Swiss game developer involved in local initiative

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A local effort to use games to broaden the career horizons for area youth has gone global.

In April, the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments launched the Regional Simulation Partnership to develop virtual simulations for local industries and occupations in hopes of using the games to spur interest in jobs that don’t require a college degree. Now the council is partnering with Swiss game development company Giants Software, which has sold more than 20 million copies of a farming simulator across the globe.

“Many players love to work with the big, authentic and licensed machines we offer. Furthermore, there are always requests from the community for more realism and details in the game play,” Giants Software Vice President Thomas Frey said in a press release. “At this point, a project like this makes sense because it connects the game play with real life experience and educational possibilities.”

Farming Simulator 19 allows the player to act as a small business owner with a farm or grow a small farm into a large-scale agribusiness over time. Players manage cash flow, leases, loans and contracts, hire workers, acquire land and build an equipment inventory to manage the farms. Using John Deere or Case IH machinery, players can harvest and plow fields, fertilize and maintain land or cut and stack timber to deliver to a virtual marketplace.

“We are very pleased to be able to partner with a game development studio because they can help us develop resources that enhance the student learning experience,” said council Executive Director Robert Hiett. “An example would be where they provide saved game resources that allow instructors to focus on specific agricultural scenarios that can be used to increase student knowledge about the industry or certain types of operational conditions that may be encountered in a farming environment.”

While the initiative is in the early stages, members of the Regional Simulation Partnership plan to develop career-oriented simulations that will be integrated into middle schools in Wilson and Northampton counties. Turning Point Workforce Development Board also plans to use the simulations for youth ages 16 to 24 who are not in school.

“This type of relationship may be a good national example to show game developers that their products have an education and workforce element, and encourage more of them to open a dialogue with workforce boards or others involved with helping youth explore careers,” said Turning Point board director Michael Williams.

Visit www.ncsimulationstation.com for more information about the initiative.

“Games help youth learn, develop critical thinking skills, teamwork, coordination and many other things relevant to the workforce today,” Hiett said. “It makes sense to incorporate it into our economic development strategy and make it part of our workforce development system.”