Three cool new online games are designed to teach people key business skills of the future.

Want to be a tycoon? Here – play this game.

Sounds improbable but that is exactly what is happening with a new series of online games designed to give aspiring and existing business owners, as well as young people, an idea of how to succeed in business.

Construction Tycoon, Restaurant Tycoon and Tech Tycoon have been developed by the Ministry of Social Development, Joy Business Academy, Xero, BNZ, BCITO, Fletcher Building, Microsoft and accounting and business advisory firm BDO.

They are games which teach players business skills, including many of those deemed essential by the World Economic Forum for future employment – critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision making and cognitive flexibility.


They are also strategy games which reward players for successes as they move up levels. Construction Tycoon, for example, begins with a player as a project manager winning a tender – and then launches into a world of construction issues.

"It takes you through a real-life construction scenario," says the Head of Advisory and Director of Innovation for BDO, Adam Davy. "You have to get that project built – but there are all sorts of challenges thrown at you. You have to hire staff, the right people, there's capital expenditure and you have to ensure all the relevant contractors are there and are working to plan."

The construction game is the last in the series to be developed and was released on May 15, with the Minister of Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni and Minister of Employment, Willie Jackson.

The games, originally the brainchild of Joy Business Academy founder James Coddington and jointly developed with MSD, BCITO, Xero, BNZ, Fletcher Building, Microsoft and BDO, are also tools in a national schools competition running from May 20-24. It takes place over 100 "in game" days (an "in game" day takes about five minutes) – with winners successfully strategising their way to recouping the most money, measured through profits and/or asset strength.

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Davy says BDO decided to partner in the Tycoon games series because "gamifying" learning is proving so successful around the world and because the changing field of accountancy needs to ensure those coming through have the skills they will need in a future which is "already here".

Many traditional accounting processes have been taken over by software like that of Xero – with whom BDO partners on a daily basis.

"That means we can focus more on interpretation and analysis and understanding our clients' business. The numbers are still important, of course they are, but there is a huge amount of data now available and it is all about what you do with it."

Davy also says the gamified learning is aimed at potential or existing business owners: "Running a business has some real pitfalls and potential for failure – and as advisers to thousands of New Zealand business owners, our job is to see what is around the corner for them, and make sure they have the right advice, tools and resources to thrive."


The advice integrated into the Tycoon games does just that, he says, providing seamless expertise and prompts to simulate the reality of running a business.

"There can be a huge gulf between the perception of running a business and the reality, so the Tycoon games replicate this in a safe way."

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Gaming has been proven to make learning fun and more effective; Davy says James Coddington, CEO of game developer Joy Business Academy, told him that trials with gamified learning showed recall was "much higher" than among students who did not undergo gamified study.

Coddington set about creating Joy Business Academy with the goal of creating digital games that would teach vital small business skills to young people: "It just seemed like the closest thing we could create to starting a business without asking people to risk actual money in the process," he told CIO magazine last year.

"Essentially it's owning and operating a business – but in the virtual world. You learn the same skills without actually having to take that risk."

Gamified learning has proved so successful – and the cross-cultural skills of gaming have become so desirable - that Forbes magazine recently reported many CVs in the US now sport the person's leadership credentials in online gaming.

Davy says by immersing the player in their own business in the virtual world, they learn the necessary skills and understand how they can work with different partners or business advisers which can then be translated into operating their own SME business in the real world.

"It's pretty cool," says Davy. "They have to think about whether they hire staff or fire them; they have to decide whether to go to the bank and borrow more – all those kind of issues and we hope to expose people to that at a really young age.

"Young people won't be the only ones to benefit – you could be an aspiring business owner who wants a good idea of the realities of running business, or an existing business owner seeking the free advice the game provides."

Download a Tycoon game for free: