6 Things I Learned from Online Gaming with My Employees

We all have our guilty pleasures. One of mine is playing video games. While I’ve played everything from an Atari to an XBOX 360, my favourite platform has always been the PC.

I don’t have much free time, but when I do, I mostly play complex first-person shooters with great 1-player campaign modes. Playing team games online is an exercise in frustration. I am not very good, and getting screamed at by a 12-year-old boy from Hoboken isn’t my idea of fun.

Video games can be as immersive and deep as any novel. I recently finished playing Tom Clancy’s “The Division” and I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative, the story and the gameplay.

Many of the Sherpas also are PC gamers. Recently, some of them connected through our company Slack channel and determined that many of us play Blizzard’s Overwatch independently and that it might be fun to get together to play as a team.

This past week we all connected to play for a couple of hours.

It was lots of fun. All through the game, the business part of my brain was whirring between capturing hard points and escorting payloads. We plan to keep meeting to play online for the foreseeable future.

So what did I learn?

 

1. TEAMWORK 

When the group decided it wanted to “win”, people were unselfish and worked as a cohesive group to meet the game’s objectives. This meant regrouping, advancing slowly and working as one formidable weapon. Cooperation, communication and actions are immediate and actionable. Working closely together for short bursts of time with virtual bullets flying is mandatory when in a crucible of pressure.

 

2. INDIVIDUALITY 

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and plays to those accordingly in a game. As a manager, I need to recognize that flair and make sure that I am in tune with those strengths and weaknesses.

 

3. STRATEGY 

You can whip up a pretty decent strategy in 3 minutes, but somebody does need to take the lead. In online gaming, somebody might be better at a particular map or know which character is ideal for the task at hand. In this environment, it’s a pretty egalitarian approach. Everyone has a voice, and because there’s a time limit, we don’t get a chance to overthink things. We either succeeded quickly or failed fast.

 

4. LEVEL PLAYING GROUND

Online and after hours, I am not the boss. While gaming, my staff were more comfortable telling me what to do, making suggestions and even making fun of me. It’s refreshing for me not to be in a position of power. Playing the game, I am not even close to the best in our group (that’s Jake, Noah and Jessica). I get to defer to them, feed them information and let them formulate a plan. Gaming, even though it’s in a virtual world, removed the barriers placed by title, experience and the org chart. I felt more part of the team and I think it helped the employees see that I am not that different than they are.

 

5. WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING

Sometimes it’s just fun to try new things (like different characters) and see how it turns out. Being reckless and “running and gunning” can be as much fun as cooperating and achieving the objective as a team. This wasn’t life or death. No getting fired, no deadlines, no budgets, just 8-12 minutes of mayhem.

 

6. GEOGRAPHY DOESN'T MATTER

Of the six of us that played, 3 were from our Ontario office and three were from Manitoba. This was a great way to bring our group together after hours. We got to know each other a bit better and build relationships. When you have employees spread across the country, online gaming is a great way to meet in one place, talk and have some fun without the expense of a hotel and a plane ticket.​​

https://sherpa2017.blob.core.windows.net/images/contenthub-posts/01-2018/OWteam.png

I would encourage any manager to have a keen ear for conversations at work. If a few people play video games, it might be a great opportunity to team build and to build better relationships with their colleagues.

And if you ever play Overwatch, keep an eye out for us, we are a formidable team (when we decide we want to play to win!)​.

 

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