The locomotive rattled down the track, straight toward the Union \n\nPacific train operator and his string of freight cars. The driver quickly maneuvered to a different track: The trains were \n\nclose to colliding. Luckily, this near-miss was just the outcome of a computer training game to teach Union Pacific (UP) \n\nrailroad workers how to handle dangerous, real-world situations.\n\nMore on CIO.com\nThis Is Not a Game: Virtual Worlds Coming to Your Business, Forrester Predicts\n\nHow IT is Helping the Railroad Industry Improve Efficiency and Service\n\nSafety is a major concern for UP, which runs North America's longest railroad. So the game lets it do something traditional \n\ntraining does not\u2014put trainees in unexpected and possibly hazardous circumstances so they learn to handle them without \n\nthe risk. "We wouldn't want to damage a driver or a railcar," says UP CIO Lynden Tennison.\n \nWhile the recession has slowed adoption of corporate training games, says Forrester Research analyst Claire Schooley, "it's \n\nstill going to be big." The U.S. Army, an early adopter, will invest $50 million over five years in a gaming unit to train soldiers for combat situations.\n \nUP uses simulators for training locomotive engineers but also knew it needed a more efficient way to train other yard employees. Traditional methods were too time consuming. IT led the effort as it \n\nunderstood the technology available, says Tennison. In 2005, work began on a game that also instructs switchmen, brakemen and \n\nother yard personnel.\nTennison hired gaming experts from PI Engineering to help build a simulated rail yard because UP's IT team didn't have \n\nexperience with gaming tools. While IT departments sometimes build gaming platforms, most contract with gaming specialists to \n\ndo the job, says Schooley.\n \nPI Engineering provided development tools\u2014such as a power engine, which allows for realistic graphics\u2014along with \n\nphysics experts who calculated how trains start and stop based on weather, friction, incline and other real-life effects. They \n\nworked with UP's software group to build the simulation and rail yard scenarios, which include hours of video footage and \n\nthousands of photo stills of its rail yard in Cheyenne, Wyo., as well as customer facilities, loading docks, rail lines, \n\nhighways and geographical landmarks. While the combination of footage and physics puts workers in real-life work situations, \n\nsuch as switching cars in the yard, "the real value is not the pictures or video," says Tennison. "It's how you use the \n\nphysics and the logic behind how your employees do their job." More than 2,000 UP employees have trained with the game.\n \nAlthough it's still early to have comprehensive metrics, Tennison says safety performance in locations using the game has \n\nimproved compared to locations that train without it. The game also lets UP's yard personnel augment other training, such as \n\nthe 40 hours mandated yearly by the Federal Railroad Administration. "The biggest benefit for us is that we can accelerate \n\ntraining, especially with new employees or recurring training," he says. And by taking advantage of gaming culture, the \n\nsimulation is "more natural and familiar for younger employees because most grew up with video games and relate easily to the \n\nmedium."\n \nTennison says to start small when implementing training games. He did a pilot and validated it by proving the business value \n\nthrough time and safety benefits. He is now evaluating simulation games for UP field managers to help prepare them for complex \n\ndecision-making situations.