Role Playing games as Agile educators

One day some years ago, I spent a couple of hours in the car while my son – then aged about 13 – told me all about what he’d been doing recently. What was occupying most of his time was World of Warcraft and he was now online playing this most iconic (apparently) of MMORPGs. I sighed in frustration. Gone were the days when he used to spend his afternoons and evenings playing football or cricket with his mates; now it was online games with virtual friends. This wasn’t doing him any good at all. Or so I thought.

But as I listened to him tell me about how the game worked, and the people he was playing with, I realised that there was a lot more to this than time-wasting. And when he asked if he could play when we got back to my place, I agreed, wanting to see more.

Firstly he used my desktop PC to log into his Warcraft account, but then had his laptop beside him, logged into a voice-chat application using my headset and microphone to talk with other players. I learned that:

  • His ‘raiding team’ had people playing defined roles (Tank, Healer, DPS) based on the characters they adopted and their inherent skills
  • They had a team leader, who ….
  • They met online specific times
  • They set specific goals and objectives each time they played
  • They collaborated to achieve an objective, sometimes sacrificing themselves for the good of the group
  • They communicated constantly during the game.
  • The reflected on their successes and failures after every mission.

Does this sound familiar? Does this sound a little like an effective Agile development team holding stand-ups and  retrospectives? My son, I realised, was doing more than just game playing as entertainment, he was actually learning skills at a young age that some employers tend to take for granted – clear and concise communication, how to collaborate in a group, true teamwork, negotiation,  leadership, empowerment and delegation. It can take some people years to learn these skills in the workplace, but the dynamic nature of Warcraft and the way the teams are structured meant that he exhibited the sort of behaviours that we train and coach into our agile teams. He even learned that no two guilds are the same, and he needed to find one that met his objectives too.


About aterny

Agile enthusiast and evangelist, DSDM practitioner, trainer and coach. Specialist in Agile project and programme management, governance and organisational transformation
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