computer simulated training, video game training, video game army training
AP/Charlie Riedel
An instructor reviews a
computer-simulated mission with

Video Games Replace Banks, Gyms, Health Care and Job Training—What’s Next?

April 22, 2009 05:00 PM
by Haley A. Lovett
Hilton Garden Inn and the military join the many organizations that use video games for training; with many virtual experiences replacing real world interaction, has it gone too far?

Real World Job Interviews and Training Move to the Virtual World

In a move to keep employees more engaged during training, Hilton Garden Inn is now using a Sony PSP video game, “Ultimate Team Play,” to let employees work on interaction with customers virtually to prepare for real interactions later on. “Players are learning by doing without making mistakes with real guests,” senior manager of brand education at Hilton Hotels Corporation David Kervella told Reuters.

The game, which takes five hours to complete, allows new employees to see how guests will react to certain situations, and how the employees’ actions will impact the ratings of the hotel overall.

The United States Military Academy at West Point also uses video games for training. In the military communications course, cadets play a video game that simulates an infantry mission in Iraq. The students must learn proper communication via handheld radios during the situations that arise in the game. The instructors are also part of the game, and create confusion by adding civilians, insurgents and other diversions to the situations. Cadets learn how improper communication can have a deadly outcome. 

But it isn’t just training that can take place in the virtual world. Some companies have been looking to the popular online video game Second Life to find new recruits, although not without hitches. One interviewee told The Wall Street Journal that because he was new to the game, he couldn’t figure out how to dress his character in a suit for the interview, or how to make it sit down in the chair. Another interviewee accidentally handed a recruiter a beer when she was attempting to hand them her resume.

Background: Video games designed to replace real world: gym, healthcare, bank

The virtual world is attempting to do more than just provide training and create another way for job seekers to find employment—video game makers are now claiming that playing games could replace (or supplement) real-world experiences like going to the gym, banking or getting health care.

Long has the game Dance Dance Revolution been credited with the unexpected side effect of helping couch potatoes get in shape. When Nintendo Wii introduced the Wii Fit last year it had similar goals. Although it was found that children who play Wii (a gaming device with handheld motion-sensor controls that you move to control the game) burn slightly more calories moving the control than children who play button-controlled gaming systems such as Xbox, there were doubts about whether the new game could replace a real gym. Most reviewers found that while the game was not an equal workout to running on a treadmill, it did provide some workout and was a better alternative than no exercise.

But more than attempting to get people in shape, some games aim to help patients deal with mental or physical ailments. Last August, Dr. Pamela Kato of the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands released a study that showed that adolescent cancer patients who played a game called “Re-Mission” were more diligent about taking their medication than those who played a video game for pure entertainment. Kato said that the game gave patients a new view of how Chemo and other treatments were helping them fight the disease. Another game, “Virtual Iraq,” is now used to help treat returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Another move to the virtual world came from the banking industry. Last month, the makers of the game Entropia Universe were given permission by the Swedish government to start a real bank in the virtual world. Players can use the bank accounts to buy weaponry and other supplies for their avatars, while knowing that their money is safely insured up to $60,000.

Opinion: Do video games promote positive or negative behavior?

Just like television, video games have long been the subject of debate over their influence on those who play them. One game in particular, Grand Theft Auto, has been criticized for its portrayal of violence, crime, sex and drug use. The Parents Television Council has urged retailers not to stock the latest versions of the game, and some criticize the availability of the game for consoles normally aimed at young players.

A study released in September of last year may dispel some of the stereotypes about video gamers; it surveyed more than 1,000 kids and found that most of them played video games. It found that more than half of the kids regularly played games with others in the room, proving that not all gamers are loners, and that kids who played games that dealt with positive social or moral issues were more likely to be civically active. More than anything, the study showed that not all video games are positive or negative, and that generalizing is not an effective way to evaluate their impact on children.

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