If you are working in software development it is likely that your team is somehow distributed, eigther due to local distance or home office work. Outsourcing coding tasks to countries with lower labor costs looks promising to many managers, but often the challenges of communicating over a large distance and in a different language are underestimated.
The problem of distributed teams
In my current project, which is located in Germany, we collaborate with developers and testers from Romania, that are members of our agile teams. Due to the physical distance, we face the common challenges of knowledge transfer and building a good team culture and personal involvement.
Lately the projects financial situation was bad due to overruns in development, mostly caused by lack of communication between the german and romanian devs. The project got some management attention and after a root cause analysis the big question was:
How do we improve the relationship between the distributed team members?
In one of countless status calls with the management, a consultant who was hired to help us improve the efficiency pointed out how important it is to cultivate personal relations by visiting each other and have non-work related team events. “Well, we can’t do virtual team events, right?” was the reply of my project manager.
This made me think. There are many ways that people interact in a virtual way and not just for working. One that came to my mind immediately was gaming. There are many online multiplayer games that people can play together all over the world. Our dev team is relatively young and most developers I know like playing video games. The idea of gamification is spreading to other areas and also to the working spaces – so why not?
So the idea was to schedule an after-work event where we meet online and play some games together – a project Gaming Night. I proposed the idea and the other developers loved it, soI decided to plan the event.
What you need
We decided to pick only free-to-play online games, so the barrier to join the event is as low as possible. The ideal case would be a browser game, that does not even require installation or a beefy gaming machine. These games are rather simple and the long-range entertainment is rather low. We collected some ideas:
- skribbl.io is a free browser game. You can create a private room and invite other players. One player picks a secret word and has to draw it – the other players have to guess and get rewarded if they guessed correct.
- World of tanks is also free to play, but requires installation. The players can create private games where they battle each other with tanks.
- Team fortress 2 is a team-based shooter where players can pick different classes of soldiers and battle the other team.
- Fortnite Battle Royale is a 100 player PVP game where up to 4 Players can team up and fight other players on a map that randomly gets smaller and smaller. The last standing man or team wins. The game principle is similar to Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds which is the current top hit in the gaming community.
- Blizzard Heroes of the storm is a action strategy game where players can control a hero of their choice form the Blizzard Universe. There are two teams competing on an arena-like map where they have to conquer the other teams base.
Second you need a way to communicate during the games. There are multiple options like discord or teamspeak. We picked discord because it is easy to use and free. And last but not least, pick a date where most of your team members have time, we usually use doodle to organize our events. So that’s all you need, setting this up does not take much time (except installing the games might take a while depending on the internet connection). Put your game face on and have fun 🙂
Our first event was great fun and we already scheduled the second. Our team was relatively balanced, we only had one pro-gamer there, the rest where beginners (especially in that game) but we picked the teams so, that also the other team could win, if they used good tactics. I had a lot of fun and even if this does not improve our efficiency at work, we had a great evening together. We will see what the future brings.
What do you think about this? Do you have ideas for other games? You want to try this out in your company? Please let me know in the comments or dm me – I am looking forward for feedback and ideas!