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Evocatus Consulting Ltd

Running virtual games

By Anthony Sharman
Wednesday, December 9, 2020

2020 - The year businesses learnt to adapt

As with everybody else in this very odd year, those of us who run games and exercises to support other businesses have had to think hard about how we adapt and grow. Unable to work in the way we prefer, watching the energy and engagement build in those people who have been brought together by our clients, we have taken the bulk of our work online, into the virtual world.  With signs that the need for distancing might finally end soon, here are some thoughts on running virtual games at work.


The acceptance of technology

The good news is that we have all got much more effective at communicating remotely.  Whatever video conferencing app we choose, all of us who have been working from home are now comfortable with meeting in the virtual world; this improves the odds of running a game successfully, partly through familiarity, but also because decision-makers have now experienced months of management over the internet and are thus less likely to object to relying on technology as the infrastructure for an exercise; this is a wider change which will outlast the current pandemic, opening up new options for running games.


virtual games and exercises

As well as being necessary right now, there are some reasons to run exercises in the virtual world.  For decades, military training has made use of “constructive simulation” to train Headquarters staff in planning, decision making and command and control.  By having players dispersed, each with a different understanding of the situation, games can create some of the tensions inherent in running real operations in the real world.  Just as in reality, the need to communicate clearly, concisely and completely when working at reach in a high-pressure situation can be a real challenge.  By running games and exercises virtually, we can also throw in more complexity and depth; creating a virtual scenario is much easier than setting it up in the real world and we can still create useful media .

Main Benefits

The key benefit of running games virtually, beyond the real challenges of communication, is one of economy of effort.  Rather than having to bring teams in to a central location to train or to exercise a plan, they can stay in their usual locations, saving on the cost of travel but also saving the time taken to travel.

Main Disadvantages

There are a few drawbacks.  The first is that we all face when working online; connection speed and technical glitches are a consistent threat, particularly when working across organisations and time zones.  The second is about engagement; it is simply easier to seize and hold players’ attention in a game if they are separated from their usual place of work, with their out-of-office switched on.  


Virtual games are just one option

Virtual games are really just another option in our toolkit, made more important in the current climate through necessity, but likely to keep increased significance in the future as our clients recognise the better value that running a distributed exercise can offer against particular outcomes.  Distributed games are not an effective method for teambuilding exercises, which rely as much on the time together on the sidelines of the game over meals and refreshments, but are a great way to test plans and to work out details of risk management strategies; Bath, Bristol and the Southwest are not the only region we can deliver exercises now!

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