Games Future: play with supply chains together online

To gain a glimpse of how life will be in the years ahead we need to look at the younger generation, because the future belongs to them. If I look at my son (6) and my daughter (11), I see that they’re hooked on the iPad and spend a lot of time playing games on it. No cause for concern as long as they continue to do well at school and still get plenty of fresh air.

Whether individually or together, my children often play the game Minecraft. This 3D computer game allows you to build anything you like using animated cubes as building blocks, a kind of LEGO for the digital generation. The game has already attracted millions of enthusiasts, both children and adults, and players have developed new custom maps and textures. A worldwide community of fans share ideas and videos, and organise competitions which can be followed online.

In her truly inspirational book Reality Is Broken, Jane McGonigal, game designer and researcher at the Institute for the Future in California, writes that games will play an increasingly important role in solving global problems in the future. Many people think that the world’s hundreds of millions of active gamers – there are nine million gamers in The Netherlands alone – shut themselves off from reality. Yet McGonigal claims that huge numbers of gamers are actually collaborating creatively online. A game such as World Without Oil could harness the power of play to help solve the impending fuel problem.

Games are already demonstrating their effectiveness in the supply chain. Dutch research institute TNO recently showed that organising a serious game in which participants were awarded points for avoiding rush-hour traffic was more effective than paying them to do so. Netherlands-based consultancy Involvation is also enjoying success with its S&OP-based game ‘The Fresh Connection’, which has since found popularity in many export markets. Companies stand to benefit from making games an integral part of their activities to support training and decision-making and to attract young, ‘gaming’ talent. And the Dutch government should no longer dedicate large research grants to specific stand-alone sectors (such as the agricultural, chemical, high-tech and logistics industries). Instead, it would be better to invest 50 million euro in a professional 3D supply chain game in which these sectors could work together. The Netherlands has all the expertise required to facilitate this, and such a game would create a highly interesting export opportunity. Just look at the phenomenal global success of the World of Warcraft game, and the latest 3D release of ground-breaking game SimCity, which allows players to cooperate on the development of cities and supply chains online.

Martijn Lofvers

chief editor Supply Chain Movement