Viewing entries in
Serious Games

       Totem try  to 'escape the room' ...   This year for our Christmas party we decided to do more than just a lunch and a few drinks and put our game solving skills to the test. Let’s face it, we know we can make great games, but can we win them? Especially when they are time limited, under some serious pressure and we are locked in rooms…. which we have to escape. That’s right!! We decided to try our hand at a couple of room escape games at  Clue HQ Coventry .     The fascination of escape games.  This is something I personally have wanted to do for years, and digital escape games have been a staple of my gaming habit for an awfully long time, so to say I was a little excited could be the understatement of the year! Escape room games have always fascinated me due to their simple concept yet interrelated puzzle solving. They are beautifully intricate and really put your logic to the test.        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Our experience of Dungeons of Doom and Sacrificed.  There were too many of us to do one room, so we split into two teams to do Dungeons of Doom and Sacrificed. Dungeons of Doom was a purely team-based room, whereas in Sacrificed we were pitted against each other in 2 teams of 2. I don’t want to give anything away for those who may well go along and try their skill for themselves, but oh my, the whole thing lived up to  all  my expectations. I totally bought into the concept, I wanted to win, to beat the other team and escape the room. Unfortunately we didn’t succeed, but nonetheless, it was a great experience and as a team, we had a blast!     Reflecting on the mechanics behind the game.  I can’t help but think of similarities to our own products, especially Unlock: Leadership where we put learners into an unknown situation in which you have to work out the solutions using your logic and problem-solving skills and we pit people against one another. The escape room game also had a facilitator to help us out if we really got stumped and that is something we hope to build into our product in the near future as well. Overall the game mechanics involved were very similar to Unlock: Leadership and it was great to know that they work well in virtual as well as physical experiences.     See it in action!              What I think is most important to the experience was the team interaction. We really had to communicate, plan, record our findings and be organised! Those skills are found in so many games, but especially in team-based games and, of course, those skills are critical skills for the workplace.  If you want to try a different approach to team building and training on soft skills give a multiplayer game a try: either a virtual one or a physical one. I guarantee it will beat any outwards bounds or ice breaker game you have tried before and result in an interesting experience where you learn a lot about your team.      Why not  try  it for free for yourself today?

Comment

TOTEM TRY  TO 'ESCAPE THE ROOM' ...

This year for our Christmas party we decided to do more than just a lunch and a few drinks and put our game solving skills to the test. Let’s face it, we know we can make great games, but can we win them? Especially when they are time limited, under some serious pressure and we are locked in rooms…. which we have to escape. That’s right!! We decided to try our hand at a couple of room escape games.

Comment

       How to execute a successful project   You don’t need to be a Project Manager to benefit from the project management skills: the core skills that you’ll see a great Project Manager utilising will benefit most roles. Like so many things within the workplace, it’s about transferable skills - once you’ve learnt them, you’ve got them to reuse as often as you need them.     Let’s identify the skills a good Project Manager will use to deliver successful projects.      What are the core project management skills?      Communication  Effective communication is the lifeblood of most successful professionals. When managing projects, there are particular skills around this that are essential to drive success:   Stakeholder engagement  - this might be your boss, your client, your supplier(s) or any combination of all of these. Essentially, a stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in how the project is progressing and the outcome. Often, it’s because it’ll affect them in some way. This means you need to balance out how much and how often they’re updated on progress as they’ll probably have a view on what it’ll take to keep them comfortable.   Listening and clarifying  - this is particularly important during the initial scoping and planning stage. Taking the time (even if you’re running an AGILE project) to ensure that you fully understand what you need to deliver, asking some seemingly obvious questions and ensuring that you’re clear on the end vision will save a lot of time and confusion down the line.  Clarifying questions such as ‘When you say ‘X’ do you mean ‘A’ or ‘B’?’ or ‘What about if ‘Z’ happens instead?’ can be your best friend.   Written vs. verbal  - This is always an interesting one: how much should you get down in writing versus sharing verbally?  It’d de-risk the project to have the following down in writing:   Legal stuff - contracts, agreements etc.  Scope, project plan, specification  Task lists  Bug tracking  Sign-off   Verbal communication is better used for informal updates, quick requests etc. rather than anything that you might need to refer back to at a later date.  And with the amount of tech readily available to help with tracking all of this, the question is really why wouldn’t you?     Planning  Unsurprisingly, this is a paramount skill given that one of the core deliverables of any project is ‘on time’. Planning involves understanding what needs to happen to complete the scope of work and in what order. Sometimes, it’s about knowing that a delivery date isn’t possible and having to have that awkward conversation with your stakeholders.   Put simply:   Who needs to do what, when and in which order? Answer that.     Organisation  It follows on that organisation is needed to ensure that your plans are delivered and any changes are factored into the plan. A lot of the time, organising refers as much to the practical elements, for example, files, assets, documents etc. Is everything stored and filed in a coherent way for the entire team to access? As it does to the overall organisation of the project.     Managing risk  Sometimes, people confuse creating a Risk Register with Risk Management. You shouldn’t as creating a Risk Register is focussed on only one part of Risk Management process i.e. identifying risks.  The wider risk management process involves:   Identifying risks and understanding the likelihood of them occurring  As far as possible, mitigating those risks  Sometimes, it’ll be about maintaining those risks as some things can’t be de-risked  Monitoring those risks to see if the assessment is still right   It also involves understanding the risk appetite of your stakeholders - if they’re really risk averse (ie can’t stand the idea of any risk) then it’ll be a case of ensuring greater focus goes onto de-risking the project.     Prioritisation  It’s fairly common that everyone thinks that the issue/task they’re working on is the number one most important thing ever. Most of the time, they’ll be wrong. Sometimes they’re right and it's even more challenging when 2 people are probably right about this at the same time.  Your role when this happens is to decide what is the absolute priority for the project. This can be particularly tough, especially when you’re working under pressure.     Handling pressure  Not necessarily a skill unique to project management - it’s something that we have to deal with across various personal and professional scenarios. Some people are naturally stronger at this than others - again, though, that’s pretty much like any skill. It’s important to raise it here because projects are rarely perfect; they are invariably short on time, money or both. There will be an unforeseen complication. For a lot of projects, there is a point where it feels as if it’s all going wrong. What will make you excel as a Project Manager is knowing this, gritting your teeth and ensuring that you focus on these skills to get you through.           Looking for a realistic, challenging yet enjoyable way to develop your project management skills? Check out  Unlock: Project Management .

Comment

HOW TO EXECUTE A SUCCESSFUL PROJECT

Whether you’re officially a project manager or not, the chances are that you’ll still be carrying out tasks that could constitute a project. There are a number of core project management skills that will help you with this.

Comment

       Levelling up Leadership with serious games    Leadership, like many other soft topics which are classed as critical 21st Century skills is a tough nut to crack. There is only so much theory one can learn about a soft skill before you need to bite the bullet and head out to the real world to practice your new found knowledge. But therein lies a challenge; to practice leadership skills you need people to lead and said people may not be immediately available. And to top it off, if you turn out to be a poor leader, you risk widespread damage amongst the team.  So how can we address leadership development using games? Or to put it another way how can a game produce a better leader? Using the lessons Totem Learning learned from the development of a multiplayer leadership game I wanted to share the top tips on how games can help build this critical skill.   The top 3 areas where I believe games can bring real benefit to leadership development are;   To allow skills practice  To observe emerging leadership skills  To evaluate leadership capabilities   Those 3 criteria really became the foundation for a leadership game which I absolutely loved designing and love seeing people play.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Early cardboard mock-up of one of the puzzles in the game  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     From my own perspective when I sat down to design a leadership game, it was really important that every person in that game had the opportunity to become the leader during at least one point in the game. I didn’t want to create a game where there was a leader role and the rest of the team were forced into the follower category.  So that was my first challenge. How was I going to create an environment where there were multiple leaders? Well who’s to say that your role in a game stays the same from start to finish? Why can’t it evolve and change? I felt this was a good reflection of reality in that we all have our strengths and weaknesses and our jobs change overtime. So that revelation really set the foundation for the structure and flow of the game moving forward. I knew I wanted to create a scenario where the game changed, roles were fluid and opportunities were aplenty for those willing to grab them.  Provide the raw information about the situation and see what conclusions are drawn  The design incorporated changing the nature of the connections between the team members throughout the experience. They began as single players, isolated from one another, and so there was great individual responsibility. Gradually we built mini teams by introducing players to one another over time, before connecting them all together into one homogenous team.  The benefit this design decision brought was that each player made their own conclusions about the environment, even though every player started off with the same experience. This was a great eye opener into how each of the team members felt about individual working and reading their environments.  Introduce Multiple Goals  As in the real world, leaders have to balance differing priorities and goals. In our game design we represented this through personal and team goals; through setting up an initial competitive environment, where you were in a race against other players to reach the goal. But over time we introduced the concept that the final goal could not be achieved alone. It was very interesting to see how players reacted to sacrificing their personal gain for the benefit of the team.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Players need to collaborate  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     Use pressure techniques to explore behaviour in different scenarios  Throughout the game, players were faced with the overarching goal of escape and completion but also a series of challenging puzzles along the way to push their individual coaching, team and leadership skills. We applied time pressure to these situations where the faster the problem was addressed the more points the team received. As well as these pressurised situations we mixed in non-pressure situations where they had time and no consequences to solve problems. Using a mix of these situations we could assess how each player behaved differently.  Make sure you have a solid foundation  Throughout the design we underpinned the game design with a foundation of leadership development strategy crafted by subject matter experts.  Leadership is about getting others to do things by creating the environment where progress is possible. In our game design, progress was not possible unless the player cooperated: setting aside personal gain for the good of the team. We built in situations where innovative responses were required from the players, often under pressure and in non-routine situations. Influencing skills were an essential ability team members required to ensure a high score.  Another critical aspect of leadership is coaching, a method of directing, instructing and training a person or group of people, with the aim to achieve some goal or develop specific skills. We built in specific scenarios where users had to coach others through situations. These puzzles involved;     Identifying goals  Removing obstacles  Generating options  Planning actions  Actioning the plan   It was important for us to give everyone an opportunity to coach so we always provided opportunities to repeat skills and practice, but in new contexts therefore reinforcing strategies and behaviours.    Problem solving was a core component to the game. A definition of problem solving is that an individual or a team applies knowledge, skills, and understanding to achieve a desired outcome in an unfamiliar situation. Problem solving is central to many games and underpins many of the design decisions we made.  We wanted our players to objectively identify possible causes of a problem and then proposing potential, often creative, solutions to the team. The great thing about using problem solving in games is that it leads to permanent information retention because you come to the conclusion yourself; you make your own connections rather than being told the correct answer. Problem solving is the opposite of memorization where information is often forgotten after testing.  The final component that was important to our foundation was that we had to make the team feel like a team quickly! We had to give the players a common purpose to (finally) align their efforts to. This was achieved through the use of the storyline, repeating subtly through the game the need to work together, the gradual connection of players into the overall team and the gradual increase in difficulty level, building camaraderie.   And finally give good feedback!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     A sandbox, experimental environment, is no good without guidance and feedback. Because we wanted this game to be used without the need for a facilitator to be present, we had to make sure the game provided all the feedback that was needed. Through the process of highlighting successes and learning from mistakes we were able to bring about a new level of personal effectiveness.   Read more on Unlock: Leadership  

Comment

LEVELLING UP LEADERSHIP WITH SERIOUS GAMES

Leadership, like many other soft topics which are classed as critical 21st Century skills is a tough nut to crack. There is only so much theory one can learn about a soft skill before you need to bite the bullet and head out to the real world to practice your new found knowledge. But therein lies a challenge; to practice leadership skills you need people to lead and said people may not be immediately available. And to top it off, if you turn out to be a poor leader, you risk widespread damage amongst the team.

So how can we address leadership development using games?

Comment