“Playing” to Your Strengths: The Role of Video Games in Corporate Culture
Team building exercises have been a part of business culture since time immemorial. Okay, so maybe they’ve just been around since the 1930s, but team building is now such an essential part of corporate culture that it’s hard to recall a time when it didn’t exist. Activities such as company picnics, beer nights, team challenges, and even outdoor activities like paintball or lasertag all can be considered team building exercises. The purpose of these exercises is to build a community of close knit individuals with strong communication skills and a desire to see each other succeed.
These sort of activities are also good for employee engagement, something we’ve discussed in the past. Many traditional team building activities are made up of games or puzzles that can be done around the office, and some of them can feel a little awkward and forced. For some people, going to a basketball game or playing Ultimate Frisbee might not be their cup of tea, which could put a damper on the whole “engagement” part. Not to worry, though, because in today’s technological age, why should we limit ourselves to three legged races when even more team building options have become available?
As you all know, Deep Core Data is an IT consulting company, and like many people in the tech industry, we are more interested in hobbies that have to do with technology and computers than large stints of physical activity and drinking. Unsurprisingly, we introverted technogeeks all share an interest in video games. In particular, we all independently dedicate a portion of our free time to a game you may be familiar with.
It’s called Overwatch, an online multiplayer first-person shooter from Blizzard (yes, the World of Warcraft people). The gameplay is much like Team Fortress 2, a game in which teams compete over objectives such as point capture, map control, and payload escort. Where it differs is that Overwatch offers a wider range of characters, locations, and gameplay, giving it high replay value.
Overwatch’s wide variety of heroes means that there’s someone for everyone in the office to play!
Now, you might be wondering, what is this talk of video games doing on a company blog otherwise dedicated to business practices and informative think pieces? Well, like Pokemon Go, Overwatch is the kind of game that can offer your company some fun benefits when you think outside of the box. For example, one of the interesting things about Overwatch is how important teamwork and coordination is to winning a match. Teams who have strong communication skills and work well together will almost always do better than a group made up of people doing their own thing.
In order to build a stronger team and improve office communication, those of us at Deep Core have dedicated some of our time to hopping in a Google Hangout and playing as many matches of Overwatch as we can. Is our win rate higher than when we play individually? It’s hard to say, but one thing certainly is clear: the matches we do win are usually fairly quick and decisive.
So what is it that makes us such efficient players? It’s not the amount of time we play, since for some of us, Fridays have been the only day we’ve invested any cooperative time in the game. We certainly weren’t very good the first couple games we’ve played, either. But this week will be our fourth week playing together, and one thing we have become is a better team. We coordinate better, we share pertinent information more readily, and we’ve figured out how our talents work best together.
Overwatch works great as a game that everyone in the company can play together, because we’re all largely PC gamers who were already playing the game on our own. However, it could be expensive for other companies to invest in, since even the base game costs $40 and each individual player needs an account. Console games may work better, since games with multiplayer options, like Mario Party, Halo, and Rockband can enable up to four players to participate using only a single game. Older consoles and games can be acquired fairly cheaply (if your employees don’t already have them themselves), and multiple consoles can be linked up over a LAN to allow up 16 players in one match for some games.
But you don’t have to take our word for it! Deep Core Data is far from the first company to include playing video games as a part of the company culture; many video game companies have already been doing it for several years. These aren’t companies who are doing it as a part of QA and performance testing, either. They’re playing video games on Friday afternoons to bond as a company and unwind from the busy work week. And the huge companies like Google have been implementing video gaming in their offices for years; they have embraced the mentality that coworkers who play together, stay together.
You see, team building exercises aren’t just about building skills and creating effective lines of communication, they’re also about bonding. We keep talking about how important it is for employees to have office friends, and team building exercises is a way to build intra-office relationships. Simply being comfortable and familiar with the people you’re working with creates a stronger pull to work together and help each other out. It’s like Zarya (one of Overwatch’s tank characters) says, “Together, we are strong!”
Video games have long since acquired a reputation for being the escape of the unemployed and socially awkward, but some of the most interesting technology around today is being developed for and inspired by video games. One of the major uses for VR technology is to be used as a part of video games, and the 3D technology in our movies and TV is also used in Nintendo’s 3DS.
Want to see more technology inspired by video games? Check out this video that lists ten technologies that have been developed in recent years, including things like exoskeletons and smart contact lenses with virtual Heads Up Displays!
With video games being more and more a part of our world, perhaps it’s time to stop poo-pooing them as wastes of time and potential, embrace them as part of our culture, and indulge in your nerdiest fantasies.