my opinion, is more likely to consist of a higher percentage of upper management being over the age of 45 and they probably tend to stay in those positions longer than officers of the military do in theirs. This means that even while the business world has constant streams of young talent coming from universities who could benefit greatly from, and would embrace, video game training, those in charge of decision making have a hard time seeing the value of using it and choose not to implement that type of training.

As the older generation of management begins to retire out of the workforce the younger generation will begin to take over the population of upper management and decision makers. I believe that their lifelong exposure to video games will help them usher in a new “Golden Age” of video game training, and that the business world will benefit greatly from it.


[1] Przybylski, A. K., Rigby, C. S., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). A motivational model of video game engagement. Review of General Psychology, 14(2), 154-166.
[2] Freitas, S. d., & Jarvis, S. (2007). Serious games-engaging training solutions: A research and development project supporting training needs. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(3), 523-525.
[3] Beidel, E. (2012, February). Avatars invade military training systems. National Defense, 699, 10-12.
[4] Department of Defense. (2010). Profile of the military community. Demographics 2010, 1, 28-29.

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