Business travel can be wearisome, especially long flights and long waits at the airport. It's much easier to enjoy business travel, though, if you can zone out with a truly absorbing computer game.
I've tried out several dozen iPad games but these are the best for business travel, according to the following criteria:
- The game must teach you something useful about business or management.
- No bondage-themed characters to embarrass you if somebody sees the screen.
- The game must be as fun to play as a good console game.
What It's About: You're the commander of a task force that's defending the world against an alien invasion. You must allocate financial resources to manpower, facilities and capital equipment in order to support a squad of fighters who you must periodically send into battle.
Why It's Fun: As with many other games, your characters gain skills as they become more experienced. However, if you're playing in "ironman" mode (which I highly recommend), character deaths are permanent, which typically means filling that slot in your squad with somebody who has less experience and ability.
What It Teaches: Team Building. To win the game you must assemble a squad whose individual strengths and weaknesses are complementary and can adapt to changing circumstances. You must also get your squad the equipment they need to survive, within tight resource constraints.
2. Space Chem
What It's About: You're an engineer responsible for a chemical synthesizer facility on another planet. In order to keep your colonies alive, you must create factory designs that transform raw materials into valuable chemical products. You must also meet your production quotas and outperform other facilities.
Why It's Fun: While the interface is a bit difficult to learn and even seems a bit like a freshman chemistry course, it soon become intuitive, allow you to experiment with different formulae and different ways of achieving your production goals.
What It Teaches: Supply Chain. In order to win, you need to think like a manufacturing executive, understanding not just the technical characteristics of your factories and suppliers but also how the entire chain fits into a strategy delivery of final products. This is what outsourcing and globalization is all about.
What It's About: You're a robot who's been exiled from a city populated by robots. You must figure out how to save the city from being destroyed by a trio of thugs and bullies, who have also imprisoned your true love. Success requires solving problem
Why It's Fun: The surprisingly rich story, backstory and even the hints are told entirely with non-verbal cues. The environment depicts a wonderfully cartoonish run-down world, with an incredible level of atmospheric detail. I've replayed the game all the way through just to examine the backgrounds and replay the animations. Amazing stuff.
What It Teaches: David vs. Goliath product development. As you experience this detailed and engaging game, you can't help but reflect that it proves that a small company can out-develop huge competitors. Machinarium cost about 1/100th of as much money to develop as the typical console game, yet is far more fun than 99% of them
What It's About: Based upon the award-winning television series, you play a convict caught up in the chaos after a zombie plague. As you learn what's going on, you become responsible for other people as well as yourself, deciding which group to join and who to avoid.
Why It's Fun: If you've enjoyed the series (as I have), this is an opportunity to experience that environment in a new way. You get a real sense of what it might be like to live in a post-apocalyptic hell, an environment that makes even the worst airline experience seem like easy crusin'.
What It Teaches: Leadership in a Crisis. The story proceeds differently, depending on the leadership (and followership) decision that you make. Your decisions matter and you must make choices that hurt others but lead towards the greater good. Master this game and you'll know what to do when if you're caught in a layoff.
5. The Room
What It's About: Without being exactly certain who you are or why you're there, you're asked to solve a series of mysteries that gradually uncover... well, you'll have to play the game to find out.
Why It's Fun: While on the surface this seems like just a puzzle game, the combination of the artwork and music creates an atmosphere of both urgency and dread. In addition, the movements in the game are very "tactile" so that you feel as if you're really there.
What It Teaches: Patience and Persistence. This is not a game that you just breeze through. It takes real concentration and thought, as well as a large dollop of creative thinking. Anybody who must wrestle with complex issues will appreciate that this isn't just a game, but a way to gain important life skills.
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