Imagine you're a senior manager at a leading videogame company. Your job is to devise the company's competitive strategy in a rapidly growing and dynamic industry. What prices will you set for the consoles? How many games will be available for your platform?
This is the premise of Platform Wars, an epistemic game, or management simulator, developed by MIT's Sloan School of Management. The game's learning objectives are to allow students to interactively experience the challenges of strategic competition in complex and dynamic markets.
Epistemic games are computer games that are essentially about learning to think in innovative ways. They're designed to be pedagogical tools for the digital age where the player learns to think like professionals by playing a simulated game of such professions as management, engineering, journalism or urban planning.
As schools aim to prepare students for life outside of school, they need to realize that the world now values knowledge and skills that can be applied in creative ways. Epistemic games fit the learning requirements of today's world because they allow students to role-play professions while learning skills that they apply in the game.
One of the nation's leading scholars on epistemic games is David Williamson Shaffer, whose landmark book, How Computer Games Help Children Learn, demonstrates how particular kinds of video and computer games can cultivate innovative thinking. Shaffer outlines how modern schools developed in a particular time and place to meet the specific economic and social needs of industrialism and now, he contends, education needs to change to fit the needs of our current world. The traditional educational paradigm prepared students for a world of standardization, whereas today's world puts a premium on independent thinking and creativity. As a result of the social and economic sea change, schools need to foster innovative thinking.