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From Board Games to Virtual Reality: Tracing the Evolution of Business Simulations through time


The history of business simulations dates back to the early 20th century, when the first management games were developed to train managers and executives. These early simulations were simple board games used to teach basic business concepts, such as production and supply chain management.

The beginnings of the modern enterprise gaming movement can be traced back to the fusion of advances in war gaming, operations research, computer technology and education theory. From its earliest applications in the late 1950s, the use of enterprise games in the United States managed to reach a stage of maturity. In other English-speaking countries, many additional uses and applications are still possible today. But when talking about the history of simulations, the post-socialist nations of Europe have a rich history of industrial games dating back to the early 1930s. The move of these countries to market-based economies presented new opportunities for applying simulations and games to education and management development.

Moving back to the 1960s, we find the earliest evidence that the first computer-based business simulations were developed. These early simulations were used primarily by large corporations to train their managers and executives and were often customized to reflect each company's specific business processes and operations.

Business Simulations: Through the time.

After this, an important part of the history of business simulations is linked to the Association for Business Simulation and Experiential Learning (ABSEL) which by 2001 was already 25 years old, and in a review of the 25 years of ABSEL conference proceedings, we can find that it dates back to Oklahoma City in 1974, a long timeline that presents us with these tools characterized by a changing nature and always under constant research.

In other words, in the 1970s and 1980s, business simulations began to be used more widely in business schools and universities as a way to provide students with hands-on experience and prepare them for the real-world challenges they would face in their careers. These early simulations generally relied on mainframe computers and had limited capabilities.

Business Simulations: Through the time.

It is even possible to find studies that were published in 1996 but correspond to a decade earlier, the 80s. One of the most outstanding is the article "Business Simulation Games: Current Usage Levels. A Ten Year Update" written by A. J. Faria and Ray O. Nulsen, in which it is stated that ten years ago a major study was conducted involving more than 1,500 mail questionnaires to determine the level of use of business simulation games in the academic world and in business training programs. They in turn decided to update the previous study data by sending out 1,583 questionnaires to business school deans, business professors, and industry training and development directors. The results showed that the use of business simulation games in academia and industry continued to grow, as did expectations about simulations.

Business Simulations: Through the time.

Thus concluding that by this time there was already a lot of talk about the topic and the potential of these tools.

In the 1990s, the development of personal computers and the Internet enabled the creation of more advanced commercial simulations that could be used by a wider variety of people, including students and small businesses. In addition, the incorporation of the Internet enabled online simulations and distance learning.

By this time it was considered that more than a quarter of a century had passed since the American Management Association introduced the first practical business game in 1956 (Meier, Newell and Pazer, 1969). And that its rapid growth was due to the growing interest in computerized business games which had been documented for at least 30 years earlier. In fact, the number of games available had increased so dramatically that an edition of "Guide to Simulations/Games for Education and Training (Horn and Cleaves, 1980)" listed hundreds of such games.

The 21st century has seen a continued evolution in the technology used in business simulations, including the incorporation of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and real-time data. These advances have made it possible to create more realistic and immersive simulations, and have expanded the range of applications for business simulations, including recruitment and customer experience.

For 2008, the article "Developments in Business Gaming: A Review of the Past 40 Years" is published, which examines the evolution of business simulation games over the past 40 years. It addresses a brief history of business games, the evolution of the technology used in the development and use of business games, the changes in the reasons why they are adopted and used, the changes in the way they are managed, as well as the current state of business games up to that time.

By 2013 the rules of operation of business simulations were becoming clearer and clearer, as it was possible to identify as an advantage of the business simulation the space of time where several conflict situations that need to be solved are concentrated. As well as that students should be guided by rules to fulfill the set of actions and of course rules are an essential element of a business simulation. By then, two types of rules were distinguished: the rules that limit the actions of the players and the rules-sanctions that punish the players for misconduct, these rules had to be established by the players themselves and fully complied with.

Business Simulations: Through the time.

Years later, the pandemic was an opportunity to study and develop in detail by playing with the innovation of many business simulations, the main objective of many studies was to determine the different components that could contribute to business sustainability with the use of business simulations in fields such as work immersion as well as to evaluate the long-term implications. Schools, in collaboration with teachers, guided students through their school activities, preparing them to face the obstacles they will face when they enter the profession.

Thus discovering that the school can help the student prepare their product and assist them with the planning stage of their business simulation activity since the students' business simulations require the assistance of the community to be effective.

Currently, business simulation games focus on managing various departments within a company, such as accounts, finance, human resources, marketing, management, entrepreneurship, etc. These gaming platforms help students with creative and innovative ideas to enhance their engagement and learning skills on real scenarios while playing in a virtual environment. Students' critical and technical thinking skills are enhanced by integrating theoretical and practical knowledge through business simulation games. Incorporating business simulation games into conventional teaching methods can enhance students' learning and make it more effective, beneficial and enjoyable.

Business Simulations: Through the time.

Several studies have supported the use of business simulation games for years, as an innovative tool to strengthen creativity, individual motivation, critical thinking, team management, collaboration skills, time management, experiential learning and has even been linked to engagement and entrepreneurship.

As of 2023, the development of skills related to critical thinking and idea generation is one of the main drivers of entrepreneurship education; therefore, the incorporation of prototyping tools can significantly boost the learning process by allowing students to design their own prototypes for existing challenges through an interactive environment, it has been a long journey for simulations to have the usability of today, but as developments are constant, from Eureka simulations we are sure that these tools will continue to surprise us.

Business Simulations: Through the time.

In conclusion, the history of business simulations dates back to the early 20th century, with the development of management games and the first computer-based simulations. Over time, the technology used in these simulations has advanced, allowing for more realistic and immersive experiences. So it would not be news that for the rest of the century the incorporation of AI, VR and real-time data has expanded the range of applications for business simulations.

Business simulations have been used extensively in business schools, universities and corporations as a way to provide hands-on experience and prepare people for real-world challenges. It has become an indispensable tool for business schools to provide cutting-edge training with complete and immersive hands-on experiences.


Faria, A. J. (2001). The changing nature of business simulation/gaming research: A brief history. Simulation & gaming, 32(1), 97-110.

Faria, A. J., & Nulsen, R. O. (1996, March). Business simulation games: current usage levels. A ten year update. In Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning: Proceedings of the Annual ABSEL conference (Vol. 23).

Wolfe, J. (1993). A history of business teaching games in English-speaking and post-socialist countries: The origination and diffusion of a management education and development technology. Simulation & gaming, 24(4), 446-463.

Faria, A. J., Hutchinson, D., Wellington, W. J., & Gold, S. (2009). Developments in business gaming: A review of the past 40 years. Simulation & gaming, 40(4), 464-487.

Joldoshov, M., & Sayakbaeva, J. (2018). The Significance of Using Business Simulations in Training of Bachelors and Masters. Vocational Teacher Education in Central Asia: Developing Skills and Facilitating Success, 105-110.

Amper, E. C. (2022). Exploring the Experiences of Senior High School Students on Business Simulation in the New Normal: Basis for a Proposed Intervention Program. International Journal of Multidisciplinary: Applied Business and Education Research, 3(2), 180-203.

Alkaabi, K. (2023). Applying the Innovative Approach of Employing a Business Simulation Game and Prototype Developing Platform in an Online Flipped Classroom of an Entrepreneurial Summer Course: A Case Study of UAEU. Education Sciences, 13(1), 13.

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About the author:
Diana Gutiérrez Eureka logo

Diana Gutiérrez is a journalist and content strategist for Eureka Simulations. She holds a degree in social communication and journalism from Universidad los Libertadores and has extensive experience in socio-political, administrative, technological, and gaming fields.