The Gaming of Systemic Innovations: innovating in the railway sector using gaming simulation

Jop van den Hoogen

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

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In 2009 ProRail, the Dutch railway infrastructure manager started the use of gaming simulation to support its innovation processes. The organization found that innovations became more systemic and, railways being sociotechnical systems, increasingly involved both changes to technology and human behavior. Subsequently, the organization deemed gaming simulation a valuable addition to existing computer simulations. Such gaming simulations are experiments with models of a system, where human players become part of the simulation. Gaming simulation would for instance allow the organization to experiment with different railway infrastructure layouts around stations and see the effects on network resilience. This is because in this very example human behavior, e.g. in the form of traffic controllers rerouting trains, plays a crucial role. From 2009 onwards a range of gaming simulations have been designed and employed for similar purposes in the Dutch railway sector.
Currently however, both practitioners and scholars have built up limited understanding of the use of gaming simulation for innovation processes in sociotechnical systems such as the railways. Firstly, this has to do with the main applications of the tool. Gaming simulation has historically been mostly used for training and education purposes or for policy-making exercises. Secondly, innovation processes are relatively rare in inert sociotechnical systems, especially innovations that we define as systemic: collections of a varied set of innovations that in their conjunction radically change the system. A poor understanding of both causes a problem. This is because it not only remains unknown to what extent gaming simulation can support innovation processes, but also what this support constitutes in the first place. Not knowing the desired functionality of games then renders any design of such games more of an art rather than a craft.
This thesis builds upon the assertion that, according to Klabbers (2003; 2006), the design of gaming simulation needs to closely follow the design of the process in which it is embedded. Games for innovation processes will be significantly different from games for policy-making and training. Hence, studying the design of games needs to occur in conjunction to the study of the innovation process. In this thesis we therefore firstly studied systemic innovation processes in the railway sector independently. In studying innovation processes we adhered to the notion of Poole and Van de Ven (1989) that such processes consist of local mechanisms invoked by intentional actors and resulting emergent patterns. Subsequently this thesis studied how gaming simulation can influence these patterns through these local mechanisms. This thesis thus answered the following main research question: “What mechanisms play a role in driving a systemic innovation process in the Dutch railway sector and in what ways is gaming simulation able to influence relevant macro-level patterns through these mechanisms?”
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • de Bruijn, J.A., Supervisor
  • Meijer, Sebastiaan, Advisor
Award date7 Jan 2019
Print ISBNs978-94-92679-76-5
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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