Virtual Organisations could learn from Games

 Why do we play? We play to learn then we play for fun. But let’s look at the first one. We play to learn.

Organisations consistently talk about the challenges of continuous learning, teaming, training, and more recently about the issues for and against the Virtual Organisation. As the improving infrastructure of communications allows working from home and Virtual Offices so also the need to build trust and co-operation increases as these are the tenets of a successful Virtual Operation.

I recently had the opportunity to play a role in a co-operative game called World of Warcraft. This is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game or MMORPG for short (short?) with 8 million players. This means to you and me that the game is played with others players, over the internet via computers that provide the interaction required to enable the software (client) on your PC to create the virtual world with all the players in it.Warcraft Group

So these are real people you are playing with or against. All very well you say. Yes, however there is a very interesting teaming element needed for many parts of the game. This to me exhibits some very interesting characteristics. Groups take can be from 2 to 5 (Party Group) to 10 to 20 (RAID Group). The interesting bit comes when you have to work together with others in the various roles your characters (or toons) dictate. A party is never successfull on a tough Quest if the group is not multi-skilled –  a team of the same or even similar skills can almost never complete the task.

So put your Virtual Organisation or Virtual Team hat on and lets go through the mechanics of doing a Dungeon Quest with a group of 5. See if you can as I did , spot the learning points and opportunities therein.

Firstly you have to flag your interest in the Task/Quest – this is done through a communications interface and/or a text interface similar to a one line email. At this point you can be asked to join others or another, or you can be asked by someone can they join you. If you take the role of leader you must vet the member to see if they have the complimentary skills to be in the group. This decision is based on what you already have and the type of Quest.

Once the group is built then roles must be assigned by mutual agreement although these often fall into place depending on the skills available.  This is mostly done by text/typing interface although some groups use “Teamspeak” a voice comms system. One role of “tank” and one role of “healer” is always critical. Note the two will never have met and may not speak the same language (although a common basic langiuage will exist) but each will depend crucially on the other. The other team members also have roles particulaly during “fights” where everyone agrees the tactics before each “fight”and each plays a different role.  The group must work together to get to the end result and this often means trying and failing then coming back with new tactis which are agreed on the fly.

Another interesting part os the sharing of reward – which is done on trust. Often there is only one valuable piece which is rolled for by the group although at any time one person can “ninja” the piece and run. Although these people have never met there is a certain reputation gained (as in the real world) from dishonest acts.

I have often stood in frustration during the forming stage of a team and watched as the simplest things could not be agreed. This can become even more frustrating when dealing with virtual teams where face to face contact is missing so trust takes even longer to establish.

So what opportunities using games to build teams, team ethos and a work ethic? What opportunities to learn communication skills? What can we learn or indeed teach with this methodology? And of course what about the 10 to 20 RAID groups which are multiple teams with one leader and 3 sub leaders?

Watch this space…..

Aidan Higgins

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