Parents who worry about the types of computer games their teens are playing can now rejoice. A series of games has been developed to teach aspiring and existing Kiwi business owners how to successfully run a business and discover the tools needed to excel in the business.

Accounting and advisory firm BDO has partnered with a New Zealand tech company, the Joy Business Academy (JBA), to provide integrated business advisory advice for its series of Tycoon games. Students will learn financial literacy and business evolution skills as they progress through the games.

At present, there are three games — Restaurant Tycoon, Tech Tycoon and Construction Tycoon —and they're suitable for everyone from 14 years upwards.

The games were developed by JBA in association with the Ministry of Social Development, BNZ, Xero and BDO, which all submitted the real-world advice incorporated into the games. BDO became involved because it considers its job to be "seeing what's around the corner" for the thousands of New Zealand business owners to whom they offer advice.

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"Running a business isn't a rehearsal," says Adam Davy, head of innovation at BDO. "The pitfalls and potential for failure are all too real. The advice we've integrated into the Tycoon games provides seamless expertise to really simulate the realities of running a business day to day."

Davy believes the games will benefit any number of people. "You could be an aspiring business owner who wants to get an idea of the day-to-day realities of running a business, an existing business owner seeking the free business advice the game provides, a student with an entrepreneurial streak or simply someone who wants to improve their commercial nous."

Davy says the games allow people to test out their potential career path without committing to it. "There may be a huge gulf between the perception of running a business and the reality, so the Tycoon games replicate this in a safe way."

He also thinks the potential for employers to use the games to identify talent is huge. "For example, BDO runs an annual graduate recruitment programme. With digital disruption and the likes of Xero coming on the scene, the job of accountants is transforming from being compliance-centric to true business advisers who need to be very commercial. What better way for our accountants of the future to learn about the rigours of running a business than to be taken through this gamified experience?"

In an example of how the games work, players will need to manage multiple projects at once in the Tycoon Construction game.

"There are lots of cogs turning and it's not as simple as turning up to a site and doing a hard day's work," says Davy.

"Players will need to consider staff resourcing on each site, the skill sets of the staff they employ, buying and allocating materials, managing cashflow to ensure they don't go bust, and on top of all of that, managing the new retentions scheme and tax payments on an ongoing basis."

Davy says that up until recently, much of the school curriculum has been focused on academic learning. "While this is obviously crucial for exams, it doesn't really prepare students for the real-time roller coaster that running a business is. There are such a lot of moving parts and plates to keep spinning that it's very difficult to replicate this in the classroom, but by taking students through the steps in a realistic gamified, fun environment, it will really put them through their paces.

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"The games simulate the knock-backs and highs really well, so it does help kids to develop an agile and resilient mindset — crucial to running a business."

A national schools competition will run next week. Students will be able to download the games for free and compete to win Microsoft Surface Pros for their school. The top six students will be invited to participate in a day hosted by all the businesses co-creating Tycoon, which will in effect be a mini-internship and an introduction to the workplaces of some of New Zealand's largest organisations. After this, they'll have the opportunity to continue their internship with JBA for the rest of 2019 and be involved in the design and build of the next Tycoon game in the series.

The games are free on the JBA website for the first month, sponsored by Tycoon's partners. JBA's goal is to continue to have the games sponsored by companies to allow students to play for free.

Davy thinks the games will appeal to everyone, but most definitely to kids. "In a digital age, this is how they learn, it's instinctive for them — as anyone with small children and an iPad will attest to."