The aim of this game is to let the participants to experience the mechanisms of variation, transmission and selection (all the three together compose the evolutionary dynamics), and how these lead to system results in terms of market shifts.
Frank Boons (2009) in his book chapter "An evolutionary approach towards the strategic perspectives of firms" of the book <Creating Ecological Value> systematically illustrated the elements and mechanisms of evolutionary theory and provided seven different scenarios of the system dynamics of PCS. Frank Boons summarized the theoretical work by looking at the elements of evolutionary mechanisms from three levels, namely firm, resource network and PCS.
By mimic of evolutionary dynamics in biology which has been extensively discussed in Darwin's theory, the dynamics of market and social systems could also be explained by evolutionary perspective. Frank Boons in his book took the evolutionary approach in analyzing the complex dynamics of production and consumption system where he argued the three necessary elements are variation, inheritance and selection. Different from biology, companies in economic systems rarely reproduce offsprings but rather inherit their characteristics through transmission or retention.
Since the evolutionary dynamics have been analyzed in the PCS and discussed in our previous lectures, roles of producers and customers are accordingly created in our Car Game version 2.0.
The ideas is that some groups of students play the role of car producers and supply cars with various features that attracts customers. They try to sell the cars to gain profit and by competing with each other the producer who gains the most revenue wins the game in the end. While the competition mechanism excited all the students playing the role of producers, perhaps the ultimate purpose of playing this game is not to compete how to be the best seller, but instead to experience how the interactions between producers and customers, between producers and producers, as well as between customers and customers formulated the variation, transmission and selection within the system. Finally, summarizing the game from the system level is of much importance as it gives a holistic view of how small changes in different sectors, under the context of selection pressure of the system, drives the evolutionary process of the system.
The game indeed created a lot of fun and gave space for different scenarios to happen. I believe students playing different roles (customers, producers, bank, government and even one group who played producer finally sold their company and it gave the merge and acquisition to happen) might have different interpretations of mechanisms from their own experience. The most important thing I treasure in this game is the freedom to play, which means within the boundary of the game rules you could do anything you think that is rational in the market. For example, one group of producer sold their company and give the scenario of merge and acquisition to happen. Another instance is that in the last round some "customers" decided to use their budget to purchase a fantastic super car together and then try to do car sharing. All this actions were very creative and it posed new scenarios to the system or injected new driving forces into the market, which finally caused a distinctive result, or rather, made a difference in the final evolutionary end-point. Perhaps, this also resembles the real-life world where the system is so dynamic and you never predict what could happen in the future.
While I enjoyed playing this Car Game 2.0 very much during class and I participated in the co-designing process of the game, I afterwards independently created another game which I think better employs the evolutionary dynamics and more interesting to play with. The game designed by me has been introduced in my last blog entry: Design an Educational Game for SSPM class of Industrial Ecology and I named it "EU Wind Energy Game". I evaluated both the "EU Wind Energy Game" and Car Game 2.0 and conclude that the "EU Wind Energy Game" is more suitable to function as a teaching game of evolutionary dynamics. You are very welcome to view and comment on my game and join me to improve it and make it a teaching game in next year's industrial ecology class.
For this blog entry, several questions regards to Car Game 2.0 should be answered:
- How was your experience as a player of the game? Did you enjoy, gain insight, could you keep your concentration, etc. Please specify your role and how you performed.
- What are your reflections as a co-creator of the game? What did you learn about designing such a (rather complicated) game?
- How could the role of governments in exerting selection pressure be more adequately simulated in the game?
1. My Experience as a Player
In the Car Game, I played the role of a consumer. In the first round, I tried to save money by choosing public transport instead of buying a car immediately. A second reason is that at the very beginning the producers are quiet cautious and they tend to make ordinary cars with only basic functions and rare features. So buying a car in this round might leads to having the same or similar cars with others which cannot distinguish my own taste and style. Thus I opt out from being similar as others by choosing public transport. And of course this saved me some budget which I could use in next rounds to buy a relatively better car. In the first round, several producers overestimated the market need and ended up with stocking unsold cars which is trashed immediately.
In the second round, producers were more cautious and starts to build features to their cars and predicted the market projections. Customers choose cars with various features according to different values. As most customers are industrial ecologists, the "sustainability" of the cars is one of the most important evaluation index of the design. However, producers are smart and they tried to attract customers by designing various innovative features such as having bigger wheel, or improving the safety system or even incorporating various luxury characteristics. However among all the features, I find the "lengthening durability" is most popular as some customers think this is the strategy of having a car that last longer to save money. It did work and I used this strategy to save budget. I also noticed some other "customers" chose to purchase cars of fancy features to show off with each other. As the subconscious aim of customers is to own a nice car and compete with each other. So my strategy is to save budget at the first several rounds and try to purchase a really awesome car at the ending round. This perhaps is one kind of customer psychology in this competition.
However, as far as I see it, there is a flaw in this game ---- it lacks a rational competition mechanism among consumers. While it gives some sense to say consumers purchase cars to show off and compete with each other, this reasoning sounds very superficial and ambiguous. First, although the customer's psychology is understandable, I still don't understand what is the driving force for consumer's competition. Since the producers design various features and there is no suitable evaluation mechanism to judge which feature is more attractive and deserve more investment or payback. Thus there is no suitable mechanism to quantify and qualify the values of cars owned by different consumers and thus no way to compare them on a rational perspective. Due to the lack of evaluation mechanism, the competition of consumers became very complicated and multidimensional, and even vague.
Second, in the Car Game, while it's popular to produce and purchase cars with high sustainability factors (less CO2 emission), it didn't prove a working mechanism to drive the ecological benefit. The popularity of eco-cars in this game is based on the fact that we have a whole room of industrial ecologist and sustainability has already deeply rooted in their personal philosophy. But in real-life, this is not the case. Especially the sustainability itself is valuable to public good of society but not to private producer or customer. So there is no clear driving force towards sustainability. The assumption that every customer and every producer loves eco-friendly car is very dangerous or even false.
Later in this game, we introduced the role of Government and the selection pressure of tax related to CO2 emission. It works a little bit since it somehow pushed all companies towards the sustainability goal. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to fully explore the effects of selection pressures from tax imposed by Government.
In my point of view, the selection pressure is not strong enough and companies could have different tricks to avoid the selection pressure. For example, in the certain round, companies could make less car and minimize the impact from the tax pressure. The selection pressure in the Car Game also lacks power to reset or re-organize the whole system. It also seems to me the transmission mechanism has rarely been employed in this game. Neither companies nor consumers have formed any impact on each other and facilitated any transmission of behavior, action or strategy. It seems producer-producer relationship and customer-customer relationship didn't contribute much to the dynamics of the system.
Another observation is that in this Car Game, no niche has been created. There is also no proper method to evaluate how one specific participant impact the whole system, how fast and to what extent the transmission has been performed, how well is one participant doing, or how better one participant is doing than another. Generally speaking, the Game still lacks quantification index to give clear and precise insights.
Anyway, while I criticized a lot on the Car Game, I won't hesitate to agree that it's still a fair game to depict the evolutionary dynamics and it indeed gives a whole picture of how the system evolved along time.
2. Comparing the Car Game with EU Wind Energy Game.
Comparing the Car Game with my EU Wind Energy Game, I would like to highlight that the EU Wind Energy Game is better in terms of employing and simulating the elements in Evolutionary Dynamics. This could be observed from different aspects.
1) The EU Wind Energy Game has introduced the competition mechanism for consumers. In this game, the roles of different countries are both producers and consumers. They are competing on wind energy development.
While the competition mechanism in Car Game is very vague and week (as it only assumes consumers buy cars to show off and compete with others), the competition mechanism in EU Wind Energy is pretty clear and precise. The competition is based on two factors --- Environmental Impact and Profit. It also has particular algorithm to quantify these two factors.
2) In the Car Game, there is no clear driving force towards sustainability. The assumption that every customer and every producer loves eco-friendly car is very dangerous or even false.
However in the EU Wind Energy Game, this problem doesn't exist. Since the competition mechanism is more rational and practical, every country's aim is the to to reap more profit while minimize the environmental impact. This is also true in real-life where profit and sustainable technology is always the driving force in the wind energy development.
3) The selection pressure in the Car Game was found to be very week. Only the Government (the teacher) posed some incentives among companies and that doesn't work very well. Also, the impact of selection pressure on different companies could not be simulated, as during playing every company designed eco-car to avoid tax pressure from government. There is no company outperforms others under the selection pressure and there is no company who dies out. Thus I argue that the selection pressure in Car Game is also very week.
However, as you could see. The selection pressure in EU Wind Energy game is pretty strong. In each round, the selection pressure (Environmental Impact Factor and Profit Factor) selects two leading countries. These leading countries then determined the technology innovation and projection in the future and have an significant impact on other companies and the whole system by promoting and diffusing the technology innovation. The EU could also impose incentives and provide subsidy to countries in different phase, particularly during the R&D period. Thus the EU's incentive has a huge impact on the technology development direction. All these demonstrate that the selection pressure in EU Wind Energy game is much more vivid and practical.
4) In the EU Wind Energy Game, concepts like "transmission" and "niche" in the evolutionary theory have been simulated. Especially the game pays attention to how different new technologies are diffused among different countries and how the technology transmission is performed. Niches could also be created by coalition of different countries.
5) The EU Wind Energy Game provides more significant meaning when analyzing from the system level. Looking at the large picture from the system's level gives clear description of the interactions of countries and how technology innovation is transmitted and diffused. If the records are kept in excel, we could easily tell how the profit of wind technology raise and how the "Per round environmental impact" is decreased (regardless the total accumulation is increasing). This resembles the technology evolution could achieve economic and environmental benefit. Based on the statistics, if we compare the results of first three rounds (before first R&D) with the results after several rounds of R&D, we might be able to find that through the wind turbine technology evolution, the decoupling of economic profit and environmental impact occurred and became more and more impressive.
Thus the EU Wind Energy Game gives us better opportunity to learn from the system analysis.
In the End, I argue that the EU Wind Energy Game is better than Car Game 2.0 and I hope my explanation could persuade the teacher to use the game designed by myself in next year's teaching. Thanks.