Prevent 'Game Stalling'​ During Simulation Design

Jun 23, 2020 1 Min Read

It is vital to realise that the development phase of simulation design is a computing phase that requires us to employ the logical faculty of our thinking.

A sudden loud warning fills a flight cockpit “Stall! Stall!” 

That one word is enough to place pilots under duress. An airplane stall is an aerodynamic condition in which the aircraft’s angle of attack passes its critical point and is no longer able to produce lift. If the pilot does not rectify the angle, the plane will continue losing altitude and fall as a rock tossed into a canyon.

A similar situation can happen during a game or simulation design. ‘Game Stalling’ is a condition where the ‘angle of attack’ of the design process is too large. This means we are trying to climb too quickly to create a greater and richer learning experience, resulting in a condition where the process becomes complex and overwhelming. 

Read: An Optimal Design: Learning Simulations

The outcome is a state of confusion and getting overwhelmed with ideas to the point we do not know how to put them all together. This happens because we are trying to build multiple layers of mechanics and conditions over preconceived assumptions.

It takes realization and discipline to park the creativity energy appropriately so that we do not kill great ideas.

The irony is that these ideas come in flow when we are ‘in the zone’ and this very flow is preventing the smooth execution of the development phase. Being in the zone is great during the conceptual stage and should be encouraged during the brainstorming session. However, once the development stage has commenced, we need to think through the connections between the various mechanics and frames. 

At this juncture, the logical faculty has to be engaged to ensure that the simulation does not derail from the intended learning outcome.

To illustrate this, consider this simple example. Let us say we are working on a simulation design to teach downsising and the effect on the productivity of such an exercise. We have outlined the parameters of financial, emotional, and impact on employees’ morale. We approached the design process by finding the links between the three and during the design considered how the downsising will impact the finance and emotion together. As a result, there will be an influence on the morale of the remaining employee in terms of job security and also the additional workload. 

This will impact productivity and affect the financial numbers. If we attempt to consider all these parameters simultaneously, the sheer interdependence and complexity will be so overwhelming that we will not be able to even start the design process. The diagram below shows how this happens.

The challenge lies in our ability. While we can see connections and patterns as an abstract form, we are unable to individually compute the links all in one fell swoop. It would be like trying to solve multiple calculations in our head without paper and pencil. A feat that is possible for someone naturally gifted or with years of practice, but inapplicable to most. Thus, it is vital to realise that the development phase of simulation design is a computing phase that requires us to employ the logical faculty of our thinking.

The way to overcome this is to develop the complexity in layers and test them before adding another layer of parameters. Going back to our example, we first work on the economic model to create a reasonable level of fidelity with the financial gain from downsising being a key consideration.

Then, test it so that we are familiar with the flow of the simulation design before another parameter is being introduced. Next is to introduce the emotional component to the design and consider the various ways on how the termination is done and the emotional impact on the employees being let go. Once again test it

Later we can introduce how the morale of others is affected by the way the termination is being done. Notice as we add the parameters, we have a firm grip on the previous design parameters. This process continues until we can later link the morale to productivity that later links back to finance. The diagram below summarises this process.

As much as this sounds logical, the difficulty is when we are involved in the development work. It takes realization and discipline to park the creativity energy appropriately so that we do not kill great ideas. At the same time ensure that the creative energy matures into useful tangible outcomes.

This is a tough balance as we may not be aware that we are climbing too fast. It takes awareness and compartmentalising the design process. Constantly keeping this in mind and raising the awareness in the team will eventually turn off the ‘stall!’ alarm in our heads.

See Also: Navigating Real Life through Virtual Worlds

Jegatheeswaran Manoharan is the director of Accordia, which offers simulations and game-based learning to corporations. Jega thinks that the world of learning should reconsider the ancient wisdom of using games to learn to create a better society. To share your thoughts with us, email us at

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This article is published by the editors of with the consent of the guest author. 

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