Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How Role-Playing-Games can enhance effective knowledge transfer in marketing situations.

Within the latest two decades, computer games and virtual worlds have occupied a significant part of everyday life. Primarily for fun, people play, from strategy games, to action, racing, to shooting games. Virtual worlds have generally become spaces where people meet for virtual communication and other interactions. Specifically role-playing games (RPGs) are nowadays of the most powerful virtual spaces that afford fortuitous interactions between the player/avatar and the environment.

At the same time, there is significance rise in the expansion of games in formal educational settings, training contexts, and other learning and professional development spaces. This blog illustrates a model for effective knowledge transfer training in marketing settings. Specifically, it focuses on the relationship between the person and its interactions with the environment and its affordances in order to understand marketing scenarios that can occur in real life.

The increasing value of RPGs lies in the fact that they immerse players in narratively rich experiences; they take up roles and are active agents of change in the virtual context. For example, by taking up the role of a reporter, marine biologist, doctor, executor, shooter, seller, etc., in a RPG game, players can interact with avatars and acquire objects, that push the narrative forward in ways that every choice becomes significant for the continuation of the story (Gee, 2003, Barab et al., 2010). If the player chooses to invest a lot of their in-game money to buy a big amount of products, they might lose the game, as the real-life “laws” will apply; the player will run out of money if there are not enough buyers to buy the products, the bank might charge more interest, etc.

It is evident that RPG games can successfully simulate real life situations; the effects of certain causes are expected and the consequences are realistic, as much as the virtual setting seems to be. This realistic simulation seems to be what enhances knowledge transfer, especially in educational settings. There has been a lot of talk lately about the educational value of games and this exact simulation of real life can afford learners to assimilate knowledge more naturalistically and therefore, transfer it. The fact that learners can experience the effects of their actions is crucial when they are to rearticulate their knowledge to a new setting because they are equipped with the knowledge, and at often times with the skills to respond to new problems.

As learning is considered to be lifelong, and as companies aim to train their employees to respond to different problems, it is significant that they adopt adequate practices for their employees’ professional development. In the business world, training is a significant component for success and growth. A successful company has well-trained employees that can respond to the demands of the clients, and those of the company in extend. However, training does not happen once; on the contrary, a successful company provided opportunities for professional development and training at frequent times.

Either face-to-face, or online, training sessions aim at introducing new trends, providing solutions to newly raised problems, as well as ensuring their trainees’ successful course. As games are becoming a new trend for learning, it seems vital to adopt such practices in the training sector. Specifically, marketing is a business field that requires fast reactions from the seller who promotes a product, and competes with others in the field. At often times, being able to react quickly and provide the client with what they need can lead to successful marketing strategies by having the competitive advantage in the market. Training the marketers for dealing with such problems can significantly raise the sales of a company. A model for such training is proposed in this paper, aiming as identifying the components of a successful virtual training for marketing businesses.

As shown in Figure 1, the model emphasizes on the interactions between the trainee, the context (the virtual world of the RPG game), and the content (several strategies that the trainee is exposed to in order to resolve the problem in the gaming situation). The transactive relationship between these three components is crucial for effective knowledge transfer in real life settings, as the strategies will be applied in the narrative provided in the RPG by the trainee, in their attempt to respond to several simulated situations they are likely to encounter in the future.

Extending this general form of the model, there are other factors to consider in the overall process, like the trainer and their role, the nature of the interactions between the marketers and the buyers (these can be virtual characters in the game). Also, two factors that derive from this model, and that need to be taken into consideration are the legitimacy and the consequentiality of the components’ relationships. Since RPGs provide immediate feedback to the players’ actions, the design of an RPG for the particular purposes must have the same affordances so that the trainees’ agency is reinforced. The trainer should monitor the overall process and challenge the trainees’/ players’ thinking. This way there will be more critical engagement in the overall process.

In order for an action to be legitimate, it must satisfy the rules of the game. Therefore, an action is legitimate if the player successfully completes it and moves further in the marketing training process. For example, if creating a campaign for a product that has successful outcomes for the uptake of a product, then that action is considered to be legitimate and the consequences are encouraging and provide fertile ground for the next steps. Upon legitimacy, consequentiality is enhanced as the player becomes aware of their actions and the consequences a strategy might have in the marketing process.

All these components contribute to acquiring the knowledge and skills to respond to real life situations. Being able to realize and understand the consequences of an action in marketing, the trainee will be more ready and equipped to respond to projects and problems in the marketing process, as they will have experiences similar virtual experiences and they will be able to avoid possible mistakes. Associating similarities between virtual and real life scenarios enhances effective knowledge transfer, and as we base our actions, usually to our prior experiences, it is more efficient to respond to the demands of the market and come up with the right strategies for successful marketing.

In applying the particular model, trainees can practice their company’s strategies in a virtual context and understand how they work is different situations. For example, the RPG can provide a series of scenarios from a database that indicate successful applications of strategies in specific situations. The same can happen for unsuccessful applications of strategies and then provide opportunities for reflections and discussion around what could have gone wrong, or what could have been done differently. Further, this model supports safe experimentation of several strategies in various situations, as mistakes do not have real consequences and the immediate feedback provided trains for adequate responses to marketing scenarios.

This type of training can optimize the marketing world in terms of training the employees. Having virtual contexts to use, businesses can direct their employees for professional development at any time – the employees can have access to the training sessions at any time as well. The quality of training could be potentially optimized through this model, as trainers will focus more on the aspects of consequentiality, legitimacy and the interactions that shape the dynamics if the model’s system and knowledge can be more effectively transferred in real life situations.

Overall, this paper has proposed and described a model for training that situates the trainees in a context and immerses them in a simulation of real life, a combination that affords rich interactions that enhance better understanding of how marketing strategies can be applied and work in specific situations. The overarching outcomes of such naturalistic immersion is the effective knowledge transfer in real life and in extend the more successful application of strategies in the world of marketing.