MIT brings video game battle to the public

Avoiding this vicious cycle of company destruction has served as a valuable classroom lesson for many MIT students on the precipice of the business world.

“The emotion comes into play,” Sterman said. “They know they’re supposed to signal willingness to cooperate and not trigger a price war, but feelings people have when they’re undercut are hard to overcome. … People’s not wanting to lose face gets in the way of making a good decision many times.”

Management simulations are nothing new for Sterman, who created three simulation programs before “Platform Wars.” “Salt Seller,” for example, teaches students about commodity pricing, and “Fishbanks” focuses on managing renewable resources.

These simulations take place over years or decades, helping students better understand short-term and long-term business strategies and the downfalls of getting big too fast.

Every simulator program is based on case studies read by MIT students. All four are available for free on the MSTIR website.

Simulations have become commonplace in much of higher education in recent years, including at Northern Illinois University (NIU), where students use a simulation that lets users design a desired movement or action using the required formulas and algorithms that apply to all types of engineering.

Brian Coller, an associate professor of engineering at NIU, designed the simulation after showing students computer-generated NASA footage from the Mars Rover landings.

Using Coller’s program, students are required to complete the applicable formulas and algorithms to successfully steer a video game car around an oval track. Students must consider rate of speed, geometrical calculations, and all manner of mathematical information to do this.

“These projects are very open-ended, meaning that I’m not going to tell [students] everything they need to know,” Coller said. “They have to go find stuff, and they have to put things together. There’s no one right answer, … so different students can get to a solution in different ways, and that’s what real engineering is like.”

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