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Serious games finds niche players for itself

, August 3, 2012, 0 Comments

Utrecht University students are learning to become sustainable entrepreneurs with a serious game called Solar Tycoon. But are serious games a substitute for real experience?

It all started when Geoscience professors at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands discovered that their students were missing a link. They were having trouble connecting theory about innovation and sustainable technologies with real life situations on the market. They lacked the practical experience.

This, in part, had to do with the limited number of work experience placements available to students.
So – almost paradoxically – the faculty decided to develop a virtual marketplace to teach students about the realities of selling green technology. Together with a design firm called Digital Dreams, they developed the serious game, Solar Tycoon.

“Students learn to apply the theories they learn in the courses. They learn what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and how to tackle competition,” says Simona Negro, who coordinates a Summer School Class at Utrecht.

Solar Tycoon is played in teams, with each team playing the role of a sustainable entrepreneur. The goal is to sell solar panels and the team that copes best with changing environments and fluctuating prices wins the game.

Solar Tycoon is a virtual world designed to help students understand the real world. It went through a successful test phase earlier this year and has just been introduced at the Utrecht Summer School, where international students with various educational backgrounds experience what it is like to be an entrepreneur in the fields of innovation and sustainable technologies.

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