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.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

'Anyone Can Do It'

Entertaining and Inspirational, May 30, 2006

This is two books blended into one [just like coffee] - one, the human story of building coffee republic, the soul searching of Sahar and Bobby after their father's death, the journey, the obstacles and goof-ups and all; the other, more like a business book, with 57 laws, advise and sample business plans etc. From the structure, it seemed that the authors wanted to make it the latter - a business advise book. I have, however, given a 5-star to the former, the human story.

Dont read it if you are just looking for how to start a business handbook. There are those free guides from Business Link which will do better. Not only that - once you read this book, you may start feeling that you got to be incredibly lucky and well-placed [read the comments about going without an income for two years in other reviews] to become an entrepreneur. That's not the morale of this story here, at all.

But if you are looking for a real story how people build a business, you will find it right here. All in the package - starting with the motivation [Father's death and introspection in this case], the idea [Not a new microchip, but something they noticed and enjoyed in US], the development [Sahar moving around with a camera in New York, the business plan, the failures] and the actual process of business [getting a site, a loan, suppliers, employees and customers, complete with goof-ups and strokes of luck].

The best bit of the book? You will have to wait till the end. No, I am not trying to give out the plot - but I am sure you will discover why this real, humane story of entrepreneurship deserved a 5-star.

[This is the review of 'Anyone Can Do It: How we built Coffee Republic' by Sahar and Bobby Hashemi that I posted on Amazon recently]

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

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And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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