Event Games

Over the years Z/Yen has developed a number of fun games that help to convey commercial messages. The following games have been tailored to specific topics, but have been used both on serious strategic planning away-day exercises as well as cocktail parties:

  • WarmGame, a Prisoners’ Dilemma game on climate change that was developed along with the London Accord;
  • Borderlines, a multi-nation, Prisoners' Dilemma game developed with the Refugee Council to explain the negotiating intricacies surrounding refugees and immigration;
  • OligopoLuedo, a “merger mystery” which develops M&A skills;
  • Smugglers' Choice, which teaches competitive game theory;
  • Art Sales, a networking game of buyers and sellers, 'networking for networkers';
  • Bourse Games, "Green", "Technology", "BioIndustry", "Legal", "Facilities Management", and "Cashing in on Catches".

In total, Z/Yen’s various games have been played several hundred times. We use a number of theoretical tools and techniques to ensure that the games, however fun to play, are soundly based on theories that can help people learn and apply lessons learnt to other situations. Decision card negotiation, a technique Z/Yen first applied nearly two decades ago in defence, for example, lies behind Warm Game and Borderlines

Our Bourse Games, a family of investment games that teach the importance of sentiment along with strategy, are particularly popular. These investment games are are often called “Boating Bourses” as nearly two hundred have taken place on the Thames Sailing Barge, S.B. Lady Daphne. Players take the part of City investment managers trying to maximise their portfolios in a tight, competitive market. Typically, players are grouped into teams of between three and eight. After an initial instruction sheet, Boating Bourses consist of four rounds of play where:

  • Players receive a news sheet telling them about interesting events in the world and five exciting investment opportunities;
  • Players debate the why’s and wherefore’s of investment and submit an investment allocation, as well as taking punts on a few trivia questions for extra points;
  • Runners take team forms for processing by the Boating Bourse’s exchange trading systems with the results posted on the Big Board;
  • Runners return with investment management team positions, market capitalisation of the five companies, specific team results, and the next round of news.

Bourses are spiced up with some team poaching, pertinent prizes and a healthy influx of dubious rumours. Winning teams sometimes increase portfolios by over 1,000% in an afternoon – an acceptable return even in today’s e-conomy. Share ramping, insider trading and other hearty, but sadly now illegal, practices can be encouraged during the game. As the games are based on deep research and sound principles, players obtain good justification for the outcome and analysis of their game play in the closing presentation.

Bourses work best with groups of 12 to 45. Dry land bourses have run successfully for over 100 (e.g., with Scottish Enterprise and The Royal Society of Edinburgh), for awaydays and conferences (the Asset and Liability Managers Association or the BioIndustry Association Finance Directors), with A-Level students on business and finance days in the City and even “by Royal Appointment” (for the Prince of Wales at St James’s Palace with the Marine Stewardship Council and the World Wildlife Fund). Each round takes about fifteen to twenty minutes, with a ten to twenty minute break between rounds, thus the game is easily incorporated, with prizes, into a two hour corporate entertainment event. Bourses also work nicely into tea and coffee breaks as a light-hearted interlude during a longer, more serious, training or team-building day. Z/Yen provides the runners, the trading systems, the financial analysts and the prizes. The following Boating Bourses have been developed and played a number of times, and often combined with serious business presentations from Z/Yen backing up technology development or strategic planning messages:

  • The Green Technology Bourse, which explores a topical technology sector in detail with firms such as Co2Efficient, NoWt and Treecle and their intriguing developments such as NoWt’s (No Waste) genetically modified bacteria that eats waste.
  • The Technology Bourse, based on real investment outcomes in high technology with companies such as Pigmalia, the wonder paint, and Isaiah, the government initiative;
  • The BioIndustry Bourse, which explores one technology sector in detail with firms such as Immune-to-Sell, Clone Rangers or Stench ‘RNT’ Us and their intriguing problems;
  • The Legal Bourse, based on actual senior partners’ evaluations of their greatest threats, firms floating on the exchange such as e-law.com and litigation-R-US;
  • The Facilities Management (FM) Bourse, based on Z/Yen’s research into the FM market, that cut and thrust world of mergers, acquisitions and outsourcing contracts;
  • The Cashing in on Catches Bourse, based on Z/Yen’s economic model of the impact of certification standards for sustainable fishing. Fluffy fish boobie prize aside, the game’s messages helped support a high-profile event on a global, environmental topic.

Z/Yen is always interested in exploring new game ideas and continues to develop customised games both offline and online, e.g. ExtZy.

More information:

  • Mark Yeandle, Mike Young and Ian Harris, "Warm Game: A Game For All Seasons", The London Accord: Making Investment Work For The Climate, City of London Corporation (2007).
  • Michael Mainelli and Robert Pay, "Merry-time Law" (the legal bourse), Professional Marketing, pages 16-17, Professional Marketing International (Winter 2000).
  • ExtZy