Spoilers are the absolute worst. This we know. Whether it’s the friend who accidentally blurts out the ending of a great book, the film review that diligently covers every twist and turn of the storyline, or the student who shares coursework information with subsequent cohorts, spoilers can annoy and infuriate. What they take from us can never be returned: our honest, unfiltered and unprepared response to a piece of creative work. The theft of our unique, personal journey through what may often also be a shared experience. “There he is, officer. That’s the man who told me the butler did it.”
I can still clearly recall the worst spoiler ever inflicted upon me almost twenty years after the event. It was during a school geography field trip to the east coast of England. On the bus our discussion had turned to the just released The Sixth Sense starring Bruce Willis when a classmate abruptly and unthinkingly shouted out the film’s twist. A group spoiling. Nearly thirty victims. I still mourn the loss.
Spoilers have been on my mind this last couple of weeks for two very different reasons. The first is there were two things being released that I’ve been looking forward to seeing. One is the new Avengers film Endgame, and the other is the final season of HBO’s blockbuster show Game of Thrones.
It has honestly never been more difficult to avoid spoilers in my life. Social media was a minefield, friends and colleagues who had already watched either one were desperate to discuss them, and even the headlines of reviews in news media seemed to hint at more than I liked. Unable to eschew news and social media completely, I went through my various feeds with scrolling finger at the ready to flick past at the first suggestion of a plot point. A type of gamification where the only reward is the avoidance of disappointment. I don’t recommend it. Thankfully, I did eventually manage to enjoy both the film and the episode unspoiled, and I was delighted that Captain America managed to finally bring peace and democracy to the land of Westeros.
Now the second reason. I was asked this week by lecturer Menoka Bal of Coventry University how we protect her students from spoilers. How can we ensure next year’s participants in our business simulation games don’t have their experience spoiled by students who have already played? It’s a fair question, and one to which our developers have given serious thought.
The simplest tool available to instructors is the option to hide key sections of our simulations once the game has finished. It can be done either automatically or manually, and prevents students from accessing the scenarios, decision pages and results of the simulation unless the instructor decides otherwise.
Instructors can go even further to ensure each new cohort of students enjoys its own unique journey. Many of our simulations have more than one case available, with each case covering a different industry and involving different scenarios. So whereas last year your business strategy class might have played our Global Challenge simulation with the telecoms industry case, this year you can switch to the automotive industry case instead. Spoilers just got harder.
Another, more creative option is customisation of the cases. Our instructors can use the default Cesim cases we provide, or rewrite the scenarios and adjust the simulation parameters to build their own unique cases. We even have a handy guide for doing just this. Spoilers just got impossible.
The final and most potent defence against spoilers is the very concept of a business simulation game itself. Unlike a regular film or TV show that you just watch, business simulations offer a storyline and related virtual environment where students are asked to act. To apply theory. To make decisions. Just knowing is not enough.
Furthermore, these decisions are then compared by the simulation to the decisions made by competing student teams from the same class to calculate the results. Your competitors are as crucial as they are unpredictable.
Now forewarned may well be forearmed, but if your arsenal doesn’t include decisions-making skills, critical thinking skills, negotiation skills and much more, then you’re likely to be outgunned by your peers. This is why simulations protect that unique personal journey for each new set of students taking part. The students are themselves the authors of that journey. Spoilers don’t apply.
So if we’re looking for screen-based analogies, then business simulations are maybe more similar to Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch episode, where viewers are offered the chance to influence the story by making onscreen decisions. But I still haven’t got round to watching that, so no spoilers please.