No really, you should. If anyone asks why you’re up at 3am playing your favorite shooter-MMO-hybrid, you can point them right to this article and say, “See? See!?” We should all be playing multi-player and co-op games because, like it or not, our business isn’t only about websites. It’s also about people.
Others have written about using gamification in design. Some have written about things we can learn from the successful (and sometimes horrible) UIs we find in games. I’d like to talk about what we can learn about ourselves, other people, and human behavior in general by playing multi-player and co-op games.
This could be especially useful for those who are rather introverted like me. Face-to-face social situations can quickly become exhausting, but the only way to get better at them is to practice. Well, why not practice from the relative safety of your own home?
Lesson 1: We’re all on the same side (well, except for those other guys)
When someone hires you to design a website, or when you get together to make one with other people for non-client work, you’re forming a team. In client work, that team must include the client.
we all have a common goal: to kill the other team
In the heat of a verbal argument over the best way to do things, it can be easy to forget that. This is especially true if the person you’re arguing with is demonstrably ignorant of the mechanics of the game, or the principles/process of good design. It’s easy to see them as an obstacle to progress.
They are not the obstacle. Their ignorance, fear, or whatever emotion is holding up communication, that is the obstacle. In a game, it’s good to remind ourselves, and each other, that we all have a common goal: to kill the other team. In your work, you may have to remind a worried client that you want their website to succeed as much as they do. You’re invested in this.
Neither of you is the enemy.
Lesson 2: Newbs are to be loved; n00bs are to be squelched
Some people are not kind to new players (“newbs”). This is self-defeating, because if you drive people away from the game you love, that game loses business. All new players must be treated with love, care, and respect. They’re spending time and possibly money on this game that you love; and that’s something we can all get behind.
“N00bs” are those players who absolutely refuse to learn, despite sometimes having played for years. They don’t take any advice, won’t stop giving bad advice, and sometimes engage in disruptive and jerk-ish behavior. There is often nothing that can be done for these people.
In our work, it’s easy to forget that not everyone’s taken a computer science course in school. Some people only learn enough about their own computer to check their e-mail, and that’s it. Others might have experience with touch devices or game consoles only. Patience isn’t just a virtue in these situations. It’s essential.
Some people, however, just can’t be helped, whether they be your client or team-mate. You need to get away from these n00bs before you start to mistrust everyone. Seriously. If you’re not careful, you’ll get burned, and it can be next to impossible for others to earn your trust in the future. Should that happen, you’ll find yourself working alone more often than not.
Working alone is great, but not always and forever.
Lesson 3: People remember how you made them feel
When I see a familiar name in my team or questing party, one of two things will happen:
- I will be happy because I remember liking them.
- I will be unhappy, because I remember vague unpleasant feelings.
More often than not, I can’t remember exactly what happened, or even whose fault it was. Most of us, sometimes unconsciously, attempt to forget the details of things that felt bad. That’s normal and natural. What we won’t forget, are the raw emotions.
If you have to squelch (permanently mute) another player, do it quietly, and without fanfare
In your gaming, and in your work, always try to at least part on friendly terms. You can’t exactly control how other people feel about you. There are so many potential factors involved that it’s not even funny. But you can address issues directly, and as calmly as possible.
If you have to express your frustration in less-than-polite terms, mute the microphone, make an “UUURRRGGGGHHHH” sound, and then continue. Don’t do it in front of them. If you have to squelch (permanently mute) another player, do it quietly, and without fanfare.
In business, you may never have to work with that person again, but they may refer you to others. They might have driven you insane, but you probably shouldn’t tell them that, unless you know they have skin thick enough to take that kind of honesty. They won’t tell others how good your work was if you made them feel like crap and they resent you for it.
Lesson 4: Be clear, be specific
When playing a fast-paced game, a lot of communicating has to be done on the fly. Sometimes this happens via voice chat, where you have your words and tone, but no facial expressions, to convey meaning. Sometimes you are limited to text.
Until you’ve played (or worked) with someone long enough, and you’ve both adopted the use of the same slang or shorthand, you have to make the extra effort to be perfectly clear. There’s no shortcut. There’s no easy way to do this. It’s all trial and error.
Each player, client, or team member is different. Their lives have been different. Their skills are different. Sometimes, common English words will come with a different meaning or connotation to them. You cannot assume that what worked with one individual will necessarily work with the next.
Play games and meet people. There’s more to learn than what I’ve covered here, and you’ll have to learn a lot of it for yourself. But the key take-home is that being part of a successful team is about practicing and honing the skills that make you an effective collaborator.
So go kill something, and don’t forget to eat and sleep!