Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

phaedraprofileGame fanatics have been enjoying simulation games ever since SimCity was first introduced in 1989, and electronic games are used for military and corporate training, but IBMer Phaedra Boinodiris designs so-called serious games to help people solve complex business and social problems.

Today, IBM is releasing her latest creation, CityOne, an on-line game that can help city leaders, businesses, and students figure out how to make cities work better by simulating transportation, environmental, business and logistical problems. The free game challenges players to complete missions involving energy, water, banking, and retailing. “It’s like an onion,” she says. “You can jump in and play it for 20 minutes, or you can stay and go deep and learn how cities are actually using different technologies.”

If Boinodiris doesn’t seem like a prototypical IBMer, it’s because she’s not.  She was previously an entrepreneur and founder of two companies–one an Internet game portal and the other a game consulting company. Both her parents are IBM retirees, though.

Fittingly, it was a game of sorts that brought Boinodiris and IBM together. Three years ago, when she was studying for an MBA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she participated in a business case competition versus another university. The task, posed by IBM, was coming up with an innovative way to get business people interested in business-process management software. Her idea was to draw them in by designing an electronic game that would simulate how BPM software works in an imaginary business.  One of her teammates was so sure that IBM would never accept a game as a solution that he up and quit the team on the spot. He was wrong.  Sandy Carter, an IBM vice president in the software group who was one of the judges of the competition, liked the idea so much that she hired Boinodiris as an intern–with the task of designing the game she had proposed.

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That was INNOV8, which was released last year. It’s used as a learning tool at more than 1000 universities worldwide and has become the No. 1 sales lead-generator for IBM’s BPM business. CityOne came out of Boinodiris’ conviction that a simulation game could be an effective way to help people understand the complex interrelationships between the many systems that are at work in a city.

Boinodiris operates a bit like a commercial game producer. She comes up with ideas, writes a business case,  pitches her ideas to raise money, and hires the talent to design the games.  She had her share of concerns about joining IBM. “I really like entrepreneurship,” she says. “I imagined that at IBM it would be difficult to innovate and feel ownership, but I have to say I’m using all of my experience and skills as an entrepreneur here.”

She cautions people to see CityOne for what it is. She tapped subject-matter experts at IBM to build the content and then worked with the creative media studio CenterLine Digital for about 6 months to develop CityOne.  It’s a browser-based game made with Adobe’s Flash technology. Sophisticated commercial simulation games can take four to five years and hundreds of software coders to make.

But Boinodiris believes her game can have an impact–helping solve city problems. Eventually, she hopes the game will be connected to actual city data so people will be able to run more realistic simulations. In fact, she sees  serious games doing some of the work that PowerPoint presentations are used for–but aren’t really right for. “The systems of the world are so complex now,” she says. ” There is no PowerPoint or white paper or sales person who can explain one of these complex situations like this medium can.”

The potential uses for serious games seem to be endless. Are there any that you think would be really great–and that IBM should get going on?

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Posted by: Song Voyer
November 9, 2010
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I’ve complete curiosity on this Cityone substantial recreation in the two the Middle East and Southeast Parts of asia. It is an suitable way to bridge new younger talented students and graduated pupils using the exceedingly critical desires of their online communities and nations.

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I would love to see games such as Cityone and INNOV8 adapted to simulate social and economic development situations in developing economies. This idea is being explored by the World Bank and the developer Jane McGonigal. (Check out: Although new and unprecedented, the idea merits serious consideration as I believe it could help developing country leaders and administrators think collectively through the challenges of building sustainable cities and societies.

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October 13, 2010
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strongly believe games like this on will become a blueprint standard for future teaching, learning and even corporate usage.

Posted by: seema
October 10, 2010
2:33 pm

The game doesn’t even work. It’s far from a game at all actually, it’s more of a bad advertisement that doesn’t even make sense. And it was a bad idea to use flash. Way to make a cheap game to highlight your lack of craft; obviously you don’t know how to programme. This could have been much more revolutionary, sorry P. B. but it sucks. Epic failure.

Posted by: Anonymous
October 5, 2010
11:58 am

Nice piece, interesting person, but I question if such a thing as a “protypical IBMer” means what it did 20 years ago. Starting with Lou Gerstner, the company’s hiring practices became much more flexible. True, she did intern at IBM before her entreprenuerial venture. But folks like Phaedra are certainly more common today than when the only path into Big Blue was college recruitment.

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Posted by: Knut Bøe
October 4, 2010
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Live variations of city data associated to game elements allow people to run more realistic simulations.

In order to connect a game to actual city data you need to place the game into a ‘reality container’ which is a digital frame connected to sensors as described at

Readings from sensors that monitor city data are digitized and passed via the city infrastructure – buildings, streets, parks, etc. – to the digital frame which further connects this data to game elements for a new type of interactive media.

Posted by: Marius Ghercioiu
October 4, 2010
2:12 pm

INNOV8 is amazing, is a great tool that amazed every university dean, faculty and student I presented to. It highlights the new ways to interact and absorb information in a ever complex environment.
As Phaedra clears vision (that I fully share), information sharing methods will evolve into new ways where no powerpoint or word document can reach, which is a richer virtual exchange of images and videos that allows the receiver to become more than a passive receptor, but an active participant that could customize which and how the message is transferred to him.
I strongly believe games like this on will become a blueprint standard for future teaching, learning and even corporate usage.
Juan Pablo – Middle East

Posted by: Juan Pablo Napoli
October 4, 2010
9:55 am

I have absolute interest in this Cityone serious game in both the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It is an ideal way to bridge new young talented students and graduates with the very serious needs of their communities and nations.

Thus far, the local IBM offices have not had enough staff focused on the Smarter Planet approach. I appreciate that IBM hardware is still a strong revenue stream, but it would be good if IBM either hired people like me who absolutely “get it” and are 100% behind Smarter Planets, or if they started holding serious internal training for their staff.

I’m ready when you are!

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October 13, 2014
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