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About the Story
Nick's Dilemma is a game-like, case-based learning environment in the genre of a narrative text adventure game. You are presented with the challenge of solving a hiring problem in a sales management scenario in a health equipment sales company setting.
This is not a spoof. Do not let the cartoon cover art make you think otherwise. After playing URA Winner! I probably jumped to conclusions. Some educational games look convincing at first only to reveal its nature later in the gameplay. Parodies are a lot of fun, but Nick’s Dilemma is not one of them.
You work for a company called MediSales that distributes surgical equipment. Sheila, your boss, calls for a meeting about a hiring issue. The company has been unable to find a long-term employee for a sales management position. Candidates are selected, trained, and months later they leave because the job was not a good fit. This pattern is expensive and needs a lasting solution.
Sheila guides the player by having them ask appropriate questions about hiring. Then she then guides the player by talking to co-workers and using digital resources to learn about factors in the hiring process. The gameplay is structured into units. After each unit you get a badge before moving on to the next unit. It is all incredibly straightforward. There is even an embedded video tutorial for the game on the title page. Everything is painstakingly designed to be user-friendly.
When I went to restart the game, I got a popup message saying, “Are you sure you want to restart this Educational Game?” For some reason I thought it was amusing that the message went through the effort of noting that this is, in fact, and educational game.
This really isn’t a story intensive game. It gives everything up front. Find a candidate who will be compatible for sales management. There are multiple endings based on your hiring select. Not all of them are ideal but the game always urges you to return to the gameplay to make choices that result in a favorable outcome. This is where it deviates from being a “game.” For some games, the fun is seeing the “bad” endings, the ones that crash and burn. But in Nick’s Dilemma the goal is to learn about the proper steps to success (oh no, I’m started to sound like a training manual), hence why it wants the player to win.
There is a diverse range of characters in this game, most of which only make a brief appearance to discuss key points in the game’s content. Sheila is the NPC you interact with the most.
One problem: I still have no idea who Nick is.
When I first saw this game, I was this close adding it to the poll titled, “Games Where the Title Is You,” but hesitated. I thought that you were playing as Nick. That is, until the game asked me to type in my character name instead. I guess we are not Nick. The game features graphics for the characters, and the PC’s is rather generic. We only see the backside of “Nick” never the face, probably to minimize characteristics. I’m not at all mad at this if that is what you’re worried about. I just spent a lot of time scanning the game to try to find any mention of Nick.
The game uses a white background with black text and blue links. Sometimes it dabbles with fonts for emails or notes which was clever. There is a panel on the left side of the page with a list detailing your progress. For completing each milestone in the story, you get a badge which is displayed in the corner of the screen. The badges are visual appealing but kind of useless and yet receiving them feels oddly rewarding.
Congratulations! You have earned 2 badges. You have unlocked the next section of the game!
The game would not succeed without its graphics. The character graphics give you something to look at and draws the player’s attention away from just reading text. Other visuals are more vital because they provide useful examples of material you may create for yourself. If you decide to (Spoiler - click to show) put out an online add the game shows a picture of what the ad may look like if it were posted it on a job search website.
Do you walk away with the basics of sales management? Honestly, no. Not really. I cannot say I know more about the field of sales management (or the management of sales). HOWEVER. I did learn a lot about protocol, process, and the reasoning behind making hiring decisions. Of course, in real life this matter is more complex than what can be covered in a Twine game, but it does provide you with some insights. A couple of times I almost felt like I was taking one of those interactive training video exercises you complete after being hired.
You learn more about basic communication skills. Things like writing brief but thoughtful emails and follow-up emails, initiating conversations with co-workers. These skills seem trivial, but they go a long way in real life. The game does not sit you down and start a “Writing Emails 101,” spiel. Instead, it provides examples that serve as a reference. This way, the game is more helpful regardless of players’ emailing skills. Nick’s Dilemma is reasonably short and surprisingly practical. It is one of the most educational interactive fiction games for subjects unrelated to interactive fiction that I have played so far.
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