EXEC - Management Game System

Developed in 1969, EXEC Management Game System is, possibly, the world's first multiplayer, online, networked game.

EXEC Application Guide Cover

EXEC Application Guide Introduction

History

Jeremy J. S. B. Hall began using GE's Mark 1 Time Sharing Service in January 1967 while working for GE in Pittsfield, Mass during the development of a computerised manufacturing system. In 1969 he moved back to the UK to work for GEISCO - the GE subsidiary that provided their Time-Sharing service to British companies. His task was to extend the use of Time-Sharing beyond the current used by engineers and scientists to it's use for business and financial planning and analysis. Use that involved accountants and business people building models. Unfortunately, at that time, if you mentioned the word "model" most business people thought that you were referring to a shapely young woman. To overcome this misconception. Jeremy decided to create a Management Game that would show the power of Time Sharing but also give prospective client users "hands-on" experience. Thus not only would the game players run a simulated business but enter their own decisions and receive results separately in their individual break-out rooms.

This led to Jeremy's development of the EXEC Management Game System in 1969 and its initial use by Management Centre Europe on a business course in Bruselles February 1970[1].

EXEC was used regularly[2]on the Mark 1 Time-Sharing Service in the UK and Europe between 1970 and mid-1970s when the Mark 1 service was discontinued. In 1976 the game was ported and recreated for use by Jeremy's firm on the Mark 3 Time Sharing Service and although was still an online game the multi-terminal, networked capability was not incorporated. In the 1980s the game was ported to MSDOS based Personal Computers and later ported to Windows with additional functionality and an improved user interface.

In 1970, GE sold Geisco to Honeywell and this means that the letter from Management Centre Europe was addressed to GEISCO and the Application Guide[3]and Participants' Manual[4]are badged Honeywell and the game was renamed "A Management Experience".

While reflecting on my 50 years using computers personally from my office desk I discovered that the first multiplayer, online, networked game was though to be Empire 1 (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2390917,00.asp, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_(PLATO) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_online_games) from May 1973  But my Exec Management Game System written in the UK pre-dates this by three years. It was developed in 1969 and went live February 1970.

The Game

EXEC involves up to seven competing teams of four or five business people running a complete business. and as besides being referred to as a Management Game, it also can be referred to as a Business Game or Business Simulation.

Participants take over a business making small electric motors and make marketing, operational and financial decisions (see Exhibit 2 below). The business is progressed on a month-by-month basis and this time cycle and the decisions means that the game explored the tactical, short-term, management of a business (rather than it's strategic development that would involve the long term development with the simulation progressing on a year-by-year basis and decisions covering entering new markets and developing new products.

EXEC involved selling five different motors into a single market - for each of these participants set a price and marketing (promotional expenditure). These decisions were compared with the competition and used to determine demand. Participants need to forecast demand and schedule production for each of the five products and decide how much to invest in plant capacity. Besides showing profit and loss, assets and cash, the simulation calculated a share (stock) price based on free cash flow.

The run of a game over a day involved a short briefing, participants becoming familiar with the task facing them and then run their business for twelve months. At then end of this the group would to combine to discuss and compare results and strategies. During the review the trainer (administrator) would use a special series of reports (Exhibit 4 below).

Technology

EXEC ran on the G265 Time Sharing System with participants using a Teletype terminal connected over ordinary telephone lines to a remote computer. Communication speed was 10 characters a second (110 bits per second) and each user had up to 15k bytes of memory for their software on the remote computer. Limited memory meant that the game consisted of several programs that communicated via a database.

EXEC software structure (Applications Guide)

The Output Examples (below) illustrate some limitations - Upper Case only and layout constraints.

Output Examples

Example 1: Setting up the game (from EXEC Application Guide).

Example 2: Game Results & Decisions (from EXEC Application Guide).

Example 3: Business Research (from EXEC Application Guide).

Example 4: Statistics comparing teams (from EXEC Application Guide).

Features

These features are listed here and illustrated in the examples above. Additional information is in the Application Guide[3].

Networked: Each team could enter their own decisions from their own terminal and this allowed participating teams to be geographically spread.  

Game Configurable: For each of seven different business areas (models) it was possible to select their degree of complexity (Example 1)

Real Time Operation: The simulation could run in real time with the computer incrementing time or with the administrator incrementing time (Example 1).

Access Limits: The times when participants could enter decisions could be set and this, coupled with real time operation meant that there was no need for an administrator (Example 1).

Team Access: Each team was allocated a pass number that limited access to only its data (Example 1).

Textual (Qualitative) Feedback: Besides the numeric data the game provided textual clues. (Advertisement and Editorial Example 2).

Additional Teams: As illustrated in Example 4, a fifth team entered the game in the seventh period (Example 4).

Graphical Results: Very crude graphs were produced by tabbing across the page and printing the team number (Example 4) with the Y-Axis across the page and the X-axis (time) down the page (Example 4).

References

[1] Letter from Management Centre Europe describing use in February 1970 (scanned from original document)

[2] What's in a game Data Systems September 1972. (scanned from photo copy of original)

[3] EXEC Management Game System - Application Guide (scanned from original document)

[4] A Management Experience participants' manual (scanned from original document)

(c) 2017 Jeremy J. S. B. Hall