Rethinking agile experience and how to game it

Olav Maassen

When hiring a new member to your team, how do you find out if she is really as good as she says? Currently the interview is a standard practice and an assessment is gaining popularity. Thanks to social networks like linkedin.com other intangible factors previously unused come into play: respect and reputation. These can now seriously effect your career (both positive and negative). Let's take the next step: learn from games and introduce achievements.

Learning games

The book I've heard people talk about a lot recently is the book "Reality is broken" by Jane McGonical and it talks about how we can use gaming to enhance our learning and collaboration. Steve 'Doc' List posted three blogposts (learning and games, quests and power ups and a compelling vision) musing on how we can apply this to our agile world.

The basic idea is to explore why and how games keep people motivated and engaged over long periods of time achieving certain goals. Games like "world of warcraft" and "Civilization" keep participants motivated and engaged by setting targets that are achievable. These targets are challenging enough to feel a sense of achievement when completed while still not too difficult or too dull to disengage the participant.

Wouldn't it be great if our profession could achieve the same engagement for our craft? To always have just one more little thing to find out just before you quit only to find out yet another 2 hours have passed. Tom Chatfield points us in a possible direction.

7 Ways to Reward the Brain

Last year Tom Chatfield held a presentation at TEDGlobal. In that talk he explains what games can teach us engagement and learning. He also transcribed this presentation in his blogpost "7 Ways Games Reward our Brains".

These seven ways are:

  1. Using an experience system
  2. Multiple long and short-term aims
  3. Reward for effort
  4. Rapid, clear, frequent feedback
  5. Uncertainty
  6. Windows of enhanced attention
  7. Other people

Although not in this list, Tom also states games (or anything else that wants to engage people) need to be fun first (most of the time).

Level of Experience

The agile community can try and set up an experience system like that used in games such as "world of warcraft" and similar games. Participants can build up experience points based on what they do. Along the way they get to collect achievements of what we collectively think are worthy, interesting or just fun goals.

We need to find and use new ways of learning and recognition. The old learning system of lecture, exercise and exams is outdated and we should know better by now. We only have to start using what we already know. How do you think we can incorporate this knowledge into our agile world?

It's your move now!

Comments (6)

  1. Lisa Crispin - Reply

    March 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    This is a great call to action! I've been modifying my own training courses and tutorials using ideas from _Training from the Back of the Room_ so participants have a better learning experience. A couple of colleagues and I are working on games to help people learn concepts through actual practice. It's not easy for me to come up with good games, though.

    I have to say, though, the idea of needing to play something along the lines of Worlds of Warcraft horrifies me, I have never liked those types of games! My teammates play Quake every day, I wish I could join them for a bonding experience but I can't work up the interest! :->

  2. Olav Maassen - Reply

    March 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Hi Lisa,

    I'm not suggesting you would need to play World of Warcraft just that we can learn from it.

    Cheers,
    Olav

  3. Niklas Bjørnerstedt - Reply

    March 22, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Interesting post. I think a good example of this approach are the katas that are being used by more and more people as part of their deliberate practice.

  4. Doc - Reply

    March 22, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    After our conversation, Olav, I'm more excited than ever. @Lisa, Olav and I are in complete agreement - the goal is not to get folks to play online games, per se, but to learn from those games. The ideas of achievements, quests, level-ups, and collaboration are all present in a rich and compelling way. So how do you take those things and use them to help folks progress in their careers/professions?

    Imagine that as an agile tester, there were little steps along the way that allow you to learn something, or increase your mastery of something, and that as you do so, not only do you get a sense of accomplishment, but you also can record it somewhere. As your mastery increases, you also begin to create challenges/quests for others to take on, to help them gain greater understanding, skill, and mastery. You find a community of others who are looking to you as a mentor, who are at the same level as you and want to "travel together", or who are ahead of you and from whom you'd like to learn.

    In my blog post "a compelling vision" (see link above in Olav's post), I've proposed a project to create something to do this. I'm not entirely sure what it is yet. I have a powerful sense that it could be a game-changer. Join us.

  5. Andrej - Reply

    March 24, 2011 at 6:21 am

    It shouldn't be too hard if you use automated tools for your user stories, sprint board, and backlog. Points for closing tasks on the board, more points for higher priority tasks. Extra points for scoring high on definition of done list (documented, code coverage, unit tests, fitnesse tests, etc).

    Hudson already has a game plugin that scores working builds, extra unit tests, clean code, etc. If you combine this with something like jira/greenhopper/github you should be able to find all information needed to score. Shpws the scores in a leaderboard and you have a nice tool to increase focus and productivity.

  6. AnttiKi - Reply

    March 31, 2011 at 5:26 am

    What kind of achievements or experience categories would you use? I'm asking because I'm actually designing something related.

Add a Comment