Wanna build a company? Now you can practice before investing any real time or money.
Center City software company OpenForge’s new mobile game, Startup Wars, aims to teach players entrepreneurship through the experience of building a startup and managing a staff.
OpenForge CEO Jedidiah Weller said his passion for creating such a a game stems from his own work mentoring founders over the past six years, as well as lifelong love for video games.
In his time running a company, Weller has heard many of the same questions about entrepreneurship from different people. Creating a central source of information that could answer those questions, he figured, could help others more easily — and if he could make that source into a video game, people might feel more at ease about learning.
“I love video games and they are something so many people can relate to because you enjoy doing it,” he told Technical.ly. “Principles of gamification can help people learn and it won’t feel like they are learning.”
The first version of Startup Wars made its debut at Philly Tech Week 2018. Weller said that while people responded well to the game’s concept, its gameplay at the time was lacking. This past February, the OpenForge team decided at a retreat for 2020-2021 planning that it would devote more energy to making Startup Wars the best game possible.
And then coronavirus happened.
While his company’s workflow changed to an extent, Weller said that the pandemic benefited the development of Startup Wars in that it underscored an increased need for entrepreneurship programs at universities.
“You learn [entrepreneurship] by doing,” he said. “We started reaching out to different universities and started getting really positive sponsors saying that they’d love to hear about this. We’re in the curriculum in one of Ohio State [University]’s classes.”
Startup Wars players will be able to make decisions on key aspects of entrepreneurship like what kind of company they will build and how to manage employees, a lesson that Weller had to learn quickly as a cofounder of Webjunto.
“One of the biggest things I learned was how hard it is to manage a team,” he said. “I thought it would be easy. I learned a lot from my [Webjunto] cofounder Liz Brown about people management and the decisions a founder has to make.”
Students playing the alpha build of Startup Wars will also be in the unique position of co-creating the game with OpenForge in real time to reflect their surroundings. Ohio State students will help build a game that reflects Columbus, Ohio and its community, for instance. OpenForge is currently in the process of analyzing copyright logistics so that they it can use a “community-driven interface.”
Weller said the long-term plan for Startup Wars is to create a real-time game experience that reflects the gravity of actual entrepreneurship decision making: If we don’t make decisions on time, there will be negative consequences.
The external alpha of Startup Wars will be released in three weeks and the start of Ohio State’s fall term on Sept. 8 will begin a co-creation cycle that will give OpenForge feedback from students. Livestreaming sessions with OpenForge team members will show students how their feedback will be used in the game design process.Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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