What I learned from Anno 2070… And a few other games

I learn a lot from playing games. Its no doubt they have an influence on the way we think so I tend to choose my games carefully. There’s a few games that have impacted me a lot so far…

Spec Ops: The Line was one of the first games that had a really sickening effect on me and that made me stop playing shooter genres. It made me question war, and games that emulate warfare in general as a way to make it seem ‘cool’ and make you feel like a hero. I was reminded of it today when I saw ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’- a movie by Michael Moore which exposes disturbing facts about what happened during the Bush administration. The first soldiers that were sent into Iraq were all too trigger happy to start blowing shit up and kill anything that moved really. This is sort of reflected in videogames where they make it fun to kill stuff.

I stopped playing Mass Effect as well because I felt like I wasn’t doing anybody any good, being put into situations where I backstabbed people, broke others out of prison and went on a general killing spree to ‘save humanity’. The game did however give me insights into how you can use your team to your advantage, and tasking them to do stuff instead of solving everything yourself. Even though you’re fully capable to act like a 1 man army, using your team smooths most edges out as they have certain strengths you can take advantage of during the game. Delegating tasks is how a manager gets work done, and it made me think about how I could delegate more of my own tasks.

After all the killing games I’ve always played, I decided to switch tack and went with a game that focused more on building cities and possibly looked at sustainability issues: that game turned out to be Anno 2070. Anno 2070 is all about building a civilisation in the age of its namesake. You can Wikipedia the details of you’re curious. There’s a lot of things in it which I find interesting in how they overlap in today’s society. Like splitting society up into 3 basic factions: Ecos, Tycoons and Techs. I definitely see myself as an Eco and it is the faction I play with the most. The Techs as well, but they act more as a supporting faction to the other two anyway. It’s funny as well, because in the game you tend to want to advance your civilisation by providing citizens with what they want… But get too greedy, and you’ll find yourself constantly having to deal with a crisis of some sort. I learned this because I wanted to advance my civilisation as quickly as possible, to see what new things would unlock. Now I’m playing the second time through, I’m taking my time with expansion and making sure I first have my credit ratings in check by creating a stable population base on which to build on. This creates for much more relaxed gameplay, and I also find myself being able to focus more on diplomacy and trading with other A.I. players in the game rather than constantly having to monitor and micromanage disasters in the supply chain. Creating a large population with simple (rather than complex) needs also seems a lot more… sustainable. Its interesting to see how a simulation like this can teach me these kind of principles and whatever management principles I learned in school like in Operations Management or Supply Chain Management I can again apply here. I think these kind of games definitely force you to think strategically and allow you to creatively solve your problems which is why its good to think twice about what kind of games you allow yourself to be influenced by.

Games are not just a catalyst for problem solving, but are also a behaviour shaper, moulding the cognitive lens in which we view the world. I’ve grown up with them, and gaming will always be a part of who I am. As I get older, however, I start to think about games in a different way and they start to serve a different purpose rather than just to entertain. Especially now, through the astonishing capability of gaming technology, beautiful stories can be told, amazing new worlds are discovered and explored, and new ideas give us insights that through imagination, make us understand reality just a little better.

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