You can learn many useful skills from a video game. Such as how to raid a tomb. Or kill a cyborg. Or save Princess Toadstool from the evil Koopa Bowser. You can even learn something about how to run a business. Seriously. To prove it, we at AllBusiness have come up with our five favorite games for business owners.
This is probably the best game version of real-world economics. So good, in fact, that some business professors use it as a teaching aid. (Wish we’d had those professors.) The game involves the entire market cycle, from resource extraction to manufacture to marketing.
What you’ll learn: You can try to control a whole industry — say, taking on everything from cattle in the feedlot to the leather-goods retailer; or you can simply make a living as a hostile-takeover artist. Whatever you want.
What else you’ll learn: Business is like picking horses: It’s easier when you’re not playing with real money. But this is as close as you can get to the world of true tycoonery without losing your assets.
You’ll have your apron full in this manic game, seating customers, taking orders, clearing dishes, and mopping up after the brat who just spilled his milkshake. Do your job well and you’ll make enough to expand your eatery. Add tables and a jukebox, and try to maintain your sanity, as business booms.
What you’ll learn: Slaying an army of aliens is child’s play compared to running a restaurant. Customers stiff you, geriatrics sip their coffee while the line at the door gets longer. And that guy on the mobile phone? He wants his check now!
What else you’ll learn: Why does the waitress at your local diner look like she hates you? Because she does.
An easy yet, um, addictive game. You’re the drug dealer and your job is to build a narcopoly. To do it, you must move product and pay your debts. If you don’t, the consequences can be gruesome (see below).
What you’ll learn: Succeeding in the drug trade is simple. It’s all about supply and demand. You’ll learn this on the fly as you buy dope and try to find a corner where the action is hottest, dodging Officer Hardass along the way.
What else you’ll learn: Always pay back the loan shark, or you’ll have a date with Mr. Chainsaw.
If you grew up in, say, the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic and you didn’t have a lemonade stand as a child, it’s not too late. In Lemonade Stand, the computer game, you’re in charge of pricing, quality, inventory, and purchasing.
What you’ll learn: You’re not in charge of the weather, and a cold spell will put a quick chill on your business; your prices must drop to lure customers who’d rather have a cup of cocoa. Thank god for global warming.
What else you’ll learn: No matter how cute you are, mix up a sour batch of lemonade and people will go find some other stand to quench their thirst. Sorry, kid. Welcome to America.
This game looks like the wet dream of a young Donald Trump: a kaleidoscopic wonderland of money and opportunity. You’ll buy and rent property, start ventures all over the city, and battle other developers trying to muscle in on your turf.
What you’ll learn: This is not your grandpa’s Monopoly. Build not only hotels but entire blocks of apartments, along with restaurants, shops, bars, and salons. Attract customers or risk bankruptcy.
What else you’ll learn: It really is better to own Baltic Avenue than Boardwalk. The cheap blocks generate more revenue than the posh neighborhoods.
Tim Devaney has reported on business and other topics for Wired, Venture Capital Journal, and San Francisco magazine.