Product Teams Should Play D&D…I

Chapter 1: Why Play Games With Your Team

Jul 15 · 3 min read

During the fall of 2017, I approached my boss and asked if there was any budget for team building events. We had recently reshuffled our Product Team structure, with some folks leaving and new folks joining. I pitched to my boss that since a lot of us were working together for the first time, we could benefit from doing some activities together outside of the context of work.

My boss, with his infinite patience and wisdom, nodded sagely and said that there was no budget available, but if I had any ‘creative’ (aka free) ideas, he’d be happy to support them.

For a recent dinner party at my home, my neighbours brought a board game that we could play together: Ticket to Ride. We had loads of fun playing this together, getting a much more in-depth understanding of each others’ personalities than ever before.

So of course, I brought the game to my office and one Friday afternoon after a regular sprint retrospective, we cracked open some drinks and played it together. After hours of of planning, plotting, deception, negotiation, diplomacy and plain ol’ resource management, we all agreed that this was a great deal of fun and that we should do it again.

Two weeks later, someone gifted me the board game Settlers of Catan as a thank you for watching their dog over the weekend, and my colleagues and I excitedly opened up the set for a game of exciting colonisation and civilisation building.

After another two weeks, a colleague brought the board game Risk, and we had loads of fun plotting the march of conquest across the world, mixing in politics and plotting.

Games relax your mind and reduces stress after focussed work

Everyone agreed that the board games were a lot of fun, and clearly had the following benefits:

  1. Relaxes your mind and reduces stress after focussed work
  2. Provides a safe space for creativity, experimentation and taking risks
  3. Allows you to learn goal-setting, planning, strategy and resource management
  4. Stimulates the mind in new and exciting ways
  5. Playing new games helps with memory and logical thinking
  6. Exercises your negotiating skills
  7. Offers you the thrill of challenge, and the glory of victory!

Even animals play with each other when they are young in order to learn important life skills in a safe environment. As humans, we are much smarter in our ability to learn from different sources.

But I felt something was still missing. We were all having fun and making friends when we were playing the board games, but this did not seem to have any impact on the way we worked together as a team. In every game we were playing was structured to only have a single winner. What we really needed was something we could play and win as a team.

That’s when someone on my team suggested a table-top role-playing game called Dungeons & Dragons. None of us had a clue what this was or how it was played. I went online and found a D&D Starter Set priced at under 20€, which seemed a relatively small cost compared to what most other board games cost. So I decided to buy it, and together with some of my colleagues: two Product Managers, three Developers, and one Tester, set out to explore what the heck this thing was all about.

To be continued…


Written by

Karthik is a Product Manager, Agile Coach and Game Master who loves telling stories and playing Dungeons & Dragons with his team

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