The Slice

What is a Business Game? Evolution, Types, Strategies & More

July 7, 2023

In this article, we'll take a closer look at business games as well as other activities that can help your employees gain vital skills, bond with one another, and grow together as a team.

Even if your employees have gone through well-designed training processes, there's always the chance that they will encounter scenarios in the real world that they simply aren't prepared for coming out of training.

The truth is some things are best learned through experience. This is where business games come in. These games simulate real-world scenarios so that employees can get some experience under their belt in a risk-free setting.

Business games have undergone a fascinating evolution since they first emerged, having been inspired by military war games. With the advancements in technology in recent decades, there are now countless different types of business games to suit just about every industry and business skill.

At the same time, these simulation experiences are really only one of the types of games that can be useful in managing a team. In this article, we'll take a closer look at business games as well as other activities that can help your employees gain vital skills, bond with one another, and grow together as a team.

What Is a Business Game?

Also known as a business simulation or management simulation, a business game is a type of training activity that lets individuals experience real-life business scenarios in a simulated capacity. This lets them make decisions, take risks, and learn in a controlled environment.

The purpose of business games is to provide a hands-on experience for participants. They can gain essential knowledge that can help them to develop their decision-making, problem-solving, and strategic thinking skills.

The Evolution of Business Games

Business games were first introduced more than a half-century ago. Over the course of more than fifty years, business games have been regularly improved and undergone progressive development. 

The first computer-supported business simulation games evolved out of military war games. In fact, if you want to get technical about it, you can actually trace the history of the business game back to the use of war games in China in 3000 BC.

It was during the late 1950s, however, that they started being used in business contexts. In 1955, the Rand Corporation developed a simulation exercise called Monopologs that required participants to role-play as inventory managers for the Air Force supply system.

The first widely known business game was introduced in 1956, known as Top Management Decision Simulation, created by the American Management Association. Several other business games followed, and the first that was used in a university class was created by Schreiber and called the Top Management Decision Game. This was when the field of business games started to take off, with more than one hundred business games believed to have existed by 1961.

As you might imagine, the introduction of the world wide web was a major milestone in the evolution of the business game. Using web-based technology, business games were able to incorporate more interactions between business decision variables. 

Business games have been extensively used in business schools and universities since the late eighties, particularly in the marketing and strategic management learning areas. For decades, these have been considered an innovative and valid training method that encourages students to learn through direct involvement while also engaging them.

Though they are widely used in universities, companies will also use them as a part of their management training and development programs.

Different Types of Business Games

Since the concept of business games first emerged, a number of different types have emerged.

Here are a few examples of some of the business games used in business training and university settings.

Marketing Management Simulations

These simulations allow participants to experience the challenges that they would face in the various roles of marketing professionals. As a part of the game, they can create marketing strategies, conduct market research, analyze consumer behavior, and make other real-world decisions in a controlled environment.

This can be a great way for marketing professionals to gain a deeper and more complete understanding of important marketing concepts. At the same time, they can develop their skills in a risk-free setting.

Supply Chain Management Games

In real-world business settings, coordinating and optimizing supply chain activities are essential for cost efficiency, happy customers, production efficiency, risk mitigation, and so much more. Simulation games that mimic the supply chain in a particular industry can help participants with making logistics, inventory management, demand forecasting, and procurement decisions.

Using these games can allow individuals to gain the skills and experience necessary to navigate the complex world of supply chain operations.

Business Planning Games

There are even games out there that help participants develop business plans. These can be used to build the skills necessary to create business plans for entrepreneurial pursuits.

When you play this game, you can learn to analyze markets, operational strategies, financial projections, and risk to refine your skills.

Leadership and Team Management Games

Leadership and team management skills are best learned with hands-on experience, and business games can give participants that opportunity.

In order to play, individuals will work in teams and make decisions related to goal setting, team composition, conflict resolution, communication, and more.

Business Negotiation Simulations

Negotiation skills are crucial for building relationships, resolving conflicts, and maximizing the value obtained from a specific situation. Through role-playing exercises, participants can learn the ins and outs of negotiation without striking any business deals.

Like many other business skills, negotiation is best learned from experience, so this type of game can provide a controlled setting where participants can stretch their wings.

Customer-Service Role-Playing Games

Every interaction a customer has with your brand is important, so allowing your customer service representatives to practice before actually communicating with a customer can be incredibly useful.

In these games, customer service scenarios are simulated so employees can practice customer interaction skills. In a role-play style game, participants can take turns playing the employee and the customer, giving everyone the opportunity to come up with effective solutions to customer complaints and concerns.

Industry-Specific Games

Some business games are specifically designed to simulate a particular industry. For example, there are business games that create scenarios that could realistically play out in finance, manufacturing, retail, or hospitality.

This is a great opportunity for individuals to gain the industry-specific skills they need to thrive in a particular role.

Business Game Strategies

When you're playing a business simulation game, there really isn't a cheat code.

That being said, you'll have the best chance for success if you follow these primary guiding principles:

  • Be prepared to transition to a new strategy if you face unforeseen events– teams that are the most agile often win.

  • Consider the long-term viability of the project or the company in order to propose profitable and sustainable solutions.

  • Be considerate when distributing tasks, ensuring that each participant is able to focus solely on the area where they have the greatest amount of expertise.

Other Games to Use For Training and Development

While the term "business games" refers specifically to games that simulate real-world business scenarios so participants can do some dry runs in a controlled environment, there are plenty of other games you can play that help support your business goals.

For example, team-building games and activities don't necessarily need to create a microcosm of your business environment to succeed. In fact, it can be useful to step outside of the normal context of your industry when you are working to bring your team together.

Team building exercises can help to improve employee morale, boost productivity, stimulate creativity and innovation, and more. While they can be a great addition to your repertoire at any company, it's particularly useful when you're managing a remote team. This is because working from home can be pretty isolating, and it's important to deliberately work to build trust, create a sense of community, and offer opportunities for team members to get to know one another better.

Let's take a look at some of the other types of games that could be useful as you work to create the strongest, most awesome team ever.

Team Building Games

Though just about any fun game can be a team-building game, some games are specifically designed to strengthen team dynamics and promote collaboration. For example, in an in-office setting, teams might take on a team obstacle course or have a rousing trust fall activity to help encourage communication, problem-solving skills, and trust.

An excellent team-building game for remote teams is a virtual escape room, which can help your team overcome challenges together and create shared memories. This game is so fun that it can be used as a reward for employees or as a way to show your appreciation to your team in addition to being a dedicated team-building activity.

Trivia or Quiz Games

Another great example of a game you can play with your team to help enhance essential skills is trivia or quiz games. You can design these games to incorporate information that is specific to your industry or brand, helping everyone brush up on their knowledge.

One of the great things about trivia games is that they help to create a healthy competitive environment. This can end up seeping into the rest of your team's endeavors, cultivating a productive and positive atmosphere where friendly competition reigns.

Trivia doesn't have to be all about business in order to help build essential skills for your team and bring them closer together, though. If you're interested in putting on a live trivia game for your virtual social or as a reward for your team, check out our live trivia experience.

Icebreaker and Energizer Games

It's worth noting that using games in a business context doesn't have to mean that you're shutting down the shop for the entire afternoon. You can also sprinkle little games into your meetings or use them during virtual happy hours to help break the ice and boost the mood.

Icebreaker games are very useful for helping everyone feel more relaxed at the start of a meeting or when they're first meeting one another. On the other hand, Energizers can serve as a welcome break to long training sessions or meetings. When used properly, energizers can help your entire team wake up and tune in.

Creativity and Innovation Games

There are lots of games out there you can play to help your team get their creative juices flowing.

Any game that encourages collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking can help to boost the innovative spirit, such as the "Yes, and…" improv game, the marshmallow challenge, and "The dot game."

Problem-Solving Games

Another great type of game to play with your team is problem-solving games.

Things like escape rooms (which double as a team-building exercise), logic puzzles, or brainteasers can be a great way to get the gears rolling.

Wellness and Fitness Games

When you're managing a remote team, you recognize that a healthy employee work-life balance is essential for both your workers and your company. Even though you all sign in from your chosen locations, this doesn't mean you can't take the opportunity to step away from work and engage in some online yoga or fitness classes.

Adding a gamified element in the form of friendly competition can be a great way to help boost motivation, build relationships between the team, and help show that you are committed to creating a positive work-life balance for your employees.

Give Your Employees the Fuel They Need to Succeed

If you're going to be playing business simulation games or any other type of team-building activity with your employees, it's important to make sure that they're fueled up and ready to go.

When planning a game with your team, it's the perfect opportunity to add some additional team bonding time. If you're worried that your employees are going to feel like the game is more of an obligation than a special treat, we know exactly what you need to turn those frowns upside down.

What is it, you ask?


That's right, just because your employees work remotely doesn't mean they can't enjoy the old-fashioned good time of a pizza party. In fact, helping you throw a pizza party for your remote team is our specialty.

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