What chopping onions in a virtual kitchen can teach you about your colleagues

Gaining teamwork insight from a video game

At Cooperpress we often come together during lunch or on a Friday afternoon to relax, have fun and play some games together as a team. Our recent obsession is a little game called Overcooked.

The premise of Overcooked is simple: you and a couple of other chefs take on various roles in a busy kitchen.

It has proven interesting to see just how various members of the team react to everything that this quirky kitchen simulator can throw at you.

A typical game of Overcooked plays like this: Your team is ready to go, waiting in the kitchen, when an order for some Onion Soup will come in. Simple enough.

Fetch the Onions, chop them, cook them, serve them. Job done. With a team of four, you can clearly see how each person has a well defined role.

But what about when an order for tomato soup comes in, or for a custom burger with lettuce? Who’s going to grab the ingredients and prepare them?

Throw in some extra responsibilities, such as washing the dishes, or catching a pesky kitchen rat and you can imagine how quickly things can get overwhelming. You know it’s bad when things start catching fire.

How not to play

Watching team members play Overcooked has been revealing

Certain colleagues opt to stick to a specific role, whereas others will slot into any job as required. Some members of the team relish the challenge presented by a new scenario, whereas others may be a little bit more cautious of the unknown.

Overcooked does a good job of getting everyone started in a simple kitchen — with clear, well-defined roles for each player. At the beginning everyone has the opportunity to get comfortable with what the game expects.

The game then slowly ramps up the difficulty, presenting growingly absurd level designs, more objectives and increasingly annoying obstacles.

To be a successful kitchen team in Overcooked you need great communication, clarity on your immediate goals and to work efficiency together. The same is true of any team.

I tended (or at least tried) to be an all-rounder, helping out where I could, plugging any gaps.

Olly, our Data Analyst, in addition to being great at chopping an onion, brought some much needed comic-relief to counter the stress of the game. He would often take a few seconds out to dance around the kitchen with a fire extinguisher.

Some staffers would be reliable and dependable at one task, whereas others would quickly identify upcoming problems and delegate tasks out.

Of course, generally Overcooked didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know about our team.

However, games such as this can provide a fun, quick and intense environment to test out your team dynamic and be reminded of your team members’ respective personalities.