Sunday, March 21, 2010

McDonald's Training with the Nintendo DS

The Japanese branch of McDonald's is reportedly preparing to extend its collaboration with the Nintendo Company, expanding the use of the Nintendo DS portable game system to employee training.

McDonald's already has a "synergistic" relationship with the Japanese video game company as one of only two providers for its wireless "Nintendo Zone" service (available only in Japan). "DS owners who visit McDonalds shops with their system... have access to such free services as character distribution, digital stamp rallies, coupons for McDonalds food items, comic distribution, and exclusive game demos" (Nintendo Partners With McDonalds for New DS Service). The other provider is the "third sector" Tsukuba Express rail system.

Now, the fast food corporation is developing game software for the Nintendo DS that will be used to train its new employees. "Using the new DS software, McDonalds believes it can cut training time by half over conventional methods, in part due of the familiarity of the DS system" (McDonalds Uses DS To Train Part Time Workers). The US military has been using video games for combat training for decades (in recent news, see here). The corporate sector has made also been using games technology for training. But, to my knowledge, both military and corporate efforts have focused primarily on games developed in-house: this seems to be the first time that an existing game system will be used to train employees in partnership with the corporation that developed the game system. As such, the McDonald's-Nintendo partnership represents a significant new development for the gaming industry. One thing will remain the same, however: as legacy games, the end products of this collaboration will undoubtedly become the horrid "training videos" of the future.

I'm curious to see how far McDonald's will take this effort if it turns out to be successful, for example whether they will retool their own equipment along the lines of the Nintendo DS gaming system or its controller in order to create a more fluid transition for new employees. Again, such efforts have long been under discussion within the military-industrial complex (for example).

Finally, I can't end this post without making some kind of reference to the popular 1984 film "The Last Starfighter," in which a teen boy discovers that his favorite arcade game is actually a training tool that an alien civilization is using recruit pilots for a battle in space. (No kidding.) Imagine how he would have felt if he'd been training for a job at McDonald's all along.

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