Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Using games as a way to foster cooperation

Hello everyone,

it's been a while since my most recent blog post. This time, I want to tell you about a way to foster cooperation in teams (and outside teams) in a quite unique way.


The original project had been set up to serve as a way to foster friendships. The tool which was used? A game called Minecraft.

Minecraft is a very accessible game, which can be played both in casual and hardcore ways. In the game, there are no set goals. You can mine resources, process them into tools and construction materials, and build stuff with those materials. As you can see in the previous 2 links, there have quite alot of things been built in Minecraft so far.

Seeing the relaxed atmosphere this game generally has, I thought that it could be used for fostering friendship. I discovered later on, that this game can be used for many more constructive things.

I will firstly explain the history, and later on how it works.

The first steps

My first inspiration from this project came from a certain server of a big community.

Together with some friends, we started exploring the concept on our own server. Quickly, we discovered that it was a very excellent way. Unfortunately, after a few weeks, the server got griefed (sometimes purposefully) and large areas of the landscape were destroyed.

After this, I started thinking of making this concept really work.

Getting concrete details

The first quest was to look for anti griefing tools. These were quickly found. This was all tested on a private server hosted by Mick 'Micknator' van Rhee, a good friend of me. There, we laid the advanced framework for later stages.

This includes some big structures, finalizing the concept (mostly done by me) and seeking a place for hosting. Eventually, all of these things were done.

The last thing needed was a thorough test of the concept in a real situation. This was achieved at the beginning of November.

Finalizing the concept

The concept was practically fully finalized. It only needed a real test. This was done on the server hosted by the Piratenpartij (which is a continuation of the server hosted by Micknator, with some improvements). The concept was finally tested, and completed successfully by me (Roberto 'Robske' Moretti), a person who goes by the name of 'Squarc' on Minecraft, and last but not least, Remon 'Knudde95' Engels.

The server can be found at minecraft.piratenpartij.nl!

The project fostered friendships indeed, together with providing with further minor adjustments to the plan. I will now explain the 2 ways of how you can run these projects.

The centralized method

The centralized method is way to simulate real project groups with a project leader. The team consists of one or more project leaders, together with at least as many 'workers'. The task of the project leader(s) is to coordinate the project. They have all the blueprints of the object to build. They may not give the workers these blueprints directly. Instead, they must communicate the blueprints verbally or with sketches of parts of the blueprint towards the workers. Each worker is responsible for his part of the blueprint. The project leaders monitor the entire project.

This way of simulating projects works the best for companies or for teams with a clear leadership. The more decentralized organizations have a different way of approaching these things.

The decentralized method

This method is quite exact the opposite of the centralized method. In this method, the blueprints are available to everyone (if there are blueprints!). At the same time, everyone is worker and project leader at the same time. It's the entire team's responsibility to make the project successful. This makes for a very organic way of getting the project finished. It can also make it so that worlds really evolve (as they do on most Minecraft servers).

This way of carrying out the project works the best for organizations with no clear leadership. They train people in taking responsibility.

The advantages of fostering cooperation this way

Both ways of doing projects in Minecraft have similar advantages. I will list these here:

- It is a relaxed environment: There's hardly any stress, hardly any pressure. This makes people more motivated to work on these projects. Together with that, the results are visible in very early stages (Oh this thing is very huge!).
- It's easily accessible: Minecraft doesn't require much learning. You can already construct wonderful things after your first day!
- Big structures do amaze people: If your team has built a big structure (as was the case with the Venator), it will not only surprise your team members if you make it public, but also the entire world! This can be an extra motivation for the team members to cooperate.
- Can promote your organization: Projects like done on the Dutch Pirate Party server, can promote your organization very well. Especially if the world is public.
- Minecraft worlds can communicate messages: You can easily build messages into worlds, sometimes explicit (texts on signs) or implicit (for the case of the Dutch Pirate Party server, it was that content owned by others can easily be replicated by others).
- Minecraft can relax: You can use Minecraft as a way to get your team members relaxed and ready to keep working hard on your project!

Rounding stuff up

This was it for today. I want to thank everyone for reading this article! If you have comments about this article, or want to do suggestions, you can contact me here.

Roberto Moretti