I’m going to write this here and share it on my gaming site www.thegrannygamer.com because this topic is near and dear to my heart. Over the last 4ish years I’ve been involved in some MMO’s, which are internet games where people work together as a team. Group Dynamics and Team Management is a major industry with books, seminars, websites and experts putting out a multitude of information. What surprises me so is that organizational/management/leadership skills are often neglected in team on-line gaming. I also find the same in many minimum wage work situations but that’s another post.
When you deal with on-line gaming you have members from different
- time zones
- skill level and
- time commitment
You also have different levels of transparency meaning people will be willing to share different levels of personal information and Real Life (RL) details.
So you start a new world/server/alliance/guild you either have a group of people all strangers or a mix of strangers and people who have played together.
What are some of the basic steps to take?
- Get to know your players. Either with one on one convos or through a formal method such as a survey, get some basic information (this also helps flushing out spies).
- Know what the group needs to do to achieve a win, victory or objective and make sure that everyone understands that right from the beginning. Create teams within teams to cover different areas if applicable. Players with goals work better than players who just show up.
- Get players used to checking in, reporting or showing up on a regular basis. What are the minimum requirements and how are emergencies handled.
- Get your leadership together and work on some “best practices” How are memos, attack plans or events going to be planned, worded and delivered to the members? Be consistent throughout all the “official” communication. If you have locations make sure everyone labels them the same. Game mail – or in game mail is NOT the same as email.
- Create “Triggers”. When a player sees a certain word, phrase or game name they know this information is important and what the subject is going to be.
- Have a way to communicate off game and get as many players as possible to use it. One of the most popular is Skype. Others could be Ventrilo, Group Me or a forum, although you want something simple. You often need to communicate with members who are not on game, but might be able to jump on if they get notice something is happening.
- Exit strategy. What do you want people to do when they either quit or the team reaches the “win” or achieves their objectives? Make sure and repeat this often as players leave for many reasons at any time.
- Have a way for people to give safe feedback. Have a google doc form or some way for people to be able to say what’s on their mind without fearing repercussions. Leadership needs to be able to take these suggestions objectively and not get offended.
- Watch for burn-out. Some MMO’s take months to reach an objective and new players often need to learn how to pace their game play.
Never assume everyone knows xyz. I’ve seen many times 3-6 players discuss a plan of action, organize it and then send out a random game mail to people who were not in the original conversation and often have no idea where this plan came from. On the other hand I’ve received game mails that were “Walls of text” and if there was something important in it you wouldn’t know, even if you could actually read it all the way through. This goes back to Best Practices and Triggers. When a player only has “X” amount of time they need to be able to get on, read and understand what to do and get it done.
Evaluate, debate, be flexible but keep learning about team management and learn Leadership Skills. No one gamer does everything well so put people in positions of strength and don’t forget the little guy. Giving them a small task to do on a regular basis can keep them engaged and a valuable member.