Zia Hassan

Lessons From Rollercoaster Tycoon

+++ title = “02” date = 2019 +++

I bought the game Rollercoaster Tycoon as a kid because I wanted some kind of immersive video gaming experience riding roller coasters. Turns out the game was actually a simulation of what it would be like to run a theme park.

I was disappointed to say the least, but back then I didn’t have another new game available, so I played tycoon.

Years later, working for big companies and running my own businesses, I’ve realized that I actually learned a lot from this game. Two lessons that I remember about negotiating and the customer experience.

  1. The way you “negotiate” in Rollercoaster tycoon is by extending your character’s hand to meet the hand of a potential investor. There’s no actual business strategy; it’s more like a hand eye coordination game. Keep clicking until your hand reaches the investor. Sure, negotiating is more than this in reality, but the visual of a hand pulling away and reaching out every few seconds is how a lot of negotiations go.
  2. Whenever a new ride opens, a floor of people get on the ride. You can tell by their faces if the ride was enjoyable, if it fills a gap in the marketplace. At first, everyone is happy and smiling. At some point the lines get too long and people start getting mad and walking away. I used to get so anxious when it happened at first until I realized it was just what happens every time and it was possible to win even with unhappy customers. If they didn’t want to wait, that was understandable. Plenty of rides elsewhere in the park.

I think about both of these all the time. Trying to agree on a path forward is just a version of the hand stretch game, just with emotion and logic. And customers will never be 100% happy, and that’s okay. We can make products for people who need them and let the others see themselves out.