Why stimulation games work. In search of the active substance: A synthesis

G.J. Hofstede, L.I.A. de Caluwe, V. Peters

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this article, the authors reflect on the question why simulation games are such an effective tool for learning. The article is based on the authors' experience and that of many other practitioners in the field. The article posits that it is the confluence of systemic knowledge, practice, emotional involvement, and social embeddedness that creates the potential to achieve results that no other methods can match. A simulation game run constitutes a bout of individual and collective purposeful action by an individual or a group formed specifically for that purpose. People have evolved to be supremely good at just that. Simulation games can teach systemic knowledge, and they can enable participants to try out organizational changes. This potential is not always realized, however. Game runs are "alive" and variable, and this is a risky strength. They activate not only the explicit rules but also the hidden cultural rules of the participants. This can lead to memorable learning as well as to frustration, particularly when games are used across cultures. The article specifies reasons why games could fail and offers ways to avoid these pitfalls. It shows that experience and craftsmanship are needed in game design, facilitation, and debriefing. © 2010 SAGE Publications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-843
JournalSimulation & Gaming: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Theory, Practice and Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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