You can find project management in places that you wouldn’t expect to find it. It’s rife in movies, especially in Hollywood, but it’s also hidden in video game contexts, too. Resource management, prioritisation, risk management, scaling and budget; you’re starting to find the ones I’m thinking of already.
Here’s a list of 10 video games that implement and teach you aspects of project management:
The ultimate resource management game. The second highest selling video game of all-time. You play a nameless character in a 3D sandbox with no specific goals to accomplish.
“Then, how is that like project management if there’s no end goal, Ashley?”
I see your scepticism, I’m getting there.
But, Minecraft makes you manage your resources and utilise them to build infrastructures, some of which can be stunning. Changing the difficulty can make resource management harder, but self-implemented project management is the answer with Minecraft. Gather your resources and then create your own project to embark on and build the structure you want.
More resource management and building, but SimCity is another video game that must be on this list. It combines resource management with prioritisation and budgeting to give a good tester of your project management skills.
Again, there is no final goal, it is an open-ended game. Like Minecraft, it’s about self-implemented project management and you build what you like, just make sure you keep your citizens happy… stakeholder engagement!
3. Shadow of Mordor/Shadow of War
Shadow of Mordor, and latterly Shadow of War, is based in the Lord of the Rings universe and developed “The Nemesis System”. The system is a key mechanic of the games and allows you to prioritise your enemies while you build to your end goal; finally, a game with an objective.
The games also have a clear progression path. You get stronger, get more abilities and better equipment as you work your way throughout, while perfecting your approach and techniques (this is where methodologies come into play). Like starting a new project, building your resources, and seeing the project through to its (successful) completion.
The Tetris video game is the best-selling individual game of all-time. The tile-matching game teaches resource and staff management, and as a Project Manager, it is your job to make sure everything fits and is succinct. It really is that simple.
Some say that’s easier said than done. A lot like Tetris.
5. This War of Mine
More resource management, but in a bit of a darker and more serious setting. This War of Mine is a war survival game inspired by the 1992-1995 Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.
You start off with a house of three characters and you must use resource and time management, along with prioritisation, to ensure the survival of your characters. You will also need to make difficult decisions to guarantee your players survive, along with building little projects within your shelter which will make survival a more attainable goal.
6. Oregon Trail
Oregon Trail is a series of games that were originally developed for educational purposes, designed to teach school children about the realities of 19th-century pioneer life on the Oregon Trail.
If project management could be a game, it would be Oregon Trail. Set your budget and make sure you don’t exceed it, team and resource management, make decisions which will impact your overall journey and make it to Willamette Valley before winter comes, which is your end objective.
Also, try not to let anyone catch dysentery, cholera, or typhoid.
7. Age of Empires
Age of Empires is a popular historical set of real-time strategy games. You act as the leader of an ancient civilisation and help your people to advance through four ages, as you gain improved units and buildings to fight and survive.
Whether you are fighting Attila the Hun or El Cid, your civilisation is your project. You are the Project Manager, or Leader, and you need to manage your resources (not sure how many times I’ve written that), manage your people and prioritise which technologies, weapons and units you wish to implement first to reach your final goal.
Which project management skillset isn’t complete without a bit of problem-solving? Portal is a first-person puzzle-platform game that is the ultimate problem-solving video game.
You play Chell, a woman forced to undergo a series of tests by evil AI computer GLaDOS, who controls the facility you are stuck in. You utilise the “portal gun” to solve puzzles using lasers, light bridges, tractor funnels, turrets and the science of "flinging". Problem solving is the name of the game here (not literally), and you must use your problem-solving skills to complete your project of escaping Aperture Science Enrichment Centre. It’s not as nice as it sounds.
9. Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda is a fantasy action-adventure franchise that puts you in the shoes of Link, a young Hyrulian who soon turns from zero to hero.
Throughout the series, you are tasked with undertaking missions that, unless you give them careful consideration, you will fail. No-one wants to fail, especially when the last time you saved the game was three hours ago, and you don’t get that luxury in project management. Utilise your wisdom and knowledge, consider all outcomes, and use your team’s best attributes to ensure that your project can run smoothly, within budget and on time.
10. Mega Man
Mega Man is an action platforming game that features you playing as the title character, or one of his counterparts. You play a good robot, needing to take down bad robots, take their powers and defeat Dr. Wily.
The way you achieve this is through prioritisation. You need to defeat the bad robots in the correct order to make things easier for yourself in terms of achieving your next, and then final, objective. A lot like project management; determine your client’s needs, set up processes, ways of communication to stakeholders and team members and utilise your resources when necessary.
If you're seriously thinking about undertaking project management as a career, or need a qualification to boost your career, e-Careers offers career advice and courses in project management, you can find information on both here.