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Industrial | Commercial

Mission Critical Operator

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When system failure is not an option, it’s time for a serious game


Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina, offers a degree in mission-critical operations. To supplement its curriculum, school leaders wanted to give students the opportunity to problem-solve numerous critical failures from within the safety of a simulation.

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“We love the Mission Critical Operator simulation built by the Applied Research Associates’ Virtual Heroes Division. It is definitely one of the best tools we have to familiarize our students with the equipment and safety precautions needed every day as a Mission Critical Operations Technician.”
-Jennifer Lawson, Mission Critical Operator Grant Project Director at WTCC


WTCC trains technicians to troubleshoot technical failures. Don’t think “changing light bulbs or replacing power switches”; think “mission-critical facilities that secure vital data and systems.” If power goes out or if temperatures fluctuate in a data center, bio lab, or hospital, dollars (and even lives) may be lost. 


To prevent catastrophic loss, these facilities must stay online running at optimum temperatures 24/7, 365 days a year. Their operating principle is no interruptions: no exceptions. So how do you prepare an untrained technician to address those dynamics, when the situations themselves can be too dangerous for them to be exposed to in the real world?


For serious games, the platform of choice is the Unreal® Engine. It’s used by the leading game and training developers to faithfully recreate the look and feel of any environment, and to incorporate all of the specific actions and procedures that must be mastered in any situation. At Virtual Heroes, we’re experts in Unreal development. We’ve been creating immersive serious games since 2004, and we’ve won more than 50 awards for our efforts.


We drew on the power of the Unreal® Engine to develop a 3D, interactive, virtual facility and training environment: Mission Critical Operator.


Commissioned by WTCC and funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Mission Critical Operator is a serious game—one that’s entertaining, informative, and drives learning in a way no other tool can match. Players try, fail, experiment, and succeed, all within the safety of a virtual environment that accurately mimics the real world. 


Those environments within the simulation are as real as it gets. Technicians-in-training are confronted with alarms, power outages, and failures to equipment ranging from generators and chillers to uninterruptible power supplies and cooling units. Learners must move quickly to equipment rooms, solve problems, and troubleshoot efficiently under time pressure. They practice and hone critical thinking, mechanical, and electrical skills.


Mission Critical Operator earned a silver medal in the International Serious Play Competition, which honors “outstanding commercial and student titles used for education or training.” More important, it’s made it possible for up-and-coming technicians to learn how to protect mission-critical facilities in a way that sticks.

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