All work, and some play

Playing computer games is fun, but Maersk is now using games as a way to get a message across on a whole new level.

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Anja Andersen, Brand Manager at Maersk Group, instructs students at Esbjerg Gymnasium in playing Quest for Oil.

In a classroom in Esbjerg – the hub of Denmark’s oil and gas industry – the air buzzes with excitement. Given the level of enthusiasm it’s hard to believe that this is a science lesson. But today the students are battling it out for a high score on Quest for Oil, an interactive computer game developed by Maersk.

The game was created to provide a taster of real-life challenges facing those who work in oil and gas. To win the quest, players have to locate oil reserves in Qatar and the North Sea, and complete challenges around exploration, drilling and production in a race against the clock.

Sparking enthusiasm
Maersk plans to distribute the game to every secondary school in Denmark (along with some specially developed teaching materials and homework assignments) as an innovative way to spark enthusiasm among students in pursuing a career in the oil and gas sector, which is currently facing a chronic skills shortage.

The idea of using computer games for business purposes – or ‘gamification’ as it’s known – is being seized on by companies like Maersk as a way to get their message across in an engaging way. “Many companies are using games as a powerful learning and communication tool,” says Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Head of Seriousgames.net, which helped develop Quest for Oil. “The more actively we engage and interact with an idea, the bigger the impact, and games are the best medium there is for doing this.”

Quest for Oil is certainly holding the attention of the high school students – not always an easy task, says their teacher Clea Schneider. “These days students all have computers in class so it can be impossible to get their full attention with distractions such as Facebook and Messenger. But today the learning itself is the distraction, and I think the competitive element is something this generation is very excited by.”

Transformation takes place

But it’s not just kids that are fired up by competition; it’s adults too. So when a major restructuring took place in Maersk Line’s Centre Trade & Marketing department, the project team chose to launch a computer game for employees as a way to help them get to grips with their new roles.

“The challenge was to make sure everyone in the department understood the changes and what the new roles would entail,” says Martin Nykjaer, Global HR Business Partner, Maersk Line HR. “We didn’t want to present people with another PowerPoint and we thought a computer game would be an interesting way to engage people in the changes taking place.”

‘The Transformation Game’ challenges players to move across an office floor, taking on different roles in the department and tackling a series of dilemmas that might be faced by someone doing the job in real life. Players can compete against the clock, and each other.

After initial skepticism the whole department was hooked. “At first people said: I really don’t have time for this. I’ve got so much work to do and now I’m being asked to play a computer game,” says Nykjaer. “But once they realised how true to life and challenging the dilemmas were, the enthusiasm took off. It was also an eye-opener to many who found they didn’t get all the answers right in the first go.

“There are some quite competitive people in the team,” he adds. “We had people playing multiple times trying to edge up their place on the high scores list; and you could see assistant trade managers challenging the trade managers and beating them.”

Reaching the next level
The Transformation Game was such a hit that the plan now is to roll it out to new employees as a way for them to familiarise themselves with the department, and to overseas employees for a deeper insight into what’s going on at headquarters.

Meanwhile there are big plans to take Quest for Oil to the next level too, says Anja Andersen, Brand Manager, Group Communication and Branding. A new version of the game targeting high school students in the US will launch this summer, and other oil industry hubs are in the pipeline. “We also have ideas to make it multiplayer, mobile, expand the locations on the globe of where we do business and create more ‘mini-games’ around key industry messages such as safety, environment or people.”

All of which sounds much more fun than listening to another PowerPoint presentation.

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We have ideas to make it multiplayer, mobile, expand the locations on the globe of where we do business and create more ‘mini-games’ around key industry messages such as safety, environment or people.

ANJA ANDERSEN, BRAND MANAGER AT MAERSK GROUP.