Novel Is Bridging the Business and Gaming Worlds With “Empire & State”

A startup headed by a 23-year-old hopes to finally make business training fun–and is making an online video game to prove it.


The idea of game-like simulations for businesses is not new (games, it seems, are sneaking into every part of our lives). The thinking is that by throwing people into a real-life role playing situation, creativity is sparked and problem solving ability is honed. In reality, though, such simulations are rarely fun–“games” in name only. Which is the reason Novel, a start-up company, is making a real video game before it pivots into simulations for businesses, reports VentureBeat.

Novel is putting out a game called “Empire & State,” an online strategy game about politics, business, and crime. “We’re starting with a consumer game because we want to stay in close touch with the leading consumer game practices,” the company’s 23-year-old CEO, Brayden Olson, told VentureBeat. “Too often we find that training companies lose touch with what people consider to be fun.”

Novel describes itself on its website in a manner that may insult your intelligence, but nonetheless gives a peek into what the company is aiming for:

“We chose the name Novel (pronounced nov-uhl like a book), because it literally means something of a new kind, different than anything seen or known before. We chose this name for our company because we are going to change two established industries in a way that has never been attempted before, and that we believe will have a profound, positive impact on the world.

For now, we can only share that our vision is global, and will impact the efficiency and imagination of the entire business world from startups to the Fortune 500.”

Big words. But what’s innovative about Novel is the way it positions itself squarely in the middle of the two spaces, business training and video gaming. It has hired a number of serious folks from the gaming world, people who’ve worked on games for Microsoft and EA, for example. The Redmond, Washington-based company recently partnered with the University of Washington, too.

It’s too early to tell if Novel is the company that will finally bridge the gap between the business simulation and gaming worlds. But it’s part of a larger trend of startups with that in mind. January 20th and 21st will see something called “The Gamification Summit” in San Francisco, exploring just this topic. We’ll keep you posted on news as it emerges from the summit.

[Image: Flickr user jeffanddayna]


About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.