Rethinking Production Games
Potentials for Empowerment and Discipline in Virtual Worlds
Within the discourse on contemporary, post-Taylorist working life, production games and simulations are widely accepted as tools to facilitate learning and communication in organizations. We suggest that research programs dealing with production games can be seen as lying between two typical positions. Insiders — any significant group that proposes that simulations are useful — argue that they are fair representations of work practices, and that they hold specific qualities. Outsiders — researchers seeking to understand how simulations work in action — reject these kinds of 3.. priori statements, claiming that it is not meaningful to express any of the qualities of simulations prior to the simulation situation without succumbing to mythologizing simulations. This paper presents a study, undertaken from an outsider perspective, of a simulation game used in Sweden. We suggest that simulation games are complex social interactions carrying a considerable, albeit not yet fully exploited, potential for learning. The outline of the simulation favored the use of recently developed shop floor practices over old practices, and the explanation for the success of the new practices was often interpreted in terms of technical aspects of the production process. Observations and interviews indicate that research from an insider perspective tends to underestimate the emergent character of the simulations and how the game can be a vehicle for discipline and the creation of dysfunctional patterns in workgroups as well as learning. In summary, the outsider perspective could, as in this study, provide alternative perspectives on simulations, providing new insights and ideas, for research as well as practice.
Keywords: Production Simulation, Outsider Perspective, Games, Social Interaction.
Published online: 01 January 1998